NWeLearn: Using eLearning in Developmental Education

Not Ready for College, but Ready for College Online: Using eLearning in Developmental Education
Jennifer Kepka, Instructor at Lane Community College and Linn Benton Community College

Many colleges and community colleges shy away from offering online courses below the 100-level based on inaccurate assumptions about developmental-level learners. Take a hands-on look at 10 applicable strategies for making online learning into the supportive, intensive, learner-centered environment that Dev Ed students need.

“I think dev ed should expand online and there is a lot of research that says that I am wrong.” She says that the research does not take into account the role of teacher training.

Scenarios: How can we (as teachers, admins, designers) leverage the online platform to help dev students succeed? (Jenn handed out four example dev ed student scenarios for us to discuss at our tables.)

  • Make sure the student is connected to campus resources like tutoring.
  • Make sure the assignments are open ended in such a way that they are writing about their experiences.
  • Team teaching with a teacher who has experience with advising.
  • Give the students opportunities to revise.
  • Make sure the student is enrolled in an online orientation.
  • Questions come up about placement tests (accuracy, anxiety, etc.).
  • One suggestion was to open the pedagogy for the students and have them set the weight of tests and other assessments.
  • Get all of the students to talk about what it takes to be a successful online student.
  • Have materials in a variety of formats.

Strategy I: Learn about our learners

  • Why are they here?
  • What does online allow us to know?
  • Use introductory discussion groups
  • Ask the students “what do you want just your instructor to know about you?”

Strategy II: Personalize Instruction

  • Accelerate or decelerate as needed
  • Build on past strengths and confidence

Strategy III: Reduce Anxiety

  • Share work from the start
  • What about test anxiety?
  • Model publicly, correct privately (reply in ways that model good posting)

Strategy IV: Set and Explain Expectations

  • What does participation mean?
  • What are the time requirements? How do I manage them?
  • What can I expect from the instructor?

Most students will not read the syllabus and the first day in the f-2-f class only happens once. In an online course, they can always refer back to it online.

Strategy V: Offer Multiple Contact Points

  • Online
  • In-person
  • Phone
  • Video (Skype, Hangouts)
  • Texting

Students should have ways of communicating with instructors that they are comfortable with.

A participant suggested the app http://www.remind.com as a way to help students organize their work.

Strategy VI: Include Valuable Technology Instruction

  • Online navigation can be a part of the content instead of a barrier
  • Make technology part of the curriculum

Strategy VII: Reduce Cost Barriers

  • Use OER when possible
  • Offer supplemental instruction

Strategy VIII: Emphasize the Campus

  • Just because the class is online doesn’t mean the student must always be.
  • Make a video with the librarian
  • Set up an online chat with the tutorial center

Strategy IX: Emphasize Accessibility for All

  • Readings can become lectures, and lectures can become videos, or?
  • Students with PTSD can be more comfortable with online courses
  • Provide alternative content

Strategy X: When in Doubt, Trust Students

  • Open the course to suggestions
  • Open the course changes based on student input and analytics

We can make the mistake of assuming that dev ed students are less smart.

Question: Shouldn’t we encourage students to take f-2-f first? Jenn believes that there are students who shouldn’t take online courses. She says that online groups can be beneficial to those who have anxiety around public speaking.

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