Eight Course Design Factors for Student Success: A Gamified Conversation

Concurrent Session 3

Brief Abstract

In this gamified conversation, we will talk about eight online course design factors for student success: 

  1. OERs
  2. Instructor Expertise and Presence
  3. No Stakes and Low Stakes Assessments
  4. Clear Organization
  5. Instructions for Success
  6. Design with ADA in Mind
  7.  Instructor Work/Life Balance
  8.  Student Feedback


Dr. Tamara Powell is the Director of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences Office of Distance Education. She is an alumni of the OLC Institute for Emerging Leaders in Online Learning and a mentor for the OLC Online Teaching Certificate Program. She enjoys working with faculty as they translate their face-to-face teaching genius into an electronic experience.

Extended Abstract

Thank you OLC for making the gamified presentation a “thing.” I’m very excited to share my idea, and I hope you don’t mind that it’s written a little more directly to the selection committee than I would normally write a proposal.

I make several assumptions about my audience. 1) This audience loves teaching, 2) This audience loves students, 3) This audience loves to see their students learn and succeed. 4) The members of this audience are the subject matter experts, 5) This audience doesn’t mind going the extra mile now and then to support student success.

This presentation will be gamified as a Kahoot, as I love to play Kahoot, and everyone I know loves to, as well. Instead of a PowerPoint, I will create 15 questions in the Kahoot and go through the questions with the audience. Kahoot allows players to put in their player names and keeps score after each question. This feature allows the excitement to build after each question.

After each question, I will ask the winner of that question to elaborate on the question and answer, so that the audience is giving the presentation. I will also ask the second and third runners up if they have information to add. I will follow up, after the top three participants’ contributions, with any additional information that I had planned to say. So, it may happen that I am just guiding the audience through a collaborative presentation. I think this will work particularly well with my topic as it’s a good chance someone knows something about each of the strategies I’m going to discuss.

My Kahoot questions are

  1. What are OERs?
  2. What are the research-based results of OER use?
  3. In a recent study, students were presented with three scenarios: videos created by Dr. Smith for Dr. Smith’s class, videos created by Dr. Smith for Dr. Jones’ class, and videos found on YouTube. Which scenario resulted in higher student success?
  4. What is a risk free evaluation zone?
  5. What does the research say about providing students with low stakes and no stakes assignments?
  6. According to Quality Matters, what is alignment?
  7. Which one of these verbs is measurable?
  8. Recently, there’s been a lot of research on cognitive load. What does the research say about a poorly organized online class and cognitive load?
  9. What was the most surprising result of faculty development for online teaching?
  10. True story. My own students once asked me why we were creating resumes in a technical writing class. This anecdote dovetails with what recent findings regarding student success?
  11. True or false—only a small percentage of students use captions when viewing videos.
  12. What is the difference between accommodation and accessibility?
  13. What is one of the best ways to create work/life balance for yourself in designing your online class?
  14. According to research, what percentage of discussion posts should an instructor respond to for optimal student motivation in an online class?
  15. How might the Hawthorne effect be implemented in an online class to improve student satisfaction (and faculty evaluations)?

I’ve been teaching online for 18 years, and I’ve done a lot of primary and secondary research on keeping students in the online course and helping them to be successful. My Kahoot and the discussion following each question will address eight course design factors I have found in the research, and tested out in my classroom, to foster student success (achieving learning outcomes, staying in the course, finishing the course, being satisfied with the course).


