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Sunday, 16 January 2011

Thoughts on charging for correspondence courses

For a year now the Magical Order of the Aurora Aurea has run a correspondence course. It uses the Golden Dawn system to provide people with a system of training and mentorship. As a system it works and those who have worked hard at it have got a lot out of it.
The only problem is that the drop out rate between the first and second course is phenomenal as is the range of “dog ate my homework” excuses. I wrote the first few courses to weed out those who will not survive. It forces people to wrestle with their lower self and get a bit of discipline by learning the basics of meditation. All vital stuff in training and has to be done. The work picks up after about five or six months. But the idea is more that if you are forced to write a daily diary that will be mentored you start working and from that you get the insights into the system. It was the same sort of system used by the outer order of Inner Light and is still being used in the Servants of the Light. It worked for me too.
The course is cheap. We were not in it for the money, the order just wanted to help people who could not make contact with a group start working on the magical path. Currently we charge 10 euro for the first lesson and five euro for each one afterwards. This is what I think is the problem. People join with the expectation that it is cheap so they do not place any value on it. They join without engaging brain as to whether or not they can really do the magical path.
I am toying with the idea of raising the price for the first course from 10 to either 50 or 100 euro with the idea of people giving it some value. The course will remain at 5 euro for after that. Obviously if we raised the fees the amount of people joining would plummet, but those who did pay up would be serious about it.
One of the things that really gets on my nerves is that many people have not even bothered to tell us that they want to quit. This meant that one of our supervisors had ten or so students but was not doing anything, where as another had five students and was run off her feet. We did a purge of these members recently and the correspondence school lost another 70 per cent.
The reason I am posting this here is to ask what the view of the community would be to increasing the fees like this and for this reason. Like I said the course was not about the money (the Order itself is not collecting dues at the moment). However I am beginning to feel that if we are to be taken seriously we might have to charge a bit more for the first lesson to make people stop and think about what they are getting into. By keeping it cheap afterwards we are still sticking to our volunteer ethos without having to waste so much time with people who stumble across the order on the Internet and think that joining is a good idea. I am fairly open minded about this so I am interested to hear people's point of view. Discuss.

9 comments:

  1. Hi Nick,

    as you know this is a perennial issue in magical circles (it was also the subject of MOTO's first post). I think the SIL model you use is brilliant for many reasons.

    As for the charging,one of my big bug bears is that some magical folk will happily pay $15-20 AUD for a weekly yoga/gym/pilates class, but then turn to rend anyone who charges for magical tuition. And on the other hand, you have the folk you describe, whom seem to have no appreciation of the incredible wisdom they are receiving.

    For one of the year long courses we ran, we set a standard fairly high price for exactly the reasons you outline (the money was donated to a charity anyway). However, we also had a very flexible concession process. Those genuinely unable to show they valued the course via monetary means could do so another way. We made some suggestions but really left the onus on the student to SHOW us how they valued the course.

    So someone would do all the photocopying and collating. Another supplied amazing home made lunches for our monthly weekend retreats. Someone was a masseuse and arranged free massages for us and her fellow students.

    I liked this method, as it set a high monetary value which raised some good charity funds, and still allowed less wealthy people to participate without simply going along for the ride. I am not sure how transferable it is to a correspondence course, but you may be able to use the principle?

    Otherwise; raise the cost as you suggest. :) Thanks.

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  2. I've seen this idea elsewhere, that the more money that is paid the more people will value something. I think it's erroneous myself. I'm a philosophy lecturer in a University in London where students have to pay far more than they ever would for an esoteric course. Does this inspire commitment? No. In fact, if anything, I would say that the only effect it is likely to have had is to make those marginal students who might have been able to do the work now less capable of doing so as they have to work to raise money. There is, in addition, the thought that the 'value=money value' equation is something to be overcome in the work and so utilising it might mitigate against other intentions. In the end those who want to learn will learn and those who don't should not be brought into the equation but allowed to go their own way. I'd be more inclined to simply put restrictions on participants - for example, late submissions will entail removal from the course. To be taken seriously you need to tell people the commitment you expect and stick to it.

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  3. There is a book put out by the AMORC called the Rosicrucian Manual. It's basically about their Order. As you know, about 95% of what they do is (or used to be) through the mail. One of the things that is striking is the number of drop outs from beginning degrees to later degrees. Their dropout rate, as I recall, ended up being over 90%.

