This thread links to a few points made in discussion last week. How do you keep learners engaged at a distance? Some of you have pointed out the frustrations of chasing up incomplete work. Any solutions to this aside from withdrawing them?
Discussion Question Five: Engaging learners
Positive feedback on what they have done is useful - even if it is the minimun. During the VC session directed questionning is probably the best technique. Chasing up incomplete work is certainly a problem when they don't respond to emails.One of the advantages of Ultranet as an LMS is that you an always tell when the students have been online.
I use directed questions during the VC lesson to keep up to date with how students are coping and the amount of work they have completed. Its easy for a student to get behind. Recently for example a student was away for two weeks and the following week our connection was down, so its a challenge for all concerned.
From an eDean's perspective:
I would hope that an eTeacher would be in close communication with the eDean before considering withdrawing a student. Some students need a lot more support at their school end than others.
Normally I pick up the students who are struggling but it is really helpful to hear from the teachers if they have any concerns.
There are a number of strategies I can use with a student who is struggling to engage with the learning: talking things over with them, spending some time looking at the work with them, asking a teacher from school to spend some time tutoring them, checking that they are actually working during their study periods etc etc
On the odd occasion when nothing seems to be working and the student doesn't have the independence needed to be successful with online learning then I feel it is better to withdraw them and transfer them back to face to face learning in school.
from E-Dean perspective:
We have a room where VC and other distance-learning students go in non-VC periods. They are supervised by 2 teachers at different times. One of the supervisers looks after Gateway students and the other has a mentoring role for other students. If this are not going well they are supposed to in form me. Students also have to enter when sets are sent, received in a folder filed in the room.
I pick up students having issues, counselling them and trying to set up technical assistance when required (our technicians are only on site on Mondays). Contact with home is tried if things don't progress and the student is withdrawn at the last resort.
I think we have to look at two different threads here.
One is ensuring we develop constructive relationships with students. This is of course, important in a face to face classroom, but I think it is doubly important at a distance. The VC is an important part of this but there are also many other ways. Many have mentioned the use of emails, which is one way of developing regular dialogue. We also need to encourage students to develop good working relationships with each other. An integral aspect of online courses is the development of community. Not only have I found this in my own experience, but it is also widely recognised in the research literature (many studies on it). Any online course needs a centralised space for discussion and dialogue (much as we have here) - forums (or something similar) are extremely important. Without it a course lacks that central backbone which ties a community of learners together.
The other thread is to look at how we approach the learning. At a basic level, is the course actually interesting? Do students have choices about how they will approach the work (whether content or tools)? Is there sifficient flexibility to allow all learners to bring something different to the table? Or are students forced through a single, non-negotiable path?
I think we should also be looking at the possibility of modularing courses to allow much greater flexiblity. At the the very least shouldn't we be provising some slightly different pathways through our courses?