We know students in online courses can feel isolated, right? They don’t have the easy access to campus-based support services, faculty, or even other students if they just want to vent! While student retention in online classes has improved greatly in the last decade, a recent study from the Community College Research Center at Columbia University reminds us that “Community-college students enrolled in online courses [still] fail and drop out more often than those whose coursework is classroom-based”.
So… what can we do to fix this?
Grab ‘em early and make a positive impact on each and every student in the first couple of weeks! Here are my top five tips for keeping students engaged in an online course:
#5 – Instructor Introductions
Let them know who you are! It seems an obvious step, but posting some information about yourself, your hobbies and your experience can help students understand there’s a real person on the other end of the line, making them more apt to stick around. And hey, yeah, you, post a picture of yourself! Don’t be shy – you don’t walk into class with a paper bag over your head (and if you do, I apologize in advance) so let students know what you look like!
#4 – Student Introductions
Start building your learning community by having students introduce themselves and respond to others – this helps foster student-to-student communication and lets them know they’re not alone in some deep space multiple-choice vacuum. You’re all in this together!
#3 – Weekly Announcements
Ever go to a (cob)website that never changes? How often do you return? Once? Twice? Students feel the same way about your class – so make sure you rotate that homepage to keep them logging in. Automated/manual announcements about upcoming assignments work well, and let students know that you’re still around.
#2 – Timely, Meaningful Feedback
Don’t make students feel like they’re submitting paperwork to the DMV – let them feel as if their work is appreciated and acknowledged by providing timely feedback. Let students know your turnaround time on grading assignments to decrease feelings of isolation, and personalize each message to the student – it’s a small step for the teacher that makes a huge impact on your student.
#1 – Positive Affirmation
OK – so I stole this from http://www.insightjournal.net – but it’s a good one. “Every week, in a group setting, affirm everyone… sincerely”. Most importantly for student retention, do this in the first week on an individual basis, and “ensure an early success for each student; praise and document it”. It takes a little effort, sure, but the results might just surprise you!