Online Courses And Student Success – (Part 1 of 5)

Not all students do well in online courses. In fact, the statistics indicate that online courses have a much higher dropout rate compared to traditional face-to-face courses. The dropout rates in online courses tend to be 10 to 20 percent higher than in face-to-face courses. Institutional level factors like technical support, academic support, advising, and availability of resources can support student success in online courses. At the course level, there are many simple strategies and techniques that instructors can use to support students’ success in their online classes. 

There are many different topics to cover and best practices to share in this area of Online Courses and Student Success. In an effort to break the information up into smaller chunks, a different topic will be covered each month for the rest of the year. The complete 5-part series will be seen here:

  • August 2018 – Organization and layout of the course
  • September 2018 – Communicate clearly
  • October 2018 – Preparation
  • November 2018 – Chunk the content and scaffold instruction
  • December 2018 – Humanize the course

Organization and layout of the course

As you might imagine, many students have reported dropping online courses because they are feeling overwhelmed and often frustrated with the amount of information that is presented. The way information is presented can make a big difference in retaining students. Students can experience “cognitive overload” if the information presented to them is not logically organized and the layout or course design is not easy to follow. Unfortunately, students may end up spending a lot of mental energy just trying to figure out how the course is organized and how to find information, and may end up feeling overwhelmed and frustrated. The design and layout of the course can minimize this frustration and help students focus on the content rather than on navigation issues. Ultimately the goal is to lower levels of anxiety as students enter a course. Here are a few things to consider:

  • When possible, follow a course template that can be used for courses that students might be enrolled in at the same time. Or for courses that will be found in the same program. 
  • Provide a simple and consistent layout and navigation for the course. Use the same layout for each module (for example, overview, objectives, readings, viewings, assignments).
  • Make the effort to present some information visually  and some information verbally.
  • Explain and show the structure and layout of the course by making a “course tour” video. Also consider “module tours” and “assignment tours” when appropriate.