Allowing Online Students an Early Start – Guest Post from Stephen Holland

August 14, 2012 in Archives, Online learning, Uncategorized

This is the first in a series of guest posts on Face2Face, Blended and Online Teaching and Learning. These guest posts coincide with a fall webinar series we are hosting on the same subject. Our visiting bloggers are educators who are leading the way in eLearning with a little help from SoftChalk. If you would like to hear more from these SoftChalk rockstars, register for the upcoming Innovator webinar series. Without further ado, here’s Steve!

As summer concludes, I am putting the finishing touches on an Early Start Program for my fall 2012 Composition I online class. Officially, the class starts August 27, but I opened portions of the course June 16, extending the class by 10 weeks. The concept is to give students an opportunity to orientate early to the class and online learning, if necessary, as well as to have an opportunity to write their first essay long before the class has actually started.

With the focus on orientation, not each unit in the course was opened. Students were asked to review the Orientation lecture, the Introduction to the Course unit, and an Essay Structure unit. In addition, the students were asked to complete the College Student Inventory ™, a product of Noel Levitz that asks students to provide their own academic needs for success. Once the students completed the survey they were awarded 10 points and an opportunity to start the first essay assignment, one featuring narration. Finally, each student was asked to introduce himself or herself in a discussion group. Each unit was designed with the help of SoftChalk.

In addition, the course schedule and syllabus were emailed to students, and they were provided their counselor’s names and contact information. If the CSI identified any concerns, I  addressed them.

The number of students enrolled in the course is 28 and, as of August 11, 18 have taken the CSI and earned the 10 points. With more than two weeks before the official start of the semester, two students have completed the narration assignment, and six others are reviewing content included in the supporting lecture. A total of 19 students have entered the course and 15 have on average 15 hours of time in the course recorded. Eleven students have not yet started or responded to four email invitations or a voice message.

To date, the results are encouraging. I have already helped students address software and textbook issues, have discussed online learning concerns, and observe that it is possible for students to complete their coursework early or to have extended time that they themselves have earned when problems occur. Thus, two-thirds of the class has already earned points and have started the class long before it officially opens. I see this not only as a useful approach for online students but also one that could help classroom students to organize.

Have you ever utilized an early start program for an online or face-to-face course? Was it successful?

Steve Holland teaches English and Education classes online through the Iowa Community College Online Consortium (ICCOC). In 2012, the ICCOC honored him as Teacher of the Year. He recently retired after 25 years of teaching with Eastern Iowa Community College, but he continues to teach and serve as an education consultant. He holds a B.A. in journalism, an M.A. in English, an Ed.S. in Education, and an Ph.D. in Education, all through The University of Iowa. He has also served as a judge for Softchalk’s annual Lesson Challenge.


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