Intentional design: Transform an online student success course from low participation to high

Concurrent Session 2

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Curious about how version 3 of a college success skills course evolved? Join us to learn about the process and results of the redesigned course. The motivation behind the changes for version 4 will be discussed. This presentation is targeted to instructional designers and faculty who create their own courses. 


Dr. Samuel has a breadth and depth of technology experience first with competency-based, hardware, network, and application certification education and later in higher education. Shortly after receiving her PhD with a focus on Education Technology, she became the Director of Faculty and Staff Development at Delgado Community College, New Orleans, LA. She has been the Dean of Distance Learning and Instructional Technology at Delgado Community College since Fall 2014. Her interests are in technology adoption and motivational strategies to promote student learning and completion. Education is the overarching theme from a lifetime of work including public, private, and corporate education. As an advocate of game theory for learning, testing for learning, and brain theory for learning, Jeanne seeks opportunities to apply these areas of study to different learning situations.

Extended Abstract

The first 2 times we offered our online student success course we had high attrition and poor final grades. The second time we offered it, we had low enrollment response. We decided to evaluate the course design to identify weaknesses. Was the course too long, did pass/fail aspect confuse students, or did the 1-credit associated with the course give the perception no work was required?

Version 3 course was delivered as an 8-week course rather than the original 16-week course. We embedded just-in-time Learning Management System (Canvas) support and digital literacy support (web search, Microsoft® Office applications, and file management) within and proximate to activities. We embedded content about metacognition to help students learn how to learn. We provided multiple formats and locations for due date reminders. We moved from a grade point system to a grade weight system.

To address design issues, non-gratuitous images were added as course icons for students to easily identify content by type: written activity, quiz, or reading. From the field of gamification, we employed progress bars and badges. Progress bars helped students visualize how much material remained in each module, which in turn, encouraged students to complete the modules. Badges rewarded students for each module competency and for course completion.

Rubrics were tied to outcomes that populated learning mastery of soft skills. Rubric narrative for each activity was included in each activities’ description. We created a 5% professionalism grade category. These changes were dramatic since they uncoupled course-level student learning outcomes from the soft skills needed to be successful students and valuable employees. In other words, student received grades for content mastery and proficiency levels for soft skill demonstration. The professionalism category comprised of timeliness and participation; it affected the overall grade earned by each student. 

Students who worked in the course at least 2 hours per week passed the course with a grade of B or higher (7-A’s, 1-B). Two students earned C’s. Students who worked in the course 0.19 hours per week – 1.41 hours per week failed the course (6 students). We are unable to determine the amount of time spent outside of the course. Participation frequency and/or viewing pages was not included in the analytics at this time. Except for one outlier, students with high professionalism grades earned the higher course grades.

We identified possible reasons for students not progressing more quickly earlier in the course and for the weak completion of the final module. We will address those problems in version 4.0.


  • We will initially share our experience about the student demographic and the motivation for offering the course. We will ask the audience to share their experiences.
  • We will show elements (screen shots from course) of the 1.0 and 2.0 course versions and ask the audience to comment on possible design problems and outcomes. Then we will show our revised element. We will employ Just-In-Time (JiT) polling (surveys) using Kahoot to facilitate anonymous expression of opinions by audience members.
  • We will play a word game: A concept or objective will be stated and the audience members will have a white board or flip chart to write down the first activity they think about that would address the outcomes.
  • We will share our current issues and what we plan to do to overcome them. We will invite audience suggestions and comments.


  • We will show the crosswalk of our course design with corresponding items if the OLC quality instruments.