As an online instructor, I always felt that one of my goals should be to strive to ensure all the students enrolled on day one are students who are informed about the class requirements. When we teach in a classroom, there are always students who attend day one, read the syllabus, and then decide, for a range of reasons, the class simply doesn't work for them. These reasons could range from, "I'll take this next semester when I have a lighter load," "just too much work," "I'll take it with someone else," "don't like this instructor," "sounds like a bore." How do I know? Because I used to do it as a college student too (come on, fess up). While budget cuts may naturally be forcing students to stay enrolled in classes they don't "prefer," I believe all students should be informed ahead of time about what to expect in their learning experience. This strategy is an effective and realistic way to foster a culture of student success in a class and, even more powerfully, at an entire institution.
Improving retention and success in "offline" classes is important too. But I am focusing on the online learning environment because our online classes in higher education have consistently trailed in success and retention rates. And the demand for online classes continues to go through the roof. I would regularly turn away up to 40 pleading students in each online class, unable to accommodate their desire to enroll. And then in the first week of class, a flock of students would drop, leaving me feel frustrated and disappointed about all the students I turned away. Sound familiar anyone?
Offline? The situation wasn't nearly so bad. Sloan-C recently cited tracked our nation's overall higher ed enrollment growth was at around 2% (including offline and online enrollments in both 2 and 4 year institutions) and our online enrollment growth was about 17% (22% in community colleges alone). Our students are naturally leaving the offline classroom in search of more online learning opportunities. So, let's prepare them ahead of time so the learning can begin on day one.
Google Site, using one of their new and improved templates, and use it to share a video introduction, detail course requirements and clear expectations, and upload a class syllabus. The key is to weave the site into your enrollment process so students find it. How about creating a link in your online class schedule, connecting your class description to your Google Site?
So, students...would this help you succeed? Instructors, what are your thoughts? Here is my sample Google Site (which was used in this way, only in an older and less aesthetically pleasing Google Site template) to demonstrate the idea.
Note: I am no longer employed at Sierra College and I use the materials on my sample Google Site in an effort to share my own course strategies to help other online instructors improve their instructional approaches.