Connecting Students and Learning in a Pandemic Era: Enhancing Student Engagement and Persistence

Concurrent Session 3
Streamed Session Blended Community College/TAACCCT

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Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Join us to learn how we excelled (despite Covid-19 challenges) by employing recent research and online best practices.  Our Fall 2020 journey of CCF’s primarily online courses and PBA’s return to primarily in person courses (with live online elements) including the planning, successes and opportunities for improvement will be shared. 


Melanie Morgan Jackson Bio Short (50 words) Jackson has as an educator in Kentucky and Florida for almost 35 years, including 9 ½ years teaching computer science in high school, 17 years of senior level experience in higher education administration and 25 years teaching in higher education at the community college and university level. Melanie Morgan Jackson Bio Jackson has served in K-12 and Higher Education in Kentucky and Florida for almost 35 years. She has 17 years of senior level experience in higher education administration, 25 years teaching in higher education at the community college and university level and 32 years serving in KY and FL colleges and universities. Jackson also served 9.5 years in a high school teaching business and computer science for a total educational service of 34 years. Her higher education work experience ranges from a night desk clerk in a university dorm to an adjunct faculty member as well as Registrar’s Office experience in two universities, an adjunct faculty member in computer science and education, a technology help desk technician and a college and university administrator. In addition, her higher education position experience includes employment at a large public university as well as a large private university, small private university and a rural state college in two different states. Jackson has served as a college webmaster, Director of Educational Technology and Director of eLearning. Jackson has also served on several college and university committees (i.e. SACS COC Steering Team, Retention, Technology, Orientation, AVID) and as a leader on state boards (Florida Virtual Campus-Distance Learning and Student Services Members Council Chair, Chair Elect and Secretary, the Association of Florida Colleges Technology Commission Chair and the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities Board for Acadeum). Her passion is student success and increasing student learning, focused on increasing student enrollment, enhancing student success and retention and supervising college employees to aid in providing services effectively and efficiently. Jackson has experience serving on several accreditation steering and QEP teams, developing curriculum and student learning outcomes for courses as well as collaborating with curriculum development teams, employing instructional design and online course reviews for quality. Her most recent professional experience has been focused in the area of developing new technologies and initiatives to support students and the college, such as the recently developed and implemented (college’s first) mobile application (South Florida SC Mobile). In addition, through her years of leadership at South Florida State College in Florida (SFSC), the online course offerings increased 469% and the number of online students increased 1430% over the past ten years. In addition, SFSC increased hybrid course offerings by 244% and increased the enrollment of students in hybrid courses 333% over the past five years. In her three years at Palm Beach Atlantic University, Jackson has doubled the number of online programs and courses. Jackson is currently a Ph.D. Candidate at the University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida. Degree will be in Curriculum and Instruction, Specialization in Higher Education Administration, anticipated dissertation completion Summer 2021. Jackson has a Master of Arts in Education from the University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida, January 2000-August 2001. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Education from the University of the Cumberlands, Williamsburg, Kentucky, May 1993, Magna Cum Laude, GPA 3.85, Dean’s List, with additional undergraduate study at the University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky. HONORS AND AWARDS: • 'Hybrid Course of the Year', Association of Christian Continuing Education Schools and Seminaries (ACCESS), 2018 • 'President’s Leadership Award', Association of Florida Colleges, 2013 • 'AFC Technology Commission Exemplary Practice Finalist', Open Education Resources, 2013 • 'Volunteer of the Year', School Board of Highlands County, 2013-2014 • 'Unsung Hero Award-Region 4', Association of Florida Colleges, 2010 • SFSC 'Outstanding Adjunct Faculty Member', 2003 • TeachNet Grant Award Winner, 2002 • Who’s Who Among American Teachers, 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2002 • APHS Outstanding Faculty Member 1999, 2000 • Florida FBLA Advisor Hall of Fame, Inducted April 1998 • Phi Beta Lambda, College Parliamentary Procedure Team, State Conference Competition 2nd Place, 1990 • Dean’s List, University of Kentucky, College of Education, 1989 and University of the Cumberlands 1990-1993
Josh began serving online students and faculty in 1998, as the first distance learning help desk employee at the College of Central Florida. He has experienced the pains associated with the growth of online learning from the administrative, as well as the student perspective. He has served as his college's representative to the Members Council for Distance Learning and Student Support, of the Florida Virtual Campus, since 2010 and is currently serving as chair. This combination of student, administrative and policy experience services him well, as he seeks to continually improve the learning experience for online students.

