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Worldwide, the e-Learning market has been growing faster and faster [1], but not without some disappointments [2]. One of the biggest setbacks regarding e-Learning is that related to the high rates of attrition [3] that leads to frustration [4] [5] [6] and, eventually, to dropout. Student dropout rates for e-Learning are 15–20% higher than traditional face-to-face courses [7]. For all reasons that might have an influence in attrition and dropouts in e-Learning we argue that course design is the key. Therefore, the main question is how to design e-Learning courses with lower attrition and dropout rates?

The primary objective of this Erasmus+ Strategic Partnership for adult education research project, is to produce a model to assist e-Learning course developer’s decisions based on scientific literature that will lead to the development of an implementation prototype. The specific objectives are: (i) to understand the relationship between course design in e-Learning with attrition and dropout; (ii) to identify dropout reasons in relations to course design in e-Learning; (iii) to validate course design as a problem affecting dropout in e-Learning; and (iv) to propose a decision-making course design model for a future prototype.

As a methodological approach, we will use Development Research [8]. This methodology involves an interrelationship between theory and practice to create an effective intervention to a specific problem, which requires not only its analysis but also the construction of a particular process or product. We see the Development Research as a cyclical process of designing, testing, and redesigning, always incorporating feedback provided by all the actors. This process leads to new theoretical and empirically founded products, whereby the researchers get new insights, ultimately bringing the state of the art a step forward. Outgoing from the creation of our e-Learning prototype, we will collect information in a participatory manner, justifying the choices that will be integrated into the development process/product, and creating the conditions for permanent feedback to improve the product as well as the educational process. Thus, the research process is less driven on obtaining a descriptive knowledge; instead, it is more focused on the need to get, from the feedback on the tasks and the product development, information about how different aspects of the problem can be solved. According to our research plan, we firstly review the state of the art, following a systematic review [9], which is “designed to locate, appraise and synthesize the best available evidence relating to a specific research question to provide informative and evidence-based answers” [10].

Secondly, and after accessing the relationship between course design in e-Learning with attrition and dropout in previous step, we propose a decision-making model for an implementation prototype.

Third, the prototype is tested and improved based on data collected, including attrition and dropout.

Fourth, a functional product is released, providing the necessary mechanics for improvement based on continuous data collection.