By Amy Clark
During the summer semester, I reached out to learners across my online courses by creating a 5-minute YouTube video encouraging them to communicate with me, which I embedded in directions for a self-reflective, goal-oriented extra credit activity based on the DAPPS model. Per Downing (2011), DAPPS is an acronym for dated, achievable, personal, positive, and specific goals. Creating this opportunity was a response to a trend that emerged in my online classes where a small group of learners was not turning in work and/or was frequently missing assignment deadlines without approved excuses, as compared to the majority of others who were submitting work on time. Along the same lines, those who were not submitting work were not communicating as to whether they were lost, overwhelmed, or needed help.
Due to my late work policy and the asynchronous nature of the course, those who were missing deadlines were at risk of poor overall grades. Furthermore, the summer semester was condensed, and students had less time to complete assignments than they would during the longer semesters. Though I regularly utilized tools in the learning management system to communicate with students via course-wide announcements and emails, there was clearly a pocket of students who needed additional attention and support. Because the semester was almost halfway over, I began to problem solve and consider activities that could increase communication, improve motivation, and reach a population of students who were struggling to meet deadlines and not expressing reasons why.
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The assessment was designed to allow students to reflect on their ability to meet deadlines, to explain any challenges or obstacles they faced turning in work, to set a DAPPS goal for performance by the end of the summer, and to optionally boost their total points in the course. The extra credit activity was especially beneficial to potentially underprepared students (Gabriel, 2008). In developing this activity, I drew on my training from the following ACUE modules: Connecting With Your Students, Motivating Your Students, Engaging Underprepared Students, and Developing Self-Directed Learners. Similarly, I reviewed the instructor resources sections of these ACUE modules, including those by the following authors: Brookfield (2015); Chase, Germundsen, Cady Brownstein, and Schaak Distad (2001); Downing (2011); Freeman, Anderman, and Jensen (2007); Gabriel (2008); Legg and Wilson (2009); Meyers (2009); Nilson (2013); Seifert (2004); and Wieman (2010).
Suggestions for Implementation
I created an optional module specifically for the extra credit assessment with my YouTube video embedded, and I created an assignment link where all students could submit the activity. In the assessment description, I also posted a meme with a message that encouraged them not to give up as well as utilized supportive language which mimicked my YouTube video. In grading the assignment, I also posted specific feedback to students in accordance with their reflection and goal, and I acknowledged their feelings.
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The four courses had approximately 140 students, and about 35% of all the learners completed the extra credit. With that said, the classes had a range of participation from as low as 20% to as high as 66%. In grading the assessment, students who were struggling identified the following overall themes: (a) they were overloaded based on the number of courses they were taking at once and/or the amount of work they were required to complete as a cumulative load in all their classes; (b) they were overwhelmed with personal commitments, which made it difficult to focus on school work; (c) they did not prefer to learn online and/or were tired of being in school in general; and/or (d) they had difficulties managing time based on their work and school schedules. Conversely, those who felt that they were able to meet deadlines identified the following reasons why: (a) they were experienced online learners; (b) they had good time-management skills and/or attempted to complete work ahead of due dates; (c) they were accustomed to balancing work and school schedules; and/or (d) they regularly utilized a calendar system.
Overall, learners seemed to appreciate the opportunity to communicate with me one-on-one apart from sending me an email. Several students expressed their gratitude and belief that I was a compassionate and caring instructor and were thankful for the opportunity. Therefore, I considered this activity to be successful because it fostered additional communication, gave students increased motivation to succeed, and allowed all students, including those who may have been at risk for poor grade outcomes, the opportunity to reflect on their strengths and weaknesses in relationship to meeting deadlines. In the future, I will use YouTube, reflective extra credit activities, and DAPPS goal-setting techniques to improve communication and student motivation in my online courses as well as give learners an option to gain additional points in the course.
Brookfield, S. D. (2015). The skillful teacher: On technique, trust, and responsiveness in the classroom (3rd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Chase, B., Germundsen, R., Cady Brownstein, J., & Schaak Distad, L. (2001). Making the connection between increased student learning and reflective practice. Educational Horizons, 79, 143–147.
Downing, S. (2011). On course: Strategies for creating success in college and in life (7th ed.). Boston, MA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.
Freeman, T. M., Anderman, L. H., & Jensen, J. M. (2007). Sense of belonging in college freshmen at the classroom and campus levels. The Journal of Experimental Education, 75, 203-220.
Gabriel, K. F. (2008). Teaching unprepared students: Strategies for promoting success and retention in higher education. Sterling, VA: Stylus.
Legg, A. M., & Wilson, J. H. (2009). E-mail from professor enhances student motivation and attitudes. Teaching of Psychology, 36, 205–211.
Meyers, S. A. (2009). Do your students care whether you care about them? College Teaching, 57, 205–210.
Nilson, L. B. (2013). Creating self-regulated learners: Strategies to strengthen students’ self-awareness and learning skills. Sterling, VA: Stylus.
Seifert, T. (2004). Understanding student motivation. Educational Research, 46, 137–149.
Wieman, C. (2010). Basic instructor habits to keep students engaged. Retrieved from http://www.cwsei.ubc.ca/Files/InstructorHabitsToKeepStudentsEngaged_CWSEI.pdf
Teaching since 2011, Amy Clark is an adjunct instructor in the Health Studies Department at Texas Woman’s University. She is pursuing her doctorate in Sociology with research interests including the health of undocumented minors and stress associated with the use of reproductive technology. She earned her ACUE credential in May 2018.