Extended Abstract

Join us to learn how the Palm Beach Atlantic University (PBA) and College of Central Florida (CCF)  institutions and others excelled despite the Covid-19 challenges in the past year.  We will share how CCF continued courses primarily online this Fall and PBA returned primarily to courses in person (with live online elements). We will share both journeys as well as the successes and opportunities for improvement.  In addition, we will share how we seek to develop lifelong learners through active student engagement in online or live online courses.  Due to Covid-19, many colleges quickly rolled out “online” courses this past Spring, Summer and Fall.  We will share statistics on the number of institutions who had no courses available online in 2019 and then the amount that shifted to in 2020.  Many online course design and instructional best practices are still being used in institutions as they return to in person learning due to those learners who are at risk, ill, isolating or quarantining and must participate in class in a “live online” format.  


As more higher education institutions offer more courses fully online, it’s important that instructional designers, faculty and others in academic leadership understand some of the recent data regarding online learning students.  The presenters will share information on the number of students enrolled in fully online programs and institutions with fully online programs using the data points from Public, Private and For-Profit institutions. We also plan to share recent demographic data on today’s online student (average 60% female, 64% white, 59% employed full time, 55% single, etc.) as well as data on the current age groupings of online students.  We want to engage our audience to further explore the recent research which shows one in three online students have been out of school five or more years.  In what ways should this change our course design, instruction or student services?  A brief review of the OLC Scorecard will be included and implementation shared.


In addition, this presentation will share several best practice strategies and tools that we’ve found successful in engaging CCF and PBA students such as:  

  • Create an Ease of Navigation- have “Micro Pages” of relevant Information 
  • Diversity of Materials-creating a variety of avenues for learners to gain content information
  • Alternative Assessments-valuable for online learners and faculty, ADA compliance
  • Discussion Boards -quality question writing and adding dimension, use of critical thinking and metacognition encouraged
  • Dropboxes/Assignment Folders-aids in quick feedback to students and provides faculty efficiency
  • Surveys -traditional and non-traditional uses, suggested questions and tools
  • Quizzes -self assessments for students prior to exams, use of automatic grading and question feedback to increase student learning and teaching efficiency 
  • Adding Visual Appeal -options to increase visual appeal of course elements to spark learner interest
  • Using push notifications to quickly reach students
  • Use of small groups to introduce or reinforce content-zoom breakout rooms or LMS groups


In addition, our presenters will share how they are using “safety” technology systems to aid in institutional communication and processes (i.e. daily health alerts, security notifications, severe weather alerts and contact tracing).  Finally, we will discuss current educational trends and issues such as virtual office hours, cross listing courses, workload calculations, attendance policies (considering Covid),  and how technology can assist faculty and educational support team members. The presentation will include information on several free and low-cost instructional technology tools to aid in teaching and learning (i.e. use for scheduling faculty in person or virtual office hours).   


The information in this educational session will be shared via PowerPoint slides and web links from our institution (slides will be posted online with the URL given at the presentation start) as well as posted on the conference web site.


While our research on these topics have provided many answers to questions we seek, we believe we can learn much from others.  So we may engage the participants, the presenters will employ the following Engagement Strategies for our Audience:  Carousel Brainstorming (creating a poster on key topics) combined with Jigsaw (a participant-centered method to generate data about a group’s collective prior knowledge or beliefs on a variety of issues associated with a single topic in the presentation (engagement tools-dropbox, discussion board, chat, etc. as well as classroom management and engagement strategies-breakout rooms/small groups, critical thinking questioning, Jigsaw, turn and talk, four corners, etc.)).  This activity will be followed by the Gallery Walk so the groups can rotate around the room and all participants may take notes from the tools/strategies they need to learn more about. After all groups have rotated through all the posters, participants can ask each poster’s creators questions if they feel they need even more information or clarification for a point of confusion.  We also plan to employ a few Stand Up Survey’s in the beginning of the presentation.  Depending on room set up, time  and Covid safety considerations we may alternatively employ other participant engagement methods such as Turn and Talk, Kahotz and a exercise. Throughout the presentation we also plan to offer several interactive question and answer sessions such as:  “This presentation has shared some online best practices, how can this be paralleled into a ‘live online’ class or ‘hybrid’ class?”.