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I’ve been teaching online at an institution other than Purdue for about 7 years now. During the Fall 2013 semester, a student commented to me that they really appreciated the amount of communication I had with them during the semester. Another student mentioned that I was much more engaged compared to his previous online course instructors.
For some reason these comments really haunted me after that term. Yes, it felt great to get that kind of feedback from students because it was positive. However, I have since been curious about why these students praised my involvement. Why is it odd to students that online instructors are engaged in their courses? If so, shouldn’t that be somewhat alarming?
Engagement is a two-way street. We can’t expect students to be highly engaged in their classes while as faculty, we appear to either simply observing the class…or at worst, completely unengaged and uncaring about what is going on.
One aspect where student performance can be impacted positively by communication from faculty is through feedback. Chickering and Gamson (1991), in their Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education, list two principles that work hand-in-hand when it comes to communication: Giving prompt feedback, and communicating high expectations.
If I simply state in my syllabus that I expect strong performance from my students on an assignment, but I provide little to no feedback to students, I am not being effective in providing guidance to high-performing students who may simply need reinforcement that they’re on the right track. I am also not being effective with lower-performing students by not providing them with the feedback and information they need to improve their work and rise to the expectations I have for the class. If I don’t tell a student what I expect and clearly communicate to them what they need to do to improve, how can I expect them to do better?
So what’s so important about prompt feedback? Prompt feedback plus communication about what the student needs to continue doing (or improve upon) can make a difference in the student’s performance. Not providing prompt feedback can put a student in a position where they don’t know what to improve upon until after the submission of additional assignments or assessments.
There are other components of communication that can be accomplished to keep you engaged with the course. Consider using Announcements within Blackboard to provide updates and information that can help them, such as tips on how to complete assigned tasks, or emphasizing due dates. If you do use Announcements, change your course entry page from Course Content to Announcements so those are the first thing a student sees when they log in. In addition, critical announcements can also be emailed to students.
Furthermore, if you’re teaching online or a blended course where synchronous activity with your students is limited, you may wish to add online office hours using web conference tools provided by Purdue. This can allow you to host real-time discussions with students wherever you are.
Communicating feedback and expectations is important for student success. However, simply communicating with your students to let them know that you’re engaged and available can also demonstrate that you care about your students and their involvement in your class.
To discuss ways to increase communication with your students, please contact us at email@example.com.
Chickering, A. W., & Gamson, Z. F. (1991). Appendix A: Seven principles for
good practice in undergraduate education. New Directions for Teaching
and Learning, 47, 63-69.
Purdue University offers a lot of great software tools for faculty and students that can be used for course projects. The problem that may arise for faculty wanting students to create movies, graphics, or other deliverables for course projects may simply be that students are not familiar with tools needed to create those items.
This is where the ITaP Student Trainers can help!
The ITaP Student Training program offers free training on various software tools to students and faculty. During the time of a 50-minute course meeting, a Student Trainer can provide students with the basic knowledge of a software tool so those students can complete their assignment. For a 75-minute course, Student Trainers can provide not only a training session but also, on request of the course instructor, additional question and answer time for individual students in the course.
Each training session is a hands-on session, so training sessions held during class time may need to be held in a computer lab instead of the normal classroom. All students in the session will receive a handout, and any student missing class or needing additional instruction may schedule an individual help session with one of the Student Training staff.
Student Trainers currently provide training sessions on the following software tools:
(Word, Excel, Powerpoint)
|GarageBand||Windows Live Movie Maker|
Additionally, other training sessions may be available on request. If you need a training session on a product not listed above, please contact the Student Trainers and request that session.
Student Trainers are also available to provide training sessions to recognized student organizations. Student organizations interested in providing professional development to its members as a whole, or who may need a few members trained in a technology to develop videos or materials to market their group may utilize the Student Trainers for this purpose. Additionally, Resident Assistants who would like to provide a program for their communities to develop new technical skills may also request a program from the Student Training staff.
Student Trainer sessions may be customized to meet the needs of attendees. For an audience that may know how to use Microsoft Word but may need some training on more advanced topics in Word, a training session can be developed to meet that need.
The ITaP Student Trainers are available throughout the fall and spring semesters, with limited availability in the summer. If you are interested in setting up a training session please fill out our training request form. For more information please email firstname.lastname@example.org and one of our training coordinators will answer any questions you may have.
As we embark on another academic year, I think it’s important to consider how we can create the best environment for learning. In 1987, Chickering and Gamson put forth a brief article titled Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education. This document has become a touchstone for educators and instructional designers over the past two and a half decades, and still remains very relevant today.
