Engaging the Reluctant Online Learner


OLC Director of Research and Innovation, Lynette O’Keefe and OLC sponsor TechSmith

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This blog post is brought to you by the Online Learning Consortium on behalf of our OLC Accelerate 2019 sponsor, TechSmith.

After ten years of teaching online and face-to-face classes, Boise State University faculty member Tracie Lee hit multiple hurdles teaching Introductory Business Statistics online. 

This is a mandatory gateway course for all business majors, and as is common with many intro courses, students resisted taking it.  In addition, the course content includes enough math that it is considered difficult by many students. Despite being experienced in online teaching, Tracie found this course to be particularly challenging. 

Tracie designed the course using a previously-successful model of video lessons along with grade points based on exams, assignments, discussions, and projects, but found that students just weren’t learning. By midterms, fifty percent of the class was failing. “Looking back,” said Tracie,”it’s clear I didn’t understand the demographic.”

Tracie adjusted her approach to include video walkthroughs to show students how to think through and solve the problems. By the end of the semester, most of the remaining students passed the course. But, Tracie knew it could be much better.

For the next semester, Tracie gave students more chances to practice problems before exams. She added forty-minute video lessons, video walkthroughs, graded quizzes, and additional online discussions.  Still, it wasn’t enough, and students continued to struggle. Many students weren’t watching the videos and were putting off assignments until the last minute. In addition, Tracie encountered unsustainable video maintenance and storage issues, and began to look for a better approach. 

Video interaction made all the difference

Tracie chose to use TechSmith Relay, a next-generation, cloud-based video platform, which allowed her to measure (and require!) participation. A few of the things she was able to do to improve her course included: 

  • Recording shorter videos. “It was shocking to me to see the statistics on the ideal video length,” Tracie explained.”There are some concepts in statistics that have too many steps to go through in five minutes. Ten minutes was a nice compromise between my original forty-minute videos and the ideal three-minute attention span.” 
  • Embedding graded quiz questions at key points within her videos. To maximize the attention span window, Tracie engages students frequently with quizzes an average of every two minutes. This allows her to measure learning as students participate, instead of just at the end of each week. At the same time, the quizzes ensure students are watching and paying attention to the entire videos.
  • Reporting quiz results directly to the LMS gradebook.  This allows Tracie to increase participation and interaction without adding to her own grading workload.
  • Measuring participation for each student, and her class as a whole. “I couldn’t get students to watch videos until I made them worth points,” said Tracie. Measuring participation made a huge difference.

In addition to changing her approach to videos, Tracie also began hand-writing key points on her presentation slides (as opposed to just displaying text on the screen). She used an inexpensive graphics tablet with a stylus, then recorded her screen (she chose to use Camtasia), and the writing showed up on the video. By monitoring participation and outcomes, she continued to make adjustments to the course.

“I’ve recorded videos several times trying to figure out the best way to explain something. It forces you to be extremely focused.” Based on how well students are learning, Tracie adjusts the material. “Especially when students are asking the same question over and over again, that’s really a good point to say ‘I need to add something here.’ Sometimes that’s an extra two-minute video that I send out to the class, or sometimes I re-record the lecture instead.”

Using these strategies, Tracie saw higher pass rates, lower fail rates, and lower drop rates in her full-online course.

Following the implementation of video and interactive strategies, Tracie has seen improvement in student outcomes, and plans to keep making improvements to achieve an 80% pass rate.  

This material is abridged from Tracie Lee’s webinar “Engaging the Reluctant Learner”. View the full webinar here: https://tsc.techsmithrelay.com/svwE

TechSmith provides screen capture and recording solutions for online, and blended learning. In addition to Camtasia and Snagit, TechSmith also provides Relay, which makes it easy for anyone to create content for online and flipped learning, right within your LMS. Measure engagement with quizzing and analytics, and send results automatically to your gradebook. Organize and share securely from any computer or mobile device, for personalized and effective eLearning. Learn more about Relay at www.techsmith.com/Relay.

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Contact Brenda Weiss-Pesta, Director of Sponsorship Sales, at brenda.pesta@onlinelearning-c.org or 617-716-1417 for more information on becoming an OLC sponsor.

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