Sunday, July 29, 2012

Quality and Adult Learning

In the past I have talked about the characteristics of adult learners [see ].  Adult learners know what they want to learn, how they want to learn and when they want to learn, and most importantly how much time effort and energy it takes to acquire the information.  They are demanding with high motivation requirements that are very specific.  

In the arena of continuing education, while the cost of education is an important consideration at the beginning; adult learners make cost a factor in the decision making for registering for a course, but it is secondary to the other factors in the decision to follow through on a course.  If a course is not meeting their specific needs, the decision to walk away is relatively easy to make.  

Perception of overly expensive registration fees may be a barrier to entry, but when it comes to leaving prematurely, requirements of time, effort, and energy will trump financial issues for adult learners.   From my perspective, the notion of TEEM costs comes up in a number of situations.

In my own personal situation, I am taking a volunteer continuing education course in conversational French.  Despite a not-modest registration fee and a good faculty, we had a drop-out rate of 33 percent, once we got to the point where extra time and effort was needed for progress.

And a corollary of the “money is a barrier at entry and effort is the facilitator of early leaving” rule is that the lower the cost, the easier it is to make the decision to walk away.  You know that to be true when you consider all the free continuing education options that are available on-line.  Many people start, few people actually follow through.  

Based on that I suspect that course completion ratio is probably a useful Quality Indicator for assessment of adult education classes, either as a class-room or on-line exercise.   

In that regard, for our course our experience is that our final course completion rate is a little over 95 percent, and I interpret that as an indicator that we have found a good balance between registration and cost and effort and reward.  We are attracting the right people who are motivated to acquire new knowledge in the area of laboratory Quality, and we are charging a fee that those people perceive as reasonable, or at least not overly excessive.  And while the course does require participants to commit a fair block of time, and effort, the vast majority do not perceive it as excessive or unreasonable.  Almost everyone who registers and starts the course completes it.  

When I talk about our “final rate” it means that on a year by year basis we have a drop out rate closer to 12 percent, but we will allow people who have had work or personal issues arise (we have had deaths in the family, child-birth, divorces) to re-register the following year to complete the course, and earn their certification.  Almost everyone offered the option takes advantage of it.  

Part of our success so far I think comes from our applying principles of Quality Management to our course.  We pay close attention to our course objectives, and to our participant satisfaction survey information.  We maintain a pattern of continual improvement based in part on the survey results and on maintaining a grasp of changing available and relevant information on laboratory Quality.  And we go through the process of external evaluation.  So in a very strong sense we try to adhere to the requirements of ISO9001:2008, with the singular exception that we are too small and too focused to impose upon ourselves a formal annual “internal audit” exercise.  

For those interested in learning more about the UBC Certificate Course in Laboratory Quality Management, please follow the link to:

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