Eight Online Course Design Factors for Student Success

  1. OERs:  Using open educational resources, or OERs, in classes has proven to increase student success, satisfaction, retention, and completion. It lowers student debt and allows students to take more classes at once, thereby completing college faster and further lowering their debt load (Colvart, Watson, and Park 273). I use OERs in all my courses now, including a textbook I co-authored and provide to students, and anyone, for free. I have seen a huge difference in student preparedness and engagement.
  2. Instructor Expertise and Presence: Ideally, instructors should build their own online courses and know 1) what is in every part of it and 2) how to update and improve it. We should do this ourselves. Instructors are more engaged when we have created our own courses, and the courses stay fresher and more up to date because instructors know where everything is and are able to implement updates at regular intervals. Also, because it is our course, and students are engaging with us, students get to know us, so they invest faster, and they perform better.  Instructor expertise and presence are vitally important to a successful online course.
  3. No Stakes and Low Stakes Assessments: No stakes and low stakes review puzzles, games, and quizzes at small intervals support student learning and student success (Eustace). Also, initial early tasks such as the schedule assignment (Powell and Negash, Laato) increase success and retention. And self check/self grade activities wherein instructors provide examples of assignments and a rubric and let students review their own work are helpful. Instructors need to save their time for the work of teaching.
  4. Clear Organization: Clear, aligned course organization with clear course and module goals and weekly unit modules. In a well-organized online course that fosters student success, all content should be in the module in the order it should be attempted, with clear instructions.  Research on cognitive load shows that “Easter Egg Hunt” course organization—where students must look at a course schedule and then find the readings folder to read the readings, then look at the course schedule and then find the videos folder to view the lecture for that week, and then look at the course schedule and find the assignments folder to access the assignment folder for that week—such organization reduces a student’s ability to succeed in a course (Cerdan, Candel, and Leppink). 
  5. Instructions for Success—while it might be obvious to us as instructors, it is important for us to let students know “this is how you do it,” and “this will help you" (Winkelmes 2).  
  6. Design with ADA in mind—retrofitting is not cool. It’s important to know the difference between accessibility and accommodation. In our face to face classes, students are asked to bring us notice that they require accommodation. But online courses are expected to be accessible from the start. Students who need accessible courses are also students whom we want to be successful. It’s not just blind and deaf students--70% of students use these accommodations at some point for various reasons. Students on the spectrum, particularly, need these resources. If we care about student success, then we care about ADA.
  7. Instructor Work/Life Balance--because we are no good to our students if we are burned out. 
  8. Student Feedback. Research shows that the students who do the best are the ones who contact the instructor. As the instructor, it’s important to make sure students know that you welcome hearing from them. Also, build into the course design regular points where students are asked to provide feedback. 

I’m sure these eight strategies for student success will provide more than enough jumping off parts for discussion throughout the game, and I'm sure that people will have a lot to share.


Works Cited

Cerdan, Raquel, Carmen Candel, and Jimmie Leppink. “Cognitive Load and Learning in the Study of

Multiple Documents.” Frontiers in Education. Vol 3, no. 29,  2018. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/feduc.2018.00059/full     

Colvard, Nicholas B., C. Edward Watson, and Hyojin Park. “The Impact of Open Educational

Resources on Various Student Success Metrics.” International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. Vol. 30, no. 2, 2018, pp. 262-276. http://www.isetl.org/ijtlhe/pdf/IJTLHE3386.pdf

Eustace, James and Pramod Pathak. “Retrieval Practice, Enhancing Learning in Electrical

Science”  CSEDU: 12th International Conference on Computer Supported Education.  4 May 2019. University of Crete Voutes Campus. Heraklion, Greece. http://insticc.org/node/TechnicalProgram/csedu/presentationDetails/76741

Laato, Samuli, Emilia Lipponen, Heidi Salmento, Henna Vilppu and Mari Murtonen. “Minimizing

the Number of Dropouts in University Pedagogy Online Courses.” CSEDU: 12th International Conference on Computer Supported Education.  3 May 2019. University of Crete Voutes Campus. Heraklion, Greece. http://insticc.org/node/TechnicalProgram/csedu/presentationDetails/76860

Powell, Tamara and Solomon Negash. “What if We Put Best Practices into Practice: A Report on

Course Design Beyond Quality Matters.” 2013. http://distanceed.hss.kennesaw.edu/elearning/elearning/Learner/BestPractices.Powell.Negash.2013.doc

Winkelmes, Mary-Ann. “Expanding Inclusive Teaching Practices: What’s Needed.” 2014