“As a stranger give it welcome.” – Shakespeare
Students need tactics for when they encounter strange people or strange ideas. (Wilson, 2018) First-time online students are a perfect example of individuals who are encountering something new, strange, and often uncomfortable, for the first time. Welcoming that strange experience should include a little bit of information gathering. Look for positive and negatives in situations to help decide how you view it and, most of all, have an open mind.
To help potential online students make decisions, when they take their first online course, Marie Fetzner asked unsuccessful online students: “What advice would you give to students who are considering registering for an online course?”
Their top 13 responses:
- Stay up with the course activities—don’t get behind
- Use good time management skills
- Use good organizational skills
- Set aside specific times during each week for your online class
- Know how to get technical help
- A lot of online writing is required
- There is a lot of reading in the textbook and in online discussions—be prepared
- Regular online communications are needed
- Ask the professor if you have questions
- Carefully read the course syllabus
- Be sure you understand the requirements of the online course discussions
- Understand how much each online activity is worth toward your grade
- Go to the online student orientation, if possible
These responses raise the question: how can we better help our students? From the advice above, we know students struggle with time management, expectations, communication, etc. So, what can we do to help foster their success?
- Reach out to students who seem to be lagging behind. A quick email is sometimes all it takes to open up that line of communication between you and the student.
- Provide approximate times for course materials and activities. Students can use this to better plan for the requirements that week.
- Keep your course organized so students can spend more time with the content instead of search for the content.
- Remind students about where to access help and support services.
- Develop a Q&A discussion board for student questions about the course. Often, more than one student has the same question and often other students might already know the answer. Have this be something you check daily to answer questions quickly so students can continue with their learning.
- Use rubrics for grading. By giving the students rubrics, they will know what is expected, you will get responses closer to your expectations, and it makes grading easier!
Welcome these ideas as you would a new experience. Give it a little try, jump right in, confer with colleagues, or chose your own path. Know that as an instructor or developer for an online course, you have the ability to help your students be successful!
Fetzner, Marie. (2013). What Do Unsuccessful Online Students Want Us to Know? Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 17(1), 13-27.
Wilson, J. (2018). “As a stranger give it welcome”: Shakespeare’s Advice for First-Year College Students. Change, 50(5), 60.