Improving Online Student Success Rates: Using A Holistic Approach To Assess Course Quality
- Online courses still have a significant gap in student success when compared to in-person classes.
- Online and remote courses often face extra scrutiny compared to in-person classroom courses when defining and demonstrating quality.
- Accreditors, college administrators, teachers, and students all want quality online courses, but these different stakeholders sometimes have other priorities and perspectives.
- Too often, online teachers see online course quality guidelines as restrictive or even punitive.
- While aiming to produce quality, heavy-handed attempts to enforce online course quality, often alienate teachers and stifle pedagogical creativity and the authenticity that drives student learning and keeps teachers from burning out.
Practical online course quality guidelines promote high levels of student learning through efficient course design and by allowing teachers to engage students authentically with robust content and activities within a reasonable weekly workload.
Everyone wants quality online courses, but the stakeholders involved can approach this shared goal in different and even conflicting ways. Administrators can favor design and pedagogical standardization for quality control, where teachers might focus on creativity, academic freedom, and rigor. At a minimum, students want a course design that is easy to understand and where earning a decent grade isn't too difficult. Approaching online course quality from any one of these perspectives will not lead to meaningful long-term success. On the other hand, a more holistic approach recognizes that, fundamentally, we all care about quality in online courses because we care about student learning in online courses. This focus on student-learning helped the presenter's institution, Front Range Community College, raise its online student success rates by more than 8-percent through an intentional focus on teaching excellence and continuous improvement of online course quality.
In this webinar, participants will consider an approach to online course quality that serves all stakeholders' needs by promoting high student learning levels. While allowing teachers to find meaning and self-actualization within a design framework that minimizes student confusion and provides for necessary administrative review and course scalability. Specifically, participants will examine and analyze a holistic set of guidelines comprised of five interconnected elements:
- High course standards with the same rigor/vigor, contact hours, and learning outcomes as other modalities.
- Effective course layout and design that minimizes confusion and fosters learning.
- Rich and inclusive learning environments that are student-focused and that support equity in student achievement of learning outcomes.
- Active teacher and student engagement that fosters productive relationships and drives real learning.
- Meaningful assessment and feedback that facilitates student progress toward achieving learning outcomes.
Participants will explore each of these online course quality elements in detail, including theoretical considerations and practical, actionable applications. Topics of focus will include suggested weekly course design templates, workload and pacing guides for teachers and students, best practices for engaging online students, and creating the experience of authentic teacher presence that students crave and that sustains teachers and fosters satisfaction and self-actualization. Also addressed will be issues of equity, universal design, student accommodation needs, faculty training, and professional development, student orientations to online learning, the role of online Student Affairs, and more.
Participants will be encouraged to share their ideas and experiences, ask questions, and to leave with an action plan in mind.
- Reflect on their prior knowledge and propose a definition of online course quality.
- Reflect on the idea that "quality is a measure of how well something achieves its purpose," and consider online course quality through this lens.
- Identify various stakeholders concerned with online course quality and compare and contrast their perspectives and goals.
- Consider the idea that a quality online course is one that serves the goals of students, teachers, and institutions by producing high-level learning in a way that satisfies students and allows teachers to self-actualize.
- Analyze four pillars of online course quality, including Efficient Layout and Design, Robust Content, Engaged Teaching and Learning, and Continuous Improvement.
- Review detailed Week 1 and Week 2 templates for online and remote classes that set the stage for students' and teachers' semester-long success.
- Consider how students view quality in online courses by analyzing a summary of hundreds of Online Master Teacher nominations.
- Reflect on course quality by considering the most common reasons students complain about their online courses experience.
- Recognize that the fundamental aspects of a quality course apply equally to all course modalities; online course quality is the same as in-person course quality.
- Review ways that faculty and instructor professional development is critical to online course quality.
- Review ways that student orientation and preparation for online learning are crucial to online course quality.
- Online Learning
- Student Services/Affairs
- Instructional Designers
- Any educator interested in learning more about online course quality
Eric Salahub has been at Front Range Community College in Fort Collins Colorado since 1999 where he teaches philosophy and serves as an instructional coach. In his coaching role, Eric has worked with hundreds of teachers helping them improve their craft in face-to-face, online, and hybrid classes. Over the past 5 years, Eric's main teaching and research focus is in Active Learning and he is the co-creator and director of the Active Learning Institute. In 2018 Eric was named the Colorado Community College's Outstanding Faculty and in 2019 he was awarded the Jerome Wartgow award for Excellence in Teaching with Technology.
Bio current as of January 2021.
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