A Model for Tutoring the Guided Study Program in System Dynamics By Michael McCurley Abstract It is possible to design a simple

model that illustrates how a tutoring program could work for the Guided Study Program in System Dynamics. This model shows how entrance rates could affect student levels, and includes attrition and completion rates for the program. Thus it would indicate how the workload that a tutor might expect to have, as well as how attrition or continuance, might affect program completion. The following model does this fairly well, in spite of the fact that it simplifies average real conditions that would be more irregular. Results also seem to show that better tutoring could improve program completion without actually increasing the workload of a tutor significantly, and that actual observations of program results combined with modeling could help a tutor to manage the tutoring workload more effectively. Introduction A tutor for a distance learning guided study program, which is fairly long, challenging and complex, will probably notice an incidence of entry rates and attrition that affect the levels of students who are studying and the number of students who complete the program. If that tutor were to offer a 9-month program once a year, with an attrition rate of 50 percent, half of the students would be gone by the end of the program. One way to maintain higher active levels of students would be to offer registration for the program several times a year. Because the guided study program could be individually tracked, a good tutor can help different groups of students at the same time and offer entrance into the program once a quarter for a small number of students, rather than handling a larger number of students all at once that would decrease due to attrition over a longer time period. Creating a model would help a tutor to plan for student management of lesson assignments and could project how program performance would determine the number of students completing the guided study program over a period of years. While it might be possible to mentally simulate these projections with the help of a calculator or spread sheet, a simulation model can provide a better visualization of several simultaneous variables that would help make planning easier, and provide a clearer idea of outcomes. Keeping assumptions for the model as simple as possible is of key importance for creating a basic model. While these may not exactly represent all specifics, what is important is an overview that would be of greatest service for conceptualization and still be accurate. Changing parameter values and comparing different simulation runs would give the tutor a good idea of possible performance outcomes under a variety of conditions.

Defining Parameters for the Model For the purposes of this model, assumptions for basic parameters could be as follows: 6 students would enter each quarter period (of 3 months). The term for the program period would be 10 months (actually adjusted from an official 9 months for students who may delay completion of the program). This model tracks the students who enter and are in the guided study program, students who proceed throughout the program and complete it, and students who eventually drop out of the program and leave it over a 5-year time period. Attrition of students from a large program of this type might be as high as 60 percent due to a variety of factors, some of which will not be discussed in this paper. This implies that 40 percent of the people who start guided study for this informal open education program would finish it. On the other hand, examination of an inverse situation is also noteworthy (and included in a later simulation run). Model Diagram for Tutoring the Guided Study Program
COMPLETION RATE Candidates who enter per quarter completion length of program

students entering

Students Who Are in Program

students finishing

Students Who Finish Program

length of quarter

attrition

students leaving

ATTRITION RATE Students Who Have Left

attrition period

Details of the Model Assume an entry rate of 6 students per quarter, 4 times a year, for fall, winter, spring and summer sessions. Not all students will finish for various reasons. Some will leave because they find lessons difficult or only wish to complete a few lessons. Others will have time difficulties and find they can’t make the time commitment to complete lessons that make monthly payments worthwhile. Assume an attrition rate of 30 percent for the first part of a 9-month period, and another 30 percent attrition for the second part of the same 9-month period. 40 percent of those who enter may complete the program normally in 9 months, or slightly more than that for an average completion period of about 10 months.

Running the model and graphing three of the levels shows an S-shaped type curve for a consistent number of students who enter the program, the accumulating level of students who finish the program—and an accumulating level for students who would leave the program. A real graph for students entering the program would actually vary, as would the rate of increase for accumulating levels of students who finish or leave the program, but variable input can be averaged over a period of time. A somewhat more complex model with a pulse train could also represent this.
Students who Complete or Leave Program with a 60/40 Attrition vs. Completion Ratio (Assume an entry rate of 6 students per quarter)
80 60 40 20 0 0 9 18 27 36 Time (Month) 45 54 Students Students Students

Students Who Are in Program : Current Students Who Finish Program : Current Students Who Have Left : Current

Analyzing the results For an entry rate of just 6 students who are tutored each quarter, there would eventually be about 18-19 students studying at a time in 4 broadly different assignment phases. Over a 5-year period, given an attrition rate of 60 percent and a completion rate of 40 percent, about 40 students would finish the program and 66 would drop out. Proportions are slightly out of phase because the time periods mentioned are different. While these estimations may seem rather pessimistic, they would probably represent a fairly good success rate in real terms. 40 students completing the program would be a significant number, considering that not more than 30 students completed the official MIT program during a school year. But this is an institution with several people working with the Guided Study Program, compared to a single tutor (who does admittedly take 5 years to do the job). Equation and information data for the basic model is as follows:
(01) attrition=(ATTRITION RATE*Students Who Are in Program)/attrition period Units: Students/Month Students who drop out of the program. attrition period=4.5 Units: Month

(02)

This is half of the program period. (03) ATTRITION RATE=0.3 Units: dmnl This is the percentage of projected attrition for half of the program period. Candidates who enter per quarter=6 Units: Students This is the number of students who enter per term. completion=(COMPLETION RATE*Students Who Are in Program)/length of program Units: Students/Month These are the students who are completing the program. COMPLETION RATE=0.4 Units: dmnl This is the percentage of students who complete the program. FINAL TIME = 60 Units: Month The final time for the simulation. INITIAL TIME = 0 Units: Month The initial time for the simulation. length of program=10 Units: Month This is the adjusted period of the program, which is slightly more than 9 months. length of quarter=3 Units: Month Number of months per quarter. SAVEPER = TIME STEP Units: Month The frequency with which output is stored. students entering=Candidates who enter per quarter/length of quarter Units: Students/Month Average number of students who enter per month. students finishing=completion Units: Students/Month These are the students who complete the entire program. students leaving=attrition Units: Students/Month These are the students who leave.