    It's certainly very frustrating, hoping that most people will follow through, wanting to help them, and discovering that a huge percentage don't do it. However, as one of my teachers said, "The main reason people are unhappy is their inability to accept a simple truth: what is, is.

    If all you want is people who are as dedicated as you, sure, raise the price. Of course you'll miss out on a lot of the people who can't or won't pay 50 or 100 Euro to start.

    If, on the other hand, you want to train people and at least start their wheels rolling in the right direction AND make some money, I would respectfully suggest keeping the rates low at the beginning. Instead of weeding out those who aren't interested by charging high fees, you let them weed themselves out. They eventually give up and go away and you've made some extra money. Of course, you'll have also started them on a path that may change them for life, too.

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  4. I think nothing speaks against a higher fee at the beginning to make people think twice whether they really want to commit. But, as others pointed out, most people only realise that "it's not for them" once they have actually tried working on it on a daily basis and realise their inner barriers (laziness, so-called priorities in life etc) are just too powerful to overcome. When this happens, the amount of time and money wasted up to this point means little. The only thing that matters is "I want to free myself from this burden".

    Certainly you can get hints at their attitude and self-discipline through the application process, asking them some detailled questions, but still there might be things that escape both you and them, as you are not aware of those influences until the actual work starts.

    I think, with most things in life that need continuous effort and discipline over a long period of time, a high drop-out rate is absolutely normal. I remember doing a PGCE in the UK where we started with more than 20 people- in the end 4 were left! And such a course only runs for 1 year...

    Don't take it personally. Design perhaps some rules that make life easier for your supervisors, e.g. if they don't hear from a student via Email another 4 weeks after the diary should have been handed in, the student should not be surprised that he has automatically been "put on hold" or has to re-apply (whatever you can come up with). Don't run after your students- let them do the running and showing respect as they'd do automatically in all other walks of life (If you are ill, you have to call your employer instantly. Most people do it- as they know the consequences!)

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  5. They gotta want it, and most dont. I dont know if the fees would change the motivational factor or not. People these days want armchair initiation. They think the words "Great Work" are some old-school paradigm. In my experience most people, instead of researching the basics; they would just love for me to write, and write, and write, but when it caomes to a simple assignment such as meditating, or excersises to develop the subtle-sense like learning the differences between the numbers 1 through 10; they would never do the leg work, then they would get upset that I didnt want to write, and write, and write some more about the same subject as the week before, (that they still never researched on their own). No indications of personal research at all, then they bring the drama.

    I guess the moral for me, is that if a student wont do any leg-work, than I wont waste my time.

    Frustrating? yes. Our duty to muttle through, and serve? IMO; yes. Does it make it any easier? no.

    neognostica
    Alucinare Concordia Veritate et LVX Deo Volente

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  6. I agree that a high entry fee will prevent some who would have benefited and been committed from even starting. Personally--assuming that I was interested in a correspondence course--I would be reluctant to invest a substantial amount of money without knowing the quality of the course.

    I would be tempted to go the other direction. That is, I would make the first lesson available free on the internet, so people can see what the expected work is. If people decide they want to pursue it, require them to submit the work for the first lesson as part of their enrollment.

    After that, I follow echo Rhea Morrigane's suggestions in her last paragraph.

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  7. Thanks for all your comments. We have increased the registration fee to 50 euro as an experiment to see what happened. Strangely before we did this there was an uptick in membership :-)
    Although the correspondence course is open and at five euro a lesson practically free I think this bugbear of commitment has to be tackled one way or another.

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  8. IMHO people learn in different ways. Some people are academic which something like would suite that sort of person, some people aren't. Some people are self-starters and others aren't.

    This doesn't mean that everyone who drops out doesn't want to learn, just that this type of way of learning isn't suited to everyone.

    Myself, i'm dyslexic so having a wall of text to work through isn't always so easy. There are words I don't understand, don't know how to pronounce and have to spend a lot of time researching what the words mean and still not sure if i'm saying them correctly. So working face to face in a group where I can see, hear and experience something works a thousand times better for me than reading a text.

    Online support is great but it doesn't cater for everyone's needs. There will also be a high drop out rate as people don't know the content of the lessons until they have paid, which means that some will pay just to see what the course is like. May be descriptions of content or a 'taster' course would help weed people out and audio/video versions for people who may have difficulties with large amounts of written text.

    Also, some people may just feel awkward about telling you that they have quit for whatever reason.

    Yours respectfully,

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  9. I hope you may continue to keep in posting new posts & thank you for sharing your great experience among us.
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