The Role of the Online Instructor in Student Retention


 Before your course begins



¨             Submit your book order on time to minimize student difficulty in obtaining required texts.

¨             Submit your pre-week assignment on time so students have maximum available time to complete first week assignments.

¨             Design your course so that a written assignment is due within 2 weeks after the course start date.

¨             Consider designing your course so that students can make up an assignment if they fall behind (such as through an extra credit assignment, or by only counting the best 7 of 8 (undergrad) or 14 of 15 (grad) weeks for online participation, e.g.). Knowing that there is some flexibility - especially in the event of an emergency or unavoidable absence, can keep students from getting discouraged as they balance your course and multiple other priorities in their lives.

¨             E-mail your entire class before your course site officially becomes available, to make sure they are informed about when the course begins, to express your willingness to help them, and to give them your contact information. (In Blackboard, use Control Panel > Send E-mail.)

¨             Telephone each student during the pre-week (or leave them a voice message), telling them you are looking forward to having them in your course. To find a student's phone number in DORI, see these instructions.)

¨             Communicate clearly in your syllabus what performance is required to succeed in your course. Explain what you expect in terms of substance and frequency of online postings. Give rubrics, due dates, and point values for written and other assignments.

¨             State explicitly in your syllabus whether or not you will consider giving students an I (Incomplete) grade, and if so, under what conditions. NOTE: The SLPA Blackboard course template contains a default notice that students must complete 80% of required course work by the course end date. (This notice is placed under Syllabus > Learning Assessment > Grading Scale.) Under University policy, undergraduate students must convert an I grade to a letter grade within 8 weeks; graduate students may take up to one year to remove an I grade. Instructors may decline to allow students to take an Incomplete, or may require them to complete missing assignments in less time than allowed by University policy, but should advise them of their policy at the start of the course. Under the HEROES Act, some students may be entitled to receive an I or withdraw from the course without financial penalty; check with Ann Martin (412-396-4435 or 1-800-283-3853), advisor to military students, if in doubt.



 At the beginning of your course



¨        Greet students when they post their bio. Respond with some personal point of interest to what they have shared about themselves. Welcome students individually (publicly) to the course.

¨        Give feedback promptly on students' first written assignment, as well as all subsequent assignments.

¨        Configure your grade book in Blackboard so that students can view their course grade at any time. Post points for weekly participation and other assignments promptly. Use the "running total" feature of the Blackboard grade book so students can tell what percentage of points they have earned at any given time relative to points that could possibly have been earned at that time.

¨        View the Performance Dashboard (in Blackboard's Control Panel) on the first day of the course and every three days during the next two weeks. Attempt to contact any student who has never logged in to the course site (or never posted), and, after the course has begun, inform the student's advisor. E-mail any student who fails to log in for more than three days - just to let them know you (and their peers) miss hearing their voice, and you are concerned they might fall behind. Ask if they need any help.

¨        Reply to the e-mail (sent by Pat Pesyna or Nancy Athanas prior to the Drop/Add deadline) to alert them and/or advisors to any student who has not yet logged in or posted.



 Later in your course



¨        Deploy one of the "Early Feedback to Instructor" surveys available in Blackboard (Surveys & TEQ > [edit view] > EarlyFBsurveyInstructions). Give students feedback on what they told you and how you will modify your teaching.

¨        Continue to give feedback promptly on written assignments and student online participation. When possible, return papers with feedback or comments via e-mail instead of snail mail.

¨        Continue to monitor the Performance Dashboard (at least weekly) and alert advisors whenever a student has not logged in or has not posted for 6 or more consecutive days. (You can also create rules to alert you when certain conditions are met using the “Early Warning System” feature in Blackboard. Note: you must still access and “run” the rules periodically.)

¨        Reply to the "At Risk" e-mail message (sent by Pat Pesyna or Nancy Athanas prior to the deadline for course withdrawal) to alert them and/or advisors to any student who is in danger of not earning a passing grade.

¨        If students request an Incomplete, and if you are willing to give an "I" grade, specify in writing what work remains to be done and by when. Communicate with the student what they must do to convert the Incomplete to a passing grade. This form may aid communication with the student.

¨        Provide students with a satisfactory course ending experience (using ideas such as these) – so that students feel a sense of accomplishment and closure, have no unresolved issues with you or the course, and are ready to begin their next learning experience unencumbered.



 © 2008, Duquesne University