Chickering and Gamson (1987) pulled the seven principles together in an effort to better understand over 50 years of research on not only how students learn, but also how instructors teach. What resulted were a set of guidelines that, if implemented in part or in whole, has the potential to greatly impact student success in the classroom. As you reflect on your teaching for the semester, consider these principles – and how you might incorporate them – as you prepare future class sessions or courses.
1. Good practice encourages student-instructor contact.
Students interacting with their faculty members has been shown to increase student performance and overall retention to the university. This can be done through emails to students , in- or -out-of-class activities, or simply learning your students’ names.
2. Good practice encourages cooperation among students.
When students interact with others, particularly those with different backgrounds, ethnicities, experiences, or ideologies, they have an opportunity to learn more about the world around them and develop critical thinking and analysis skills. Group projects, study groups, or case/team/problem based learning are all great ways to have students cooperatively learn a concept.
3. Good practice encourages active learning.
The more active a student is in class, the more likely they are to learn the materials being presented. Encourage your students to ask questions and to answer other students’ questions. Further, consider employing one or more tools supported by ITaP designed to increase active and involved learning in your classroom.
4. Good practice involves prompt feedback.
The more students know how they’re doing and how they can improve their performance, the more likely it is that they’ll be successful in the course. Consider employing Course Signals or the Early Warning System (in Learn) as a means of providing feedback with tips for success on a regular basis. Early intervention is key – the earlier and more often you provide feedback, the better for the students.
5. Good practice encourages time on task.
The more good time a student spends on a task, the better they’ll understand the concept and be able to perform the same task the next time. “Good” time is purposeful time – not time spent multi-tasking or working on multiple things at once. It is time that is devoted to one thing with a strong concerted effort. Encouraging students to enhance their learning and studying skills is a great way to help them increase their overall effectiveness.
6. Good practices communicates high expectations.
Most students will work to reach the bar you set for them. If a high bar is set, they’ll work to reach it – provided if you also provide support for them at the same time. Telling students where the bar is set and how they can reach it with your support or the assistance of other offices on campus (resource rooms, help labs, etc.) will go a long way in helping your students succeed.
7. Good practice respects divers talents and ways of learning.
How you learn is not necessarily the same way your students learn, and that’s ok. Understanding where these differences lie, and using varying methods of assessment (oral projects, written papers, team work, multi-media, etc.) will allow for students with different styles and skill sets to flourish. Purdue’s Center for Instructional Excellence has some information on learning styles, and can work with you to better understand how these can be incorporated into your classroom.
Reference: Chickering, A. W. & Gamson, Z. F. (1987). Seven principles for good practice in undergraduate education. AAHE Bulletin, 39(7): 3-7.
In my previous post, I discussed how there exists a shared responsibility between the University and its students with regard to their success. In this post, I’d like to share a list of resources to which students can be referred.
A student’s academic advisor can often provide the best information with regard to how a student’s performance is going to affect their overall academic career. Each college, school, or department has its own advisors, and most students should know where their advisor’s office is located.
Purdue’s Academic Success Center provides 8- and 16-week classes focused on study skills and reading skills. In addition, they offer free workshops throughout the semester, as well as walk-in consultations to help students be more successful in their studies.
Often times, students struggle academically because of financial issues. Counselors in the Financial Aid office can work with students to find additional financial aid resources for them, or help them better understand the aid they’re receiving.
Purdue’s Office of the Dean of Students offers a range of programs designed to assist students with their personal and academic needs. Personal counseling is available, as are tutors and academic assistance. Specific resources are offered for adult students through the Span Plan.
An illness – whether physical or psychological – can impact how a student performs in the classroom. Referring a student to the resources available through PUSH, including Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), can help a student identify what’s wrong and aid in their recovery.
The Colleges of Science and Technology offer assistance via help and resource rooms, including biology, chemistry, electrical engineering technology, and math.
Coordinated by Student Access, Transition and Success Programs, Supplemental Instruction (SI) helps students succeed in historically difficult courses. Students who received an A in the class are trained as peer instructors and are placed back in the classroom to observe the lecture again. Then, they offer out-of-class sessions designed to reinforce and supplement the faculty members’ lectures. Research has indicated that SI participants earn between one-half to one-full letter grade higher than their non-participating peers. A list of courses involved with SI can be found at https://www.purdue.edu/sats/SI/index.html.
The professional and student staff in the residence halls exist to assist students in becoming integrated to Purdue. Residential Life Managers, Staff Residents, and Resident Assistants can be excellent resources for students who seem to be struggling in your classes.
Purdue’s Writing Lab, and the Online Writing Lab (OWL), are excellent resources to assist students with their writing skills. The physical lab is on the second floor of Heavilon Hall.
This is just a smattering of the resources available to students across campus. Please feel free to post additional resources in the comments.