Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Building Retention into you Online Program

Presentation: Building Retention into your Online Program
Presenters: Craig Loftus, Whitney Kilgore – SunGard Higher Education

My takeaways (since I’m doing staff training):
Course consistency is key
Need to have a solid support system
Make sure the expectations are realistic (for students and for the client group, in my case)

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The core of this is more geared towards an overarching online program for a university.

Faculty Development
- Need to focus on the teaching
- If they have to focus attention on the CMS, affects the teaching
- There is a time commitment for the faculty
- Make sure you have an effective support system in place

Course Design
- Make sure your courses have a uniform course design.
+ Students won’t have to think about the CMS. Can focus on the learning rather than the interface.
+ Navigation – keep consistent
+ Location of materials - keep consistent
- Like the classroom – don’t get to pick where the whiteboard is….
- Tutorials on CMS embedded in the course helpful
- Make sure you have alternate forms of contact, follow-up.
- Set expectation for learner within that first informational piece.

Students think online courses easier. May not necessarily be the case
- Make sure you have online orientation course – aid navigation.
- Make sure clear on support services for the online course / CMS
- Keep students engaged as learning community (Facebook, etc). May be missing collaborative environment.
- Need to remind them that it requires a level of self-motivation and self-directed ness.
- Some students have to complete an online seminar to continue with the program.

Why students drop out (online)
- Lack of direction and ambiguity
- Inadequate support structure
+ gotta make sure they can get the resources necessary
- Technology Issues
+ home and office computers
+ Are courses built so that media easy to get to, download quickly
- Island syndrome
+ If student not completely engaged in materials, may give up. Not as motivated.
- Lack of interactivity and personalization
+ Watch the page-turners
+ Keep incorporating stories / personal experience

- Wrong expectations
+ Online course NOT easier
+ Make sure your materials match the reality
+ Also – faculty have wrong expectations about how easy it is to teach.
+ Admin also feel faculty can teach MORE online courses with more people in the class. Not true.
+ Really does take more time to teach an online course.

Other reasons (apply to both traditional and online)
- Financial (can’t afford it)
- “Swirling” - students picking and choosing courses (either by choice or because they can’t get into the course)
- lack of direction
- self- discipline
- feel disconnected
- Time constraints

Make sure also have faculty support services as well.
- They have similar needs to students. Esp. remote.
- If faculty not supported, not as engaged in the course.
- Much support centered around IT department. May need a separate team for Online courses not just for the technical but also for the instructional design and processes.

What differentiates a good online course from bad one
- Even the best organized and content focused courses may not be enough
- Good instructors good storytellers. And keep content fresh.
- Good instructors had real-world experience. Help you identify the context and relevance.
- Best instructors more facilitators. Cross-collaboration.
- Instructor presence makes / breaks a successful online course
+ Sharing of experience – can’t get this from a book
+ Identify problems before they occur
+ Push in the right direction
+ Foster and encourage collaboration
+ Faculty follow-up and remediation for online students

Assessment and Remediation
- Alternative forms of assessment
+ Objective and subjective assessment
-- Standards for discussion. Discussion means a lot.
+ e-portfolios (tool from University of Denver – free. Some success but they are not really set up to provide support).
-- Many students want to then use the ePortfolio for later use – as part of package to employer.
+ Project-driven, measurable outcomes
+ Frequent assessments help measure pulse of room.
- E-mentoring
- Counseling / advising
+ Synchronous tutoring and advising
+ Telephone email and social network
+ Hybrid approaches

Automation
- Make CMS do work for you. Lots of tools embedded. Use them.
- Peer to peer reviews
+ Empower your students
+ Foster leadership and collaboration
- Concentrate on your teaching / focused o learning

Transferability
- Some programs are more challenging than others when offered on line
- Online math and science can be challenging
- Ensure additional technologies are available and useful for your students
- Faculty Technology Leadership and mentoring programs
+ Help faculty (2 graduate level courses – Fall and Spring)
+ Given credits + laptop
+ Taught pedagogy and best practice and incorporating multi-media
- Cross-disciplinary Learning Objects

Program and Course Consistency
- Consistent curriculum in your program – one course leads into next
- Ensure prereq and sequencing consistent
- Program paths are clear for both online and traditional
- Consistent online teaching strategies and expectations
- Listen to your students and incorporate student feedback.

Good articles on internet
- Taking Student Retention Seriously
- National Dialog on Student Retention

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