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

The CATs in a Hat: Fostering Higher Order Thinking

This is the third article in our series on Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs) which can be used to gauge lesson effectiveness and student comprehension. To review, CATs were developed by Angelo and Cross (1983) to efficiently check whether students understand a certain concept. For more examples of these formative assessments, please see our previous posts:

In this article, we will present three CATs focusing on developing Higher Order Thinking Skills (see Collins, 2014) and that can also be used face-to-face, hybrid, or online teaching. Continue reading

How Important Is Instructor Presence in an Online Course?

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Creating an Educational Experience

The ability to establish presence is closely connected to the ability of the instructor to create a sense of community among learners in an online course. (Palloff & Pratt, The Excellent Online Instructor, 2011)

Research has long pointed to engagement as a key predictor of student success (Pascarella & Terenzini (2005), Kuh, (2005) CITE). Fortunately, new online learning environments and tools (see ASU Online Digital Learning Platform) provide a variety of opportunities for students to engage not only with course content, but during student-student and student-interaction as well. (Swan, 2004) 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.

Faculty Videos and Games: Enhancing Student Engagement and Performance

Does increasing the amount of time students spend viewing faculty research videos and playing course specific games positively impact course grades?

Yes, it does, in both online and face-to-face courses and regardless of student GPAs.

Image by Alyssa Robinson
Image by Alyssa Robinson

These questions were the basis for a paper on the effects of faculty-research videos and games in an upper-division empirical-methods course. We expected that a media-rich environment would increase student engagement and that this increased student engagement would enhance performance and increase student satisfaction with the course.

Working with ASU Online and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Political Science faculty created 10- to 20-minute videos in which they presented a research project; they explained what they found, how they found it, and why they asked the question.

The videos are part of a repository and, although the impetus for the project was the growing demand for research methods online, the videos have been used in online, face-to-face and blended courses.

  • We assumed that the video examples of real research projects, tied to theory, would add depth and breadth to the course. In turn, this would make research methods more interesting;
  • increase student engagement;
  • improve the quality and quantity of student interactions with faculty;
  • expose online students to a wider range of faculty than their coursework typically might offer, thus providing them with some of the benefits accrued by traditional students;
  • and raise course grades.

These questions are consistent with the media-integration model, which dominates the theoretic literature and research on technology inclusion.  Earlier research found that streaming video and audio explanations are better than textbooks at explaining complex concepts.

We found that online students spent 21 percent of their online time viewing the faculty-research videos. The correlation between video-viewing time and course grade (49%) was the same as the correlation between course grade and GPA (50%). We expected the relationship between GPA and course grade to be strong but were surprised to find that the relationship between video viewing and course grade was equally strong. The correlation between viewing the research videos and GPA was 24 percent.  When we controlled for GPA, the partial correlation between faculty video viewing and course grade was 73%, which was considerably higher than the zero order correlation between course grade and video viewing.  GPA and faculty-research videos had independent effects on course grade; they did not substitute for one another. Moreover, within “GPA groups” video viewing had a strong, positive influence on course grades.

Anecdotal evidence is consistent with these findings.  Students wrote, “the videos were fantastic and…fun to watch; as an online student, the videos are essential to making me feel a connection to the faculty; (the videos) were indeed informative.”

The videos “helped make the abstract concepts a bit more concrete and easier to grasp. I think the videos were…a good addition to the course.”

Another student identified a benefit beyond the scope of the project when s/he wrote, “I quite enjoyed the videos and found them useful not only as a tool to explain course concepts and research examples, but also – and probably more importantly – as an opportunity to sort of ‘sample’ other professors. The videos provided a kind of mini course from a few professors, which helped in selecting classes for the following semesters.”

Our project had one more element. The spring 2013 online section added games associated with the course material for each week.  These were drill and practice games emphasizing memory, repetition and retention;  and Quizlet (our creation tool) offered students variations within the drill and practice theme.

The data regarding the impact  of these tools is unequivocal. Students using drill and practice online vocabulary games had higher quiz and course grades than students who opted not to use the games.

Additionally, the inclusion of “mini-games” or “learning objects” in the course, while not measured, appeared anecdotally to increase student satisfaction.

On an anonymous course evaluation, one student wrote, “this instructor went out of her way to make it easy for distance-learning students. She…tied the different elements of the course together …. (making) learning much easier (textbook, homework, quizzes, discussions and games).” Another wrote, “The many sources of media ….brought diversity to the course material.”

Our project was a success. Many faculty who made research videos reported that students referred to the videos in conversations.  This was an unexpected consequence but one that was entirely consistent with the project’s goal of making students more comfortable with research.

The videos helped students become reviewers and evaluators of research instead of passive consumers; the games made them comfortable with the language. Course material often seen as dry became engaging, and as they came to appreciate it, teaching became easier and more rewarding.

Click here for the full article with citations.

By Marilyn Dantico, PhD, Gina Woodall, PhD, and Tahnja Wilson, MIM/MBA

Making Online Classroom Discussion More Dynamic and Engaging

Generating discussion in the online classroom can often be a difficult process, especially for those used to facilitating in a more traditional manner. Many learning platforms offer limited opportunities for faculty-student interaction and some instructors often wonder how to best engage students in asynchronous learning environments. Others are concerned with whether or not students will be able to effectively demonstrate subject knowledge given the limited opportunities for face-to-face interaction. Despite the occasionally restrictive nature of the online learning environment, it is possible to engage and interact with students but it is imperative that facilitators understand how to incorporate meaningful discussion into the online classroom.

Continue reading