(04)

(05)

(06)

(07)

(08)

(09)

(10) (11)

(12)

(13)

(14)

(15) Students Who Are in Program= INTEG (students entering-students finishing-students leaving, 5)

Units: Students This is the number of students currently in the program. (16) Students Who Finish Program= INTEG (students finishing, 0) Units: Students These are the students who finish all 30 assignments. Students Who Have Left= INTEG (students leaving, 0) Units: Students Students who have left. TIME STEP = 1 [or .125 can be used for slightly more accurate results] Units: Month The time step for the simulation.

(17)

(18)

Adjusting the simulation—increasing the completion rate A much more optimistic version of the model with the same entry rate of 6 students per quarter might achieve a completion rate of 60 percent and an attrition rate of 40 percent for the previously mentioned time periods. This would assume a more highly motivated and capable student population. Without making any other changes, the results we could expect from the model would be as follows:
Students who Complete or Leave Program with a 60/40 Completion vs. Attrition Ratio (Assume an entry rate of 6 students per quarter)
80

60

40

20

0 0 9 18 27 36 Time (Month) 45 54 Students Students Students

Students Who Are in Program : Current Students Who Finish Program : Current Students Who Have Left : Current

Analyzing the Results Observing the results of this run, we notice that the level of students who are studying increases slightly to 19. But the number of students who successfully complete all of their assignments increases to 60-61 in a 5-year period, while the number of people who drop out of the program is reduced to 45. This seems to demonstrate that increased

motivation and help for assignment related problems might encourage students to complete more assignments and finish the program, while not actually increasing the general workload in any significant way for the tutor. IF this observation is correct, then anything we might do to encourage students to continue with the program would have a significant overall effect on the number of people who finish the guided study program without creating a much heavier work load. Adjusting the simulation—increasing the entry rate If a larger entry rate of students is permitted per quarter, it would change the overall level of the number of students who are studying at a given time. If we change that number to an average of 8 students who enter per quarter, without changing any other parameters, the results would be as follows:
Students who Complete or Leave Program with a 60/40 Completion vs. Attrition Ratio (Assume an entry rate of 8 students per quarter)
100

75

50

25

0 0 9 18 27 36 Time (Month) 45 54 Students Students Students

Students Who Are in Program : Current Students Who Finish Program : Current Students Who Have Left : Current

Analyzing the results The number of students who are studying at the same time, would increase to 25. In a 5-year period, 80 students would complete the program (compared with 60 in the last example), and 59-60 students would drop out because more students overall would be entering the program. General Observations: Completion versus attrition rates would have little effect on the level of students who are studying, while the number of students who are allowed to enter the program each quarter does have a more direct effect on the level of students who are studying at any given time.

Assuming that a tutor could, in fact, adequately supply and process study materials, this model suggests that more candidates would successfully complete the Guided Study Program in System Dynamics if they were properly helped and motivated. A well-prepared tutor could facilitate this process. The tutor’s workload could be adjusted by limiting the number of candidates who are accepted per quarter as students, while maximizing the number of students who will eventually complete the program. Modeling several different simulation runs can give a good idea of general performance for different circumstances that might be considered by a tutor. These would be useful for making decisions about entrance levels permitted for students and what factors the tutor might control that would affect attrition and completion of the program. While the actual numbers of students might vary from quarter to quarter, and attrition would vary depending upon the types of students who are studying, this model demonstrates a few mechanisms that would be useful to manage tutoring workloads. At the same time, it gives a general idea of how changes could affect performance results that we might expect from the program. Conclusions The purpose of this short paper has been to illustrate how a simulation model can be used to study the possible performance of an individual tutoring program for the Guided Study Program in System Dynamics. While it may not prove the viability of the option itself, it does demonstrate the feasibility of such a project, and provides visualization of possible performance outcomes for open education options that would be useful to anyone managing such a program. Further Reading D-4773 The MIT System Dynamics Guided Study Program: An Experiment in Distance Learning 6/1/98 Lucia Breierova, Leslie A. Martin, Manas Ratha, Helen Zhu with Nan Lux—System Dynamics in Education Project, MIT System Dynamics Group © 2010 This document may be freely used or copied for personal, educational, or non-commercial purposes. Modeling information uses Vensim PLE from Ventana Systems Inc., http://www.vensim.com About the author—Michael McCurley is an alumnus of the Guided Study Program in System Dynamics that was offered by MIT. He lives in Costa Rica.

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