Dropout rates in the open university are a very tangible thing. You can see that there are fewer people in each tutorial as the year progresses.
Where it’s by far the highest is in the first course of a given subject. That’s not necessarily at level 1 though as some subjects only start at level 2. Thus the drop out rate for something like psychology is quite high at level 2 because there is no psychology course at level 1 (or wasn’t until last year anyway).
The drop out rate from “hard” subjects isn’t necessarily that high. Or, rather, it is but the students drop out of the subject before they get to the point of choosing it thus the people starting “hard” subjects tend to be more committed to them.
I was actually quite lucky during the modern languages sequence of courses as, by chance, the drop out rate in my tutor group was unusually low. In fact it wasn’t completely by chance as what happened was that we formed a study group consisting of almost everyone within the tutor group early on. All but one of those people went on to complete the diploma and several went on to do the modern languages degree. Getting into a study group early on is that important.
However, in courses within my life sciences programme, the drop out has been very, very noticeable. You notice it when half the group isn’t there by the third or fourth month into the course. Even after the first assignment the drop out was quite noticeable and also noticeable was that the tutor seemed to start with the view that many of those at the first tutorial wouldn’t be there at the second one. She was right.
What’s generally worth noting for prospective students is that some courses front load the course texts with difficult material, seemingly in an effort to weed out those students who will drop out as early as possible. Not all do that mind you but if you’re finding the first unit or two of a course very difficult, have a leaf through what’s coming up as often it’s much easier. Being way too stubborn to drop out saw me right through the modern languages degree and frankly that is something that I would never have believe I’d have ten years back.
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