September 23, 2009
Each year, we are required to fill out some paperwork that asks us if students are attending classes. This has something to do with financial aid. As long as they have shown up at least once, they can’t be automatically dropped from the roster- but if they have not shown up at least once in the first two weeks (to the end of the drop period), then the registrar automatically pulls them. They don’t have to actually do any of the work, they just have to show up. For online classes, all they have to do is log in. In other words, I just need proof that they are aware they are registered for the class. By the time the paperwork is due, it is too early to tell if the student is going to hang around. We can also report them in this paperwork for “excessive absence”, but it is often due just after the first assignment. Basically, if they manage to turn in the first weekly assignment, I have nothing to report.
It is shocking how many kids disappear after that first assignment. Or how many suddenly “forget” how to access assignments. Or “forget” they have to participate in discussions. Retention in these classes is a serious problem. The nature of online classes means there is no-one standing in front of a student reminding them of what needs to be done. They have to prompt themselves to do their work.
I am considering putting out a weekly newsletter to my students. I thought I would include some discussion points, some new links as I find them, some pointers to any added material (ie, when I put up a new presentation), and a reminder that they have to participate and complete the weekly assignment. I would at least catch the folks who remember to check their email. Or am I just wasting my time?