Sunday, February 10, 2008

Attrition

As you know if you have been reading here, I am involved with a TESOL EVO session on social media. It has been a very interesting experience. I am learning that I am a decidedly unsocial person. Actually, I knew that before, but I am being reminded every day now. But that is another post...

When we started the session we had many participants and, as you would expect, we have lost a good number of them. Or at least they are not actively participating anymore. I am especially aware of this today because one of the remaining participants contacted me to ask me what was going on, why there were so few of us left.

I have the same problem with my face-to-face adult ESL classes. People have great intentions. Sometimes their life situations become more complicated or a work schedule change makes a class impossible. Sometimes, too, they just discover that the class isn't right for them.

Most programs know that this is going to happen. But what I am starting to realize is the extent to which other students/participants feel deserted by those who no longer attend. While we may understand on an intellectual level, I am seeing that it does have effects on an emotional level. Classrooms, virtual or traditional, are about community for many of us, and it hurts when that community loses members.

This is a new way for me to think about attrition. Am I overreacting?

5 comments:

Lesley said...

I'm not sure if this makes sense but perhaps it a question of Web 2.0 burnout. How many of your participants had signed up for more than one course, how many of them had done courses in past years? It seems to me that it's difficult to recreate that first spark of enthusiasm that one feels on discovering the possibilities of Web 2.0 interaction and the pleasant shock of recognition of one's own professional needs and aspirations in the other participants' comments.

sarahbraxton said...

My guilt for not participating recently has found a voice in you! For me, the flu and minor surgery are no excuse. The fact is that I have been so incredibly enthusiatic and creative as well as enraptured with Twitter posted information that I have inadvertently left the smielt team behind. I feel far from burned out....

Thanks for your post. I will try to be active now for the duration

Nancy A. McKeand said...

It really wasn't m intent to make anyone feel guilty, Sarah! I think Lesley's explanation is a possible explanation for some people but not all.

As I said, I see the same problem with my f2f students. I have been surprised since we came back to class in January by the number of people who have asked about classmates who no longer come to class. There is a genuine sadness. I think I had always underestimated the investment some students have in the community we establish in class.

Saša said...

I'd just like to say that although I'm not participating actively and am exploring things at a very very slow pace (heh, my pace ;-)) I feel very much part of your wonderful group.

Barbara Dieu said...

As I said in the moderators´list, I believe that what you feel is not a lack of interest but the effect of a distributed network. In the past, everyone was doing everything at the same time while today, people plant their flags and explore whatever they are interested in (Sarah)and do it at their own pace (Sasa). The conversation goes on but it is not centralized in one place but continues in their own chosen territories (Flickr, Twitter, etc...). We keep track of them through tags and RSS feeds.