9 Proven Ways for Instructors to Address Online Student Retention

With accessibility to online education increasing, the retention of online students has become a concern of academic leaders in higher education (Allen & Seaman, 2015). As a result, many universities have launched initiatives to improve course completion, program completion, and student support services (Johnson, Adams Becker, Estrada, & Freeman, 2015). Although many causes for students withdrawing from an online course are beyond the realm of instructor control, retention and attrition can be reduced through various means. Continue reading

Are my students really getting it? CATs will show you the way.

In a previous post (see Gauging Student Understanding: CATs are puuuuur-fect), we introduced instructors to the idea of using Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs) by Angelo and Cross (1983) to check whether students understand a certain concept. To recap, CATs are generally short, non-graded, and student-centered activities that provide instructors with feedback about lesson effectiveness and student comprehension. Best of all, they require little preparation, class time, or grading. In the following section, we present three additional CATs and suggest ways to adapt them to online courses. Continue reading

5 Things Successful Instructors Do When the Semester is Over

Checkered flagWith finals week coming to an end and grading about to be completed, it is only natural to make a mad dash for the door and enjoy a well-deserved break.  There is no question that we all need a break to relax and find inspiration, but before heading out, keep in mind that there is a good chance that you will have to return and teach the same or a similar course again. To save time in the future and perhaps “tweak” some elements of the course, consider the following five things successful instructors do when the semester is over.

1. Reflect on the Course

Reflection is not only an important aspect of student learning but also offers an opportunity for faculty to seek insights from past teaching experiences. At the end-of-the semester, when the memories are still fresh, take a few moments to reflect on the course (e.g., what went well, what did not?). It is helpful to write down a few notes to avoid forgetting important details over the break. As an alternative, one can also discuss the course with a colleague, a friend, or instructional support at the university.

2. Make a Plan

As an essential part of reflection, certain topics or issues emerge that one would like to address in future courses. Since there might be multiple options or solutions, it is good to brainstorm on potential actions one might undertake. Occasionally, this might require talking to others or finding additional information and resources. Then, it is time to select an option and make a plan! One recommended method is to identify required steps and develop a timeline (e.g., What are some steps that need to be done? By what time?). Depending on the number of topics, it might be necessary to prioritize.

3. Archive the Course

Many Learning Management Systems (LMS) provide the option to archive a course which could come in handy when teaching again. Instead of starting from scratch, one has a version that is already developed and potentially reusable. The archived course is also a good place to make any changes without impacting enrolled students. Additionally, many universities are now making teaching portfolios a critical component of degree programs or tenure requirements. Certain LMS allow to share the archived versions without revealing confidential student information.

4. Ask Students for Permission

Student artifacts are a powerful and helpful resource that can be used as a model for future students or as proof of student learning. To avoid any privacy or copyright concerns, the end-of-the-semester is a good time to ask students for their written permission for sharing those artifacts with outsiders.

5. Take Time Off

Although it might be tempting to continuously “tweak” a course, it is also important to relax and focus on other aspects of life. Taking time off generally helps to finds new inspiration and motivation for the next semester. It is completely fine to avoid thinking about teaching for some time to find time to read a book or explore places… as long as one remembers that the next semester is right around the corner.

Do you do anything at the end-of-the-semester that helps with your future teaching? Please share your tips with our community.

Gauging Student Understanding: CATs are puuuuur-fect

Do you find yourself wondering whether your online students are really learning? Whether they are really getting it? During face-to-face classes, an instructor often can use visual cues, such as a puzzled look or a nodding head from a student, to gauge whether students are understanding a certain concept. If they don’t, an instructor has the flexibility to easily explain the concept again or even change the lesson’s activities to ensure that students get it. But what if you are teaching online and can’t always see these visual clues?

Continue reading

To Get the Right Answer, You Have to Ask the Right Question

We want our students to develop those higher order thinking skills that are so crucial to developing those much talked about 21st Century Skills including the ability to think critically, synthesize, and evaluate. The development of these skills is essential for students to complete their degree programs, and enable them as citizens to be able to solve the complex problems facing our society in the future.

Continue reading

First Impressions

Jill Schiefelbein has been an instructor in the Hugh Downs School of Communication at Arizona State University since 2004

Online learning can be a solitary experience. Students can feel somewhat disconnected when they take an online course and many instructors find it challenging to establish an instructional relationship with their students. Creating an engaging introduction video can solve these concerns.

Continue reading

Videos in the Classroom: Is That Really Active Learning?

This is the second article in a series on Active Learning. Click here to read an earlier TeachOnline blog post on how active learning promotes student success.

Videos are considered an especially effective way to present information while also addressing multiple learning styles. However, today’s students are often viewed as passive consumers of content. It is reported that a typical high school or college-age student spends, on the average, about five hours a day watching television, movies, and other online content. (Nielsen, 2013) To address this trend and encourage increased student engagement, instructors have begun to incorporate active learning strategies into face-to-face classroom and online instruction.

Continue reading

The Value of Group Work

Although most educators now recognize that the instructional paradigm has transitioned from an instructor-centered model featuring lecture as the primary means of delivering content, to a more student-center model featuring active learning to promote increased student engagement; old habits are hard to break. While we may intuitively understand why it is important for students to work collaboratively, it is often hard to find time and space in a course where students can collaborate or work in groups. Continue reading