Tidbits, Resources, and Discussion for ELI Faculty

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Early Alert/Academic Probation Program for ELI

I'm sure that many of you have encountered students who struggle in your courses right from the start. In some cases, they are new to distance learning, or to college, and they are having trouble getting on the right track. In other cases, they have taken course after course at ELI and gotten a D, F, or W in all of them. In both of these types of situations, the problems can be all kinds of different things--personal life issues, too heavy a school and/or work schedule, technology problems, procrastination or bad study skills, lack of academic preparation, etc.

One of my priorities, now that we have a third counselor on board to help manage the counselors' enormous workload, is to establish some ways of reaching these students to try to help them succeed. I know that everyone will agree it is a great idea to reach them--but the question is, how? Please help me start thinking about how such a program would work.
  • Faculty would need to let counselors know of students who are starting out poorly and might need interventions. Would you like to receive an email reminder at an appropriate time of semester and then send a reply email with info about your students who need assistance? Would you fill out a web form if we created one?
  • Based on your experience with struggling students, what kind of help do you think would be best? A personal call from a counselor or other staff member to try to identify problems and barriers, and point to solutions? Invitation (requirement?) to participate in a webinar or in-person group session on study skills, time management, etc., led by a counselor? Invitation (requirement?) to use Smarthinking services and/or in-person tutoring? Something else?
  • We likely cannot restrict student enrollment in future courses, especially in these tough financial times. How else could we get students to participate in whatever we set up?


Laura said...

I think a format similar to the current attendance sign-in or week five withdraw point for non-starters could work for identifying students with potential success issues: faculty could check boxes on a form or merely collect and submit names as we currently do for the sign-in and withdraw process. LFCC has a form they ask faculty to fill out about 6 weeks into the semester identifying specific students and the kind of problems they are having: not doing the work, poor grades, missing classes (no precence in online discussions), etc.
I think a formal webinar or Blackboard based "success skills" or "orientation to online learning" "mini-course" should be highly recommended for first time problem students. Students with problems in more than one semestser of ELI courses should be REQUIRED to successfully complete such a "mini-course" (it could even be their SDV requirement - but specifically focused on issues in online/distance learning). Why can't students be put on academic probation and barred or otherwise limited from enrolling in ELI courses if they have proven lack of success in the past? Isnt' there academic probation for other reasons? How does it work there? "especially in these tough financial times" students can no less afford to lose good money on tuition in classes they fail or withdraw from than NVCC can afford to lose such students. But really, are we being ethical if we continue to "take their money" when we know they have had problems in the past before we take proactive steps to assure greater success in the future?

Mark DAntonio said...

It seems that the "student training" might help. However, I think that a simple reminder to the student that "the clock is ticking" might help to get them moving. In my classes I find that once contact has been established and reinforced the students seem more willing to participate. Perhaps a reminder from a individual other than the teacher may help. The comment about the SDV course is also a good one. We have talked about the content of this course (traditional and ELI) in many meetings here at Woodbridge. Teachers and other NVCC employees have to complete annual training through a link (remember MOAT!). Why not have ELI students have to do a SDV like course in this manner to suggest good study habits such as logging on regularly, completing assignments, working in groups, etc?

Cindy Miller said...

I'd love to see this in any form. I'd respond best to a reminder--an email would be fine and I think week 3 to 5 is a good time frame.

WE know that what students respond to best in a sense of connection with the faculty, so in that sense any intervention would be wonderful. I would like it to be something in real time--so students actually interact with someone--a webinar, Centra meeting, or even a chat would be great. And I agree with Laura, that it should be offered to any student who may be struggling, but it should be required under some circumstances--students taking a course they have previously failed, maybe students who are achieving really low grades after the second exam, etc. Maybe it should be defined separately for each course.

Its a great idea. Thank you all at ELI for considering it and helping us help our students.

As we continue to add deadlines to our courses that previously didn't have them, perhaps we'll see less failure.

Nan Peck said...

Everything in moderation.

I'm reminded of an article I read in yesterday's Washington Post, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/11/02/AR2008110202054.html, discussing area K-12 schools posting online grades on a daily bases for students and parents to track. Post writer deVise observes that this feeds right into helicopter parents' and students' tendencies to obcess over grades.

I certainly believe in prompt feedback. But I am concerned that we are feeding the monsters that expect immediate gratification and frequent kudos.

Can we find a balance? Nan

Nancy said...

I find in my classes that its not the 3 or 5 week point but half way through the students lose interest. I have also found they don't set goals very well. The goals are not specific nor clearly written. My course is based on goals and accomplishing them in the fitness and wellness setting. I don't know if addressing this would help the students but I'm thinking they have good intentions then life gets in the way. When this happens the student doesn't know how to get back on track. Everything seems overwhelming when they've missed a few assignments. I send out emails every week reminding them what week we are on and what unit they should be completing. I send out reminders about withdrawal dates or to students who haven't completed an assignment in 4 weeks. At some point I want to say-they have to be responsible. However, maybe a counseling session or a phone call would help. In any case I'm up for improving the system any way we can. A reminder would be helpful. It keeps me on track with other important dates as well.

fmcdonald said...

I'd like to commend Christy, Lori, and Joan for the great job they've done conducting the student webinars.

Working with faculty primarily on course content, it's sometimes easy to forget students need support and encouragement (e.g., orientation, reminders, study and technology skills training) to get them through a course. Such efforts are effective in getting students through the hurdles or crises, which are keeping them from progressing through a course, and most of them appreciate the efforts put forth by ELI faculty and staff.

All the suggestions by other bloggers are worthwhile and so perhaps, a comprehensive plan with different student support strategies to meet different student support needs might be helpful. Such a plan also could be an informative tool on what are the current types of services and support available to ELI students, since these continually are being upgraded and improved.