Opportunities for Increasing Online Student Success and Enrollment
Concurrent Session 6
Join us to learn how online programs can grow and prosper, even in this pandemic era, by employing recent research and online best practices. We will also share our institution’s return to in person (with live online elements) and online courses including the planning, successes and opportunities for improvement.
With over 25 years experience in online higher education, the presenters will share some of their success tips for online programs and online students. 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.
The presenters will share success tips for online students such as virtual course orientation experiences (credit and non-credit) as well as some of the key pieces online students need to know such as: how to access the written record of their degree plan (advisor or degree planning system) and self-regulation and more specifically planning is crucial to the success of online students (Inan, Yukselturk, Kurucay & Flores 2017).
A key to a successful online program would be to employ an early alert system (i.e. learning analytics-quickly determine student needs and provide needed service, prioritize students who are most “at risk” and auto send personalized emails or text messages to students-(Lawson, Beer, Rossi, Moore & Fleming, 2016)). A second key to a successful online program would be to employ Instant Notifications. These can be a powerful method to instantly communicate with students (directly to their mobile device). Institutions should use notifications built into their LMS (i.e. when quiz will close, when papers are due, when grades are posted). Institutions may also employ instant notifications tool such as blackboard connect and activate notifications in the college/university’s mobile app.
Successful online colleges ensure their students work towards taking ownership of their college academics and experiences. Students may do this in a variety of ways:
- research additional financial aid options, scholarships and questions
- learn how to use the college system to register for classes
- students need to make the connection between their coursework, program, major and career (Levy & Polnarie, 2016)
Research shows that successful online programs employ a variety of academic engagement strategies which may will lesson student isolation and increase reflection and metacognition such as:
- chat (virtual office hours, weekly test review, peer feedback on writing assignments) (Melkun, 2012)
- personalized information based on student performance-conditional release & intelligent agents-controlled release of news item, content, quiz, etc. based on performance on previous tasks or other actions, for instance, create two news items (passing and not passing). not passing may receive additional remediation content
For online courses and programs to be successful, student success must be at the heart of the entire college/university. This will be evident via:
- institutional effectiveness and college planning is critical to online learning success of students and programs
- student/faculty interaction-research shows that increased faculty contact/student engagement is a key factor in student success online-avid and creating engaging courses
- curricula infusion and systems approaches-students get a big picture of main topics in their course and major how those fit well together (and perhaps how they fit with other course main topics)-align with “real world” topics and careers
- shared student affairs and academic affairs collaboration and mutual goals (Levy & Polnarie, 2016)
Finally, our presenters will explore ways to increase online student enrollment. They will share recent reflections and research on:
- overall online enrollment continues to grow (Burns and McCormack, 2020), (Clinefelter and Aslanian, 2018)
- ensure course quality is comparable to f2f courses and publicize that along with the flexibility of online learning
- determine why the need/interest in online course/program growth
- online learning students will follow other successful online learning students (Allen, Seaman, Poulin & Straut, 2016)
- find grant money (Manchin, 2013)
- use data to determine which courses are growing (wait list data)
- reach out to those former online students and see what else they may be interested in taking in the future (amazon approach)
- allow students no limit on registration of preferred courses (experienced online students get first choice of online courses/sections) (Christensen, Howell & Christensen, 2015)
- determine what are the faculty inhibitors to online learning (i.e. need more financial compensation for tenured faculty to develop online learning so there are increased offerings in course sections and in a variety of course offerings/programs (Ortagus & Stedrak, 2013))
- engage community advisement groups to aid in development of curricula and program offerings, especially valuable in allied health, public safety and applied science disciplines
- develop marketing plan
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 https://youcanbook.me 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. 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 Wordle.net exercise. Throughout the presentation we also plan to offer several interactive question and answer sessions.
- Allen, I., Seaman, J., Poulin, R. & Straut T. (2016). Online Report Card: Tracking Online Education in the United States. Babson Survey Research Group. Retrieved From http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED572777.pdf.
- Burns, Sean and Mark McCormack. Fall Planning for the New Normal: Moving Higher Ed Online. Research report. Louisville, CO: EDUCAUSE Research, September 2020. Retrieved October 1, 2020 from
- Christensen, S., Howell, S. & Christensen, J. (2015). Six Ways to Increase Enrollments at an Extended Campus. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, 18 (4).
· Clinefelter, Dr. David and Carol Aslanian (2018), “Online College Students 2018 Report: Comprehensive Data on Demands and Preferences”, May 23, 2018, Retrieved January 2, 2020 from www.learninghouse.com/OCS2018
- Inan, F., Yukselturk, E., Kurucay, M. & Flores, R. (2017). The Impact of Self-Regulation Strategies on Student Success and Satisfaction in an Online Course. International Journal on E-Learning, 16(1), 23-32. Waynesville, NC USA: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE). Retrieved From https://www.learntechlib.org/p/147296/.
- Lawson, C., Beer, C., Rossi, D. Moore, T. & Fleming J. (2016) Identification of 'at risk' students using learning analytics: the ethical dilemmas of intervention strategies in a higher education institution. Educational Technology Research & Development. Oct2016, 64(5), 957-968.
- Levy, M. & Polnarie, B. (2016) Academic and Student Affairs in Collaboration: Creating a Culture of Student Success. Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, New York and London.
- Manchin, J. (2013) Manchin And Rockefeller Announce Nearly $535,000 For Online Science Courses At West Virginia State University Training, Research And Development Project Will Bring Best Online Education Practices To University. States News Service, Sept 20, 2013.
- Melkun, C. (2012). Nontraditional Students Online: Composition, Collaboration, and Community. Journal of Continuing Higher Education, 60(1), p.33-39.
- Ortagus , J.& Stedrak, L. (2013) Online Education and Contingent Faculty: An Exploratory Analysis of Issues and Challenges for Higher Education Administrators. Educational Considerations, 40(3), 30-33.