The clearest return on investment in e-learning is found for projects that aim to solve a simple, well-defined problem, and for those geared towards automating systems rather than totally transforming the learning experience. This doesn’t mean complex, transformational projects aren’t worth the effort – but benefits may take longer to be realised, and evidence may be largely anecdotal at first. Although such projects involve a higher risk, they are essential in order to keep the sector moving forward (Gill Ferrell, JISC infoNet).
The clearest evidence of improved student retention due to improvements in supportive communication offered by e-learning applications is in areas with a high proportion of non-traditional learners (e.g. mature and part-time students) – probably because they have the highest drop-out rates to start with (Exploring Tangible Benefits of e-Learning; JISC infoNet publication). This is good news for us in our work with part-time distance learners – as it means we’re not only making a big difference to the student experience, but also very likely to recoup our investment into development of the programmes. Evidence of improvements in student achievement have also been identified in the Tangible Benefits project – “those who have provided figures for student achievement appear to be recording improvements of around 10% in pass rates as a result of the e-learning they have implemented”. According to students, a key factor in this appears to be the increased opportunities for formative assessment and regular feedback.