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)


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

- 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

- 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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