Early Intervention, Formative Assessments and Student Retention in a Fully Online Course at a HSI
Concurrent Session 2
Online courses, from Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs) to required online courses have high attrition rates. This study focused on whether early intervention and mid-course formative assessments affect student retention rates in an online course.
Teacher presence is the instructor’s design and implementation of a pedagogical strategy (or strategies) that facilitate student interaction and engagement with the course material and with each other in ways that promote student’s continual participation in the learning environment (Anderson, Rourke, Garrison, & Archer, 2001; McKerlich, Rils, Anderson, & Eastment, 2011). In the face-to-face classroom, faculty use physical presence to help establish the faculty’s role in student learning. In an online classroom, instructors must use factors other than physical presence to demonstrate presence in that classroom. Teacher presence requires that the instructor use the technology in a way that facilitates multiple interactions without creating a barrier between the technology and student engagement with the material.
However, there are not many studies which use analytics data to determine which specific instructor activities correlate with motivating students to participate effectively to complete an online course. It is in that context that the author developed an interactive, multi-touch teaching strategy coupled with a mid-course evaluation to promote student engagement with the course, material and with each other. The strategies were employed early in the semester (during the first 3 weeks). The strategy has several components:
- Pre-semester e-mail to students to introduce the course, deliver the syllabus and note when the course would be available.
- Multiple announcements that included a summary of activities completed during the previous week and activities to work on during the upcoming week.
- At least one e-mail to each student during the first two weeks about the work they’d done (e.g. feedback on their introduction to their group, response to a comment they’d posted on the discussion board, etc.).
- E-mails to students who had not logged on in 4 days.
- A mid-course survey about the learning activities and course structure along with the instructor’s response to the survey results.
The results of studying the impact of these interactions can guide faculty efforts to promote student success through this series of intense interactions during the first few weeks of the semester followed by a mid-course formative evaluation.
In this preliminary examination of the data, the author uses data to establish the relationship between the teaching strategies and student retention (and achievement).
Context and Findings
This research will investigate BA88, Public Law Environment of Business offered Fall 2011, Fall 2013, and Fall 2016. The course is a required undergraduate one-unit business law course for transfer students at Fresno State, a designated a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI). Students must take the course to meet the 4-unit business law and ethics requirement to obtain a business degree. The students enrolled in the course have transferred from another institution, typically a community college, with 3 units of business law. Students have no option except to take the course as an online course because it is only offered using that delivery mode. Students’ responses to the requirement to take this course range from resignation to expressed hostility that they are required to duplicate a course they believe they’ve already taken. The research measures whether the interactive, multi-touch strategy during the first three weeks and the feedback from the mid-course evaluation affected student motivation and achievement.
This research will draw on the following data sources:
- Blackboard data related to course activities
- Course survey data
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