It was Friday, March 12, 2020—the end of a long week of “What Ifs.” What if Covid-19 spreads across the U.S.? What if our university
HIGHER ED TEACHING STRATEGIES FROM MAGNA PUBLICATIONS
online student success
At a time when online institutions are in fierce competition for students and accreditation agencies are taking a critical look at online course quality, it is becoming increasingly important for online instructors to ensure that they are exceeding their institution’s expectations.
Students are also expecting more from their online courses. And while most of us know the importance of addressing students by name in the discussion board and offering students substantive feedback on assignments, there many more things we can do.
More and more students are flocking to the online classroom for the convenience of earning college credits from the comfort of their home. However, many of these students are ill-prepared for the dedication and discipline needed to be successful in the online environment. Oftentimes students have misconceptions concerning the rigor of online courses, and they often underestimate the amount of time and discipline necessary to complete assignments, discussions, quizzes, and projects. Therefore, it is important for the instructor to set the tone of the course to help students succeed. So how do you help your students succeed in the online classroom?
Students like online classes due to their flexibility and convenience. But not all students do well in these courses; the statistics indicate that online classes have a much higher dropout rate compared to traditional face-to-face classes. The attrition rates in online courses tend to be 10 to 20 percent higher than in face-to-face classes. While there are some personal factors that could influence a student’s decision to drop out, many of the factors are related to institutional and course level support—and these barriers can be addressed with thoughtful planning and implementation. Institutional level factors like technical support, academic support, advising, and availability of resources can support student success in online courses. At the course level, there are many simple strategies and techniques that instructors can use to support students’ success in their online classes.
During the past year and a half, our faculty development unit has been gathering data from students about how engaged they felt in their online courses. We wanted to use this data to develop a variety of strategies for faculty to use to better engage their students. Research provides evidence for the connection between higher student engagement and persistence and retention in online programs (Boston, et al., 2010; Wyatt, 2011). Encouraging student engagement is especially important in the online environment where attrition rates are higher than in the face-to-face setting (Allen & Seaman, 2015; Boston & Ice, 2011).
According to a recent report by the Institute of International Education, there were more than 764,400 international students enrolled in U.S. universities and colleges in 2011/2012. This was a 7 percent increase from the previous school year. International student services on campus organize social events to facilitate interaction between international and American students and provide academic support for those from non-English-speaking countries. Despite their efforts to promote diversity, the transition to American universities is still challenging for international students. Many feel homesick and experience emotional stresses due to cultural differences and have difficulty in making American friends and sustaining long-term relationships.
There are many studies that look at how online students differ from those in face-to-face classes in terms of performance, satisfaction, engagement, and other factors. It is well-known that online course completion rates tend to be lower than those for traditional classes. But relatively little is known about what the unsuccessful online student has to say about his or her own experience and how they would improve online learning. Yet these insights can be vital for distance educators.
o certain personality traits increase students’ chances of success in the online learning environment? It’s an intriguing question that has not received much attention, an oversight that Ben Meredith, director of the Center for Distance Education at Southwestern Oklahoma State University, has sought to remedy.
As an instructor new to the online environment, I carefully reviewed the syllabus and the requirements for the course discussions and assignments and incorporated the following ideas from Myers-Wylie, Mangieri & Hardy: a “what you need to know” document that includes policies about late work, formatting, source citations, grading and feedback, and the dangers of plagiarism; a separate “assignments at a glance” calendar that details due dates and submission instructions; a “frequently asked questions” thread in the discussion forum; detailed scoring rubrics for each assignment, and example assignments. As is typical in the online environment, my course was equipped with areas for announcements and discussions and a grade book with a place to post comments for individual students. I used all these formats to communicate with students about course requirements and provide detailed feedback.
Sustained, high-quality student participation usually doesn’t happen on its own in the online learning environment. The instructor needs to model participation, create assignments that encourage it, and foster an environment that supports it. Here are some ways that I promote student participation in my online courses.