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In one of our exploratory surveys of professors we asked an open ended question which is followed with an interesting mix of some of the responses.

"What specific actions tend to lead to student success?"

  • "I believe there are a few essential things required of an online learner. An online learner must READ the course information carefully.
  • The student should print out and review the course requirements, carefully and completely. This allows the student be fully aware of expectations, due dates, requirements, etc."
  • "The online learner must be well organized, be able to gauge their time carefully, complete all work on time, and, in keeping with the first suggestion, be sure ALL requirements have been satisfied for each assignment."
  • "The online learner must be prepared to schedule time to electronically meet with the instructor if assignments are confusing and online communication unclear."
  • "Online students must understand that there may be times when it is appropriate to use other media to communicate with the professor. Of course, this does not apply to all online learners, but clearly applies to some."
  • "I think keeping up with the work is a primary factor in being successful in an online format - once a clear understanding of how to work through finding lectures, attaching assignments, and posting discussion responses has been accomplished, that is."
  • "Active involvement is a key! The students who do well are actively involved in the class. They communicate frequently on the discussion board, ask questions, and sometimes conduct independent research."
  • "Time allocation and planning is critical. The students who do poorly, fall behind because they do not allocate time to work on the class or they do not work ahead in case something does come up. Students who do well often stay ahead of the workload, just in case there is an unforeseen issue during the semester. I think that having all the online material available to the students with target dates helps them. Flexibility is often the main reason a student takes an online course so the course materials need to offer some flexibility."
  • "I firmly believe that a successful student will adhere to the behaviors that follow:

1. Access the course in the preview week before the formal course actually begins.

2. Familiarize yourself with the course information, layout, material and most importantly the schedule.

The schedule should contain all deadline dates for readings, discussions and assignments. Print this out (yes, I know it's an online course, but do it anyway) and keep it somewhere where you will be reminded of your obligations.

3. Do whatever you are required to do in the preview week. Be sure to introduce yourself, if that is asked for. Some platforms use the introduction as a trigger for formal inclusion in the course.

4. Ensure that you have the books needed for the course.

5. Check out the criteria (rubric) for the assignments.

6. Meet the deadline for every assignment.

7. If you are not going to meet the deadline, with a solid reason request an extension before the deadline and give a date when you will complete the assignment.

8. Plan (and do so) to participate in the course at least twice a week and more often during discussion sessions.

9. Be proactive in starting a discussion, answering a question, asking a question, sharing resources, and carefully expressing your points-of-view.

10. Give substantial discussion contributions that are interactive and support your position. If appropriate cite sources.

11. If you do not receive adequate or timely feedback from an instructor regarding your assignment - politely request for it to be quicker in the future.

12. If you are going to be missing from the course due to work, family etc - inform the instructor in advance.

13. Cite your sources as though your life depended on it!

Being Personal

  • "A little history about my teaching philosophy with regard to measuring student success When I taught face-to-face, I really knew my students because I routinely met with them outside of class during group review sessions, individual appointments in my office, lunches and dinners, get-togethers (non-alcohol related) that I hosted in my home, and when I attended campus social events in which students participated or also attended. As a result I got to figure out pretty quickly who were my overachievers and who were my underachievers. My overachievers were encouraged to work with students who wished to receive peer tutoring and/or establish study partners. This was a way to channel their energy so that they didn't "burn out" and become frustrated from the attempts at perfectionism that I knew they were capable of trying to achieve in class. With my underachievers, I developed more individual professional relationships, encouraging them to seek me out in my office, via email, or telephone. Often I found that they needed more guidance and "care taking" than other students to become successful.

    For my online students, this means that I establish a professional relationship with them as soon as they are accepted into the program. Once I am notified of their acceptance status, I immediately email them to welcome them to the program, to introduce myself as their program director and future professor (and/or academic advisor), and to start the process of helping them figure out what they will take in their first semester of study. That email is formal with regard to procedures about the registration process and informal with regard to the level of communication I encourage them to engage in with me. They are made aware that any question they want to ask me is acceptable and that I will respond to any and all questions just as quickly as possible."

  • "Just like when I taught on campus, I include humor when appropriate during my online classes. Discussions particularly lend themselves to this practice, especially when a student's posting includes a typographical or other type error that allows me to gently "pick on them." I also pick on myself when I goof up something in discussion, and students really enjoy that. It humanizes me and their learning process."

  • "In answering this question, there are two perspectives that must be provided: that of the student as well as that of the instructor. From my experience, the motivation of the students is strongly linked to the tone and interaction set forth by the instructor from the onset of the course. With that, I have broken the actions for student success into two categories: student perspective and instructor perspective.

  • Student:
    1. Time management
    2. Organization
    3. Self-disciplined and a proactive learner
    4. Willingness to actively participate in discussion threads and postings

    5. Timely responses to submissions, inquiries, etc.
    6. Consistency in approach (for example, delivery and appearance of each unit is consistent, deadlines are the same each week, amount of work is distributed appropriately throughout the course as well as throughout the specific unit at hand.
    7. Posting a summary of the weeks' work
    8. Requiring journal and/or application assignments that allow the student to apply the concepts to an actual or hypothetical scenario, thereby allowing connections and associations to be made with previously learned material.
    9. A clear and well defined syllabus/course information sheet
    10. Holding of virtual office hours to keep the lines of communication open."

    Being Organized
  • "Excellent students carefully read the assignments, go beyond the requirements of the course in doing online research, complete all parts of all online assignments, and actively participate in discussions. They are able to apply critical thinking skillsand are able to keep up with the class work. They show an interest in the topic and an enthusiasm for learning."


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