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How’d You Do That? Tips and Tricks That Might Account for My 95 Percent Retention Rate

Submitted by on April 22, 2014 – 12:23 pmNo Comment

At The Sloan Consortium’s 7th Annual International Symposium Emerging Technologies for Online Learning, we attended an excellent workshop led by Kari Frisch (Central Lakes College) entitled “How’d You Do That? Tips and Tricks That Might Account for My 95 Percent Retention Rate.” At Academic Partnerships, one of our biggest foci is retention so we were anxious to learn how Frisch attained such an incredible retention rate of 95%. Below are the twelve “tricks and tips” we learned.

Tip #1: Weekly Release

  • Release information only for that upcoming week.
  • Include dates in subject line as well as week number.
  • Use reverse uploading (most current at top).
  • Make logical sequence for students.
  • Use outline format.
  • This helps keep content more ADA-friendly (less scrolling for all of us). Weekly release keeps them engaged yet not OVERWHELMED!

Tip #2: Weekly Notes

  • Personalized weekly notes in two parts:
    • Top portion: Notes for all classes
    • Bottom portion: Class-specific notes
  • This helps develop a sense of immediacy, helps tie weeks’ content together, gets out other important information. Students know you’re in “real time” with them.
  • Examples of note points:
    • Words of encouragement
    • Reminders about policies
    • Tips on LMS
    • Further explanation of difficult chapter concepts
    • “Heads up” about unusual assignments or special needs for the future
    • School notices that we’ve been asked to pass on (financial aid pickup, college surveys, graduation info, special events, etc.)
    • Assignment clarification/directions/examples

Tip #3: Classmate Questions

  • Student-created – They are more likely to respond when it is student-created.
  • Post one when you can (weekly)
  • This helps foster a sense of community.

Tip #4: Assignment Schedules

Table format that includes:

  1. The order (number the items down the first column)
  2. Check-off/Completion column
  3. Assignment title, directions, location, grading criteria
  4. Due date by specific day, date, and time (Wednesday, April 23rd, 1:00 pm)
  5. Total points possible
  6. Learning objectives (so they know why they’re doing it)

This helps keep the students and the course organized.

Tip #5: Use the same two due dates every week

  • Wednesdays at 1:00 pm – Smaller chunk (point-wise and time-wise) so that it is manageable
  • Friday at 1:00 pm – This day allows for students to get help if they need it.
  • Why 1:00 pm? It is the time that works best for the instructor and for students (even if they don’t know it).
    • I’m online.
    • Several staff are around and available to answer questions.
  • Why not midnight?
    • Think about who typically has the most issues with following directions? When do they do their work?
    • If the procrastinators have technical issues, who is there to help?
  • Always release the upcoming week’s work at 3 pm on the Friday prior to the start of the school week
    • Includes: notes, assignment schedule, quizzes, and anything with a release date
    • This allows students the chance to work on homework over the weekend (or at least “pop in” to see what the week will look like).
  • The weekend is meant for being proactive, not for procrastinating.

Tip #6: Extra Credit for Spelling Mistakes

  • One point (only on quizzes and surveys)
  • Only to first person
  • Must include: student name, class, quiz/survey title, question number, error, and what the error should be
  • This promotes real accountability and improves course communication.

Tip #7: Variety

  • Courses
  • Assignments
  • Opportunities
  • This helps keep students engaged and connected to content.
  • Distribute a “learning style assessment” and try to hit all learner types. For example:
    • Playlists (use for survey, and I frequently have students create a playlist based on a theme)
    • Videos (as supplemental content, as tutorials, quiz them on videos, search & report on videos and soon will have them create their own videos)
    • Word Scrambles
    • Fill in the missing word in this quote
    • Interpersonal interview assignments
    • Photo Assignments

Tip #8: Consistency

  • Due dates/times
  • Repeat-type assignments
  • Class policies
  • Grading
  • This gets students into a routine and helps class management.
  • For example:
    • Classmate Questions in the discussion area are always due Wednesdays
    • Survey of the past week’s learning objectives – always due Wednesdays
    • Chapter Quizzes are always due on Fridays
    • Try to be consistent in grading
    • Chapter Quizzes are always 25 points
    • No late work – No exception

Tip #9: Open Book, Un-timed Tests

  • Tiered randomization:
    • Question order
    • Answer options within the question itself
    • Questions selected
  • This helps relieve student and instructor stress so we can focus on active learning.
  • Helps reinforce no-late work policy (Can do work ahead of time if possible and only with advance notice)
  • Allows students to manage their own grade better
  • Students still put in the time they probably would have otherwise
  • Allows for real-life interruptions that students encounter

Tip #10: Survey Students

  • Student self-assessments
  • Concept application
  • Course effectiveness
  • This helps keep students and instructor connected to the learning objectives.
  • Gives me statistical data to use for other assignments
  • Helps keep the class dynamic
  • Helps students connect to information personally
  • Gives information on whether or not instructor is accomplishing goals (or how well)
  • Reinforces students’ accountability/responsibility

Tip #11: Build Relationships

  • Between the student and the content
    • Have students share personal experiences
    • Think about different learning styles
    • Give options to meet those styles
    • Active learning opportunities beyond tests
  • Between you and the student
    • Use personal experiences
    • Share photos and videos (digital stories)
    • Be personable in discussion boards
    • Use constructive criticism and feedback
    • Be passionate and don’t be afraid to share!
  • Between the students themselves
    • Ice breakers
    • Most interesting/Most surprising
    • Weekly discussion board questions
    • Reflections on peer work
    • Surveys – share overall class results
  • This helps build a stronger sense of community and helps more holistic growth of your students (and dare I say you as the instructor, too).

Tip #12: Politeness

  • Reaffirm respectful communication
  • Use a lot of “please” and “thank you”
  • “Kill ‘em with kindness”
  • Answer questions first, then do a “food for thought” or “please re-read this and see if it could be perceived in a way…”
  • Promotes class integrity, respect, and win-win communication.

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