High-Impact Online Practices to Reach and Engage Under-Represented Student Populations: Results of a Pilot Program

Concurrent Session 3
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Brief Abstract

A panel of online instructors from a two-year, public California Community College presents results of a semester-long pilot program using high-impact practices designed to reach, engage, and retain underrepresented populations, including students who are ethnic minorities, economically disadvantaged, working, parenting, veterans, or first in their families to attend college.

 

Presenters

Joanna Miller is a 10-year veteran of online teaching, now serving as her campus Distance Education Coordinator. She is full-time Journalism faculty teaching media communication and advising the Student News Media at Moorpark College. She has served as faculty Co-Chair for Distance Education Advisory Committee, and now is a Lead Course Reviewer and for the Online Education Initiative. She serves as chair of the California Community Colleges Distance Education and Educational Technology Committee, which advises the CCC Chancellor's Office. She completed her doctorate in 2012 in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, studying Distance Education Engagement and Success for her dissertation, entitled 'Finding what Works Online: Online Course Features that Encourage Engagement, Completion, and Success.'
Beth Gillis-Smith holds an MA degree in Composition and Rhetoric from CSU Northridge and is a full-time instructor in English, teaching both online and on ground, and Co-Director of Writing Center, part of the Teaching and Learning Center. Dedicated to improving student success, she has served on the Basic Skills committee and as the faculty Co-Chair for the Student Success & Equity Committee, and the Learning Communities Advisory Committee at Moorpark College. She is also a participant in the year-long 3CSN Threshold Project, focusing on student equity in first year composition courses.

Extended Abstract

A panel of four online instructors from a two-year public Community College in Southern California presents the results of a semester-long pilot using high-impact practices designed to reach, engage, and retain underrepresented populations, including students who are ethnic minorities, economically disadvantaged, working, parenting, veterans, or first in their families to attend college.

The pilot, a combined experimental and retrospective informal study, included 8 instructors who implemented new practices in their courses in Fall 2016 or Spring 2017, and then compared success and retention rates to the same class taught by the same instructor a year before. The high-impact practices implemented were derived from a review of literature and academic research, as well as individual innovations and anecdotal observations. Some independent variables were considered as well. 

Faculty discuss how they implemented the practices, where they worked, and where they still need to be adjusted. The presentation also includes observations about building enthusiasm for excellence online is growing, even as the campus transitions to a new learning management system. 

The list of high-impact practices, along with notations about their implementation, will be distributed to attendees through access to a live Google doc, where presenters hope the conversation will continue.

High-impact practices to be discussed during the presentation include the following:

1. Personalize with instructor photo: Photos make us more real to our students. We just have to get over ourselves. 

2. Set a welcoming tone: A welcome letter before class begins with an inviting and accepting tone, and including the syllabus, required text, orientation information. 

3. Require notifications and email forwarding:  Require students to change their notification settings to be sure they get an email or text when you post a News Announcement or a grade.

4. Set policies & clarify expectations: Develop, discuss, and post policies for attendance, expected Interactions, required sign-ins.

5. Establish regular routine: Set regular open and close dates and stick with them so students can easily adapt.

6. Use announcements: Send at least weekly announcements through the Course News/Announcements about the week ahead, news connected to the course, or other interesting items.

7. Use threshold concepts: Eliminate barriers by opening the door to secrets of the discipline that may affect foundational understanding.

8. Add voice or video notes: Add one voice or video note per week as a course announcement or email, or use voice notes on student work feedback to make yourself more real.

9. Get students interacting: Graded discussions, group work and other activities that require interactions promote engagement.

10. Pop in on discussions: Pop in on your student discussions with posts midweek and later in the week. Ask questions and pop back in while the discussion is still open and active.

11. Provide rapid responses & feedback. Set quick turn-around time and announce this as part of your policies. Prompt feedback is engaging.

12. Send reminder notes: Send notes to students who have not yet submitted before the assignment is due, with a follow up the day after a missed assignment. Ask questions.

13. Reach out with individual notes: Catch unresponsive students before they drift too far. Ask what’s up and then follow up. Give hope.

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14. Implement Mid-term Course Correction Survey: Add an anonymous survey to your course asking students what they like and don’t like about your course. Then, follow up with at least one implemented change or adjustment that you add to the class. Circle back with a second one at the end.

15. Meet synchronously: Use Zoom or other software to create weekly meetings. Make them short, but meaningful. Record them for those who can’t attend.

14. Survey and implement Mid-term Course Correction: Add an anonymous survey to your course asking students what they like and don’t like about your course. Then, follow up with at least one implemented change or adjustment that you add to the class. Circle back with a second one at the end.

15. Synchronous meetings: Use Zoom or other software to create weekly meetings. Make them short, but meaningful. Record them for those who can’t attend.

As students provide personal feedback and data are analyzed to determine overall success rates, faculty continue to reflect and adjust practices in their continuous quest to provide all students from diverse and complicated backgrounds the opportunity to succeed in online education.