Oct 23, 2013

What can you do to help students drifting away from your class?

Last week, I posted short descriptions about four free Online courses that were available for instructors to find out more about teaching/learning online. I found another free Online course on Canvas titled: Today's Online Teacher. It has a ton of work, but thought I'd share what I came up with when answering this question: What challenges me the most with online teaching/learning? 

Image: 'After a hard days work'

"I discovered for me, it was very frustrating at first to help unprepared/technology challenged students online. In a face-to-face class, I was comfortable letting my students know what skills they needed to work on, provide counseling, suggest remedial help, and even suggest students take other courses first. In my online classes, I've learned over time, to provide lots of reminders to my students, especially for the students who were disappearing or falling behind. Plus I have tried out the following ideas to help my students":

1. Provided weekly Announcements, a Syllabus and Course Outline (with due dates), but also:
  • Added weekly Sakai Schedule/calendar entries. They love this.
  • Sent weekly assignment reminder emails with my Announcements.  They often respond to this email with questions about the assignment.
  • Sent special emails to those falling behind or missing assignments, especially the first two weeks of class. I ask what is going on so I can find out if something has happened at home or work.
2. In Gradebook Setup, I added a Gradebook category for Attendance; in Gradebook Items, I added a new Gradebook item for Attendance (the category has a zero percentage and the Gradebook item has 3 points, for 3 missed assignments, for online classes and is not included in course grades). 
  • Each time a student looks at their Gradebook, they see the Attendance category and Attendance gradebook column, points (for missed required assignments), and my comments.
  • I remind students in the Attendance Gradebook column comment area how their participation is very important for them to succeed; which required assignment they missed and when, let them know how many more required assignments they can miss; and give them my email address to contact me.
  • FYI: To add comments, click on the Gradebook item, then click on the column heading on the right titled: Edit Comments
3. In Gradebook Setup: I dropped their lowest assignment grades in each category (discussion postings, lab assignments, and quizzes), so if they missed a week, they wouldn't fall too far behind in the class.

4) I added optional online Meetings/Chats every other week, after Polling students about which nights/times worked best for them. Sometimes people ask questions about the class or an assignment.

5) I offered not only online orientations, but face-to-face orientations, made attendance mandatory (they had to confirm a date), and made sure every student attended a class orientation. I not only reviewed the LMS and syllabus, but created practice assignments, and made students practice submitting a post, a reply, a short answer assignment and a test (with only 2 or 3 test items, that were easy).

Over time, I've lost less and less students and many more are passing with flying colors. I know you can't do all of these things, but I tried them out over time, to see what worked the best for me and my students.

Related posts:
We have a new version of Sakai Meetings (web conferencing tool) 
What 3 Sakai Tools could I use this semester?
Essential Sakai Tips Instructors and Students Need to Know

Sakai Instructor Resources: GradebookCommunication Tools, Content Tools

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