A well-designed virtual course will provide a great deal of structure and accountability for a student’s self-motivation. Also, designing for equity and inclusion means being particularly proactive about supporting students who may need some extra attention.
Pay attention to students who may be struggling and reach out proactively
Implement ways to check-in with students regularly and intentionally look for signs that students are not keeping up with the course. Have they missed more than one assignment without any indication to you about why? Are they logging into the course site regularly? Are they watching assigned videos, accessing assigned files? Canvas can provide a ton of information about what students are or aren’t doing:
- Contact any “no shows” to see if they are encountering log in, or technical problems. Then, encourage their participation.
- Regularly use Canvas course “New Analytics” feature to monitor student who is accessing course materials, participating in discussion forums, etc. Contact low participation or no views students to encourage them to (re)engage in the course.
Use more formative assessments and make completion mandatory
Intervening earlier in the course may require making changes that allow you to see those warning signs in the first place. If you typically have only a few significant high-stakes assessments (e.g., a couple of mid-terms and a final), please consider breaking those up into smaller, more frequent quizzes (bonus: making each quiz lower stakes also reduces the likelihood of cheating). See the Low and High-Stakes Quizzes in Canvas page and the Formative and Summative Assessments page.
Use Audience Response Systems (e.g., Top Hat) or discussions with weekly quizzes or reflective ‘minute papers’. Depending on the purpose of these activities, you may not even need to grade these assessments for content or correctness (e.g., if the point of the clicker/quiz questions is to make sure students did the reading, then you could let them take the quiz multiple times until they get a perfect score); however, you should still attach some credit to completing the task.
Know what resources are available for students
Your first step should be to reach out directly to the student and ask what’s going on when you start seeing those early warning signs. You may find that the student needs accommodations but has not asked for them; others may be struggling with the content itself; still others may be struggling because of the virtual environment.
Your Canvas course should have a section with links to technical, academic, and other support services and resources available on campus (link your course to the online learner support page).
Prepare your students for the varying modes of course delivery
- Review how your course will be delivered via the Course Delivery page, consider that you may be delivering content using more than one mode at a time (e.g., simultaneously online and in-person).
- Do not assume that just because students are “digital natives” that they know how to use a learning management system (like Canvas) or any digital learning tools effectively. Be transparent on where you want students to start, and how they will find success (see the Be Transparent page).
- Provide clear and detailed instructions for how students can access all course components (such as syllabus, course calendar, assignments, etc.)
- Establish clear expectations for course communications (e.g., how I will typically communicate with you (Canvas Inbox or email?), how and when I will respond to email, Netiquette at ISU (PDF), etc.). Use the Communications strategies page.
- Send lots of reminders. Many instructors find it helpful to send a weekly message (post as an announcement in Canvas), summarizing the past week and giving an overview of the upcoming week, including deadlines.
- Provide information about being a successful online learner/student, such as this Online Students’ Manual for Success from Learn How To Become, or the Steps to Stay Motivated page.
Be Proactive, by the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT) at Iowa State University is licensed under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0. This work, Be Proactive, is a derivative of Be Proactive developed by San Diego State University Diversity and Innovation (retrieved on May 18, 2020) from https://diversity.sdsu.edu/resources/inclusive-pedagogy/be-proactive.