For this post, I interviewed the instructor who was assigned to me as my senior on-line faculty member. She has taught on-line continuous courses for a number of years and was kind enough to offer her perspective. I asked her the following questions:
- What strategies do you use to promote community and connection in a continuous entry course?
- What strategies do you use to facilitate integration (integrating new knowledge into previously held knowledge) and resolution (triggering new questions about the material and its relevance to other subjects/aspects of life; resolution of previously held questions) of the course material?
- Are there any specific digital tools that you use to support your students integrate and expand on their new knowledge?
- Are there any areas with which you struggle when delivering a continuous entry course?
One of the key points that came from this interview is that promoting community, connection, integration, and resolution within a continuous enrollment course is a struggle! Because everyone is at different points in the course, videos you post and discussion questions you ask may not be relevant to each student. If you don’t have a lot of students registered for a period of time, then discussion can be almost non-existent and they have to scroll back to answer a much older post; the person who posted it may no longer be enrolled in the course or may have moved on from that section and not bother to answer. The instructor I interviewed mentioned that she’s found discussions are more involved when participation counts for part of the final course grade (thankfully, this is the case in my course!) and if that’s not the case, she suggested posting discussion questions similar to what students will encounter on the final exam (and letting them know that this is the case).
I was anticipating that the instructor would state that involvement in discussions was the area with which she struggled the most so I was surprised when she answered that what she struggled with the most was getting students up and running in the course and then keeping them on-track to actually complete the course. She suggested sending them a welcome email as soon as they register. This is something that I already do. I also will send them (future tense because I don’t yet have any students who have reached this point) an email letting them know when they are halfway through their allotted completion time and again when they have 1 month left to complete the course. Something I hadn’t contemplated which she suggested was that in addition to sending them a welcome email, to try and connect with them again after 2-3 weeks if you haven’t heard from them (and to continue to do so for 6-8 weeks). I haven’t been monitoring who has logged on to the course website and who hasn’t, so I think this is something I will begin to implement. One other thing she suggested which resonated with me was to send correspondence to both their TRU and personal emails because often the less engaged students don’t even realize that they have a TRU email account!
I’m glad I had the opportunity to interview this instructor – it helped me to feel confident about some of the things I was already doing and opened my eyes to some new approaches!