Encouraging and Supporting Students to Finish Spring Term

by Marjorie Coffey, Assistant Director, OSU Academic Success Center

Waldo Hall OSUAll Academic Success Center (ASC) programs and services have been available remotely in spring. Through our program interactions and through OSU’s recent Remote Learning Experience Survey—completed by over 2900 undergraduate students—we’ve learned a lot about student experiences this term. I’d like to share some of those insights with you.

Resoundingly, we’ve heard that students are experiencing increased course workloads while simultaneously experiencing increased fatigue. While some fatigue is normal near the end of term, this term is different. Students have additional stress associated with health, finances, employment, uncertainty, and loss during the pandemic. These make motivation and focus challenging.

Because of this unprecedented situation, your support, patience, and understanding are so important to students’ success right now. I’d like to share a few ways you can support students these last few weeks of the term.

Create Opportunities for Connection

Students miss in-person faculty connections. Having options for communication can help students reach out. Here are some ideas:

  • Let students know your response time for emails (e.g., within 48 hours) or if you may take longer responding in a given week.
  • Schedule drop-in Zoom office hours. If you have one set time, try scheduling a new time for broader availability. If students are still waiting when office hours end, share alternate ways to connect.
  • Start synchronous lectures by letting students know if you can stay after a few minutes to talk through individual questions.
  • Encourage students to ask questions about their course performance and to communicate with advisors if they are considering a change in grading basis.
  • Create an anonymous Qualtrics survey where students can submit course-related questions they’d like answered in a weekly digest announcement.

Communicate Early about Finals

Finals Survival GuideStudents are thinking ahead to finals, and some have expressed concerns around not knowing what to expect. Students value transparency about requirements, and there can be comfort in details that allow for planning.

If your class has a final, consider posting an announcement this week that addresses common questions:

  • What options do students have for the final? Are there different ways students can demonstrate knowledge?
  • What day and time will the final be held or due? If a timed test, how much time will students have to complete the final?
  • What will be the format? (e.g., open-book multiple choice, essay)
  • What content or weeks of the course will be covered in the final?
  • How should students navigate technology challenges? What should students do if their internet is slow, unreliable, or fails during the final?

In addition, changes to the final itself can reduce stress. Some examples include allowing extra time, not using proctoring, and letting students know in advance if you will adjust the grading scale to acknowledge the reality students are learning in.

Share Encouragement & Resources with Students

You Got ThisFrom the Remote Learning Experience survey, we know students value instructor communication that is open, supportive, practical, and clear.

Keep these tips in mind as you draft messages offering encouragement:

  • Personalize messages to your course and students
  • Acknowledge and appreciate what students have accomplished
  • Indicate what information is most important
  • Name specific resources, actions, and strategies that can support success

Dam Good Swelf-Care PacketThe ASC has resources you can share to acknowledge students’ experiences and offer specific recommendations:

  • ASC Zoom Room – Suggest students visit the ASC Zoom Room to talk with a strategist about tools and resources to support finals prep.
  • DAM Good Self-Care Packet – Remind students about the importance of their well-being, and encourage them to plan activities for self-care.
  • Finals Survival Guide – Relate the guide to your course: share how students can use the calendar and study strategies to prepare for your course’s final.

THANK YOU for all you’re doing to support students. If you’d like to connect about additional resources for your course or students, please don’t hesitate to reach out to the ASC (success@oregonstate.edu). We’re happy to talk and think with you.


Editor’s note: For additional timely information from the Academic Success Center see the latest issue of The Success Kitchen.

Photo: You Got This by Prateek Katyal on Unsplash

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