Taking the Pulse of the Online Classroom: A Data-based Approach for Faculty Self-assessment of Student Engagement

Session Description
Student and faculty end of course surveys combined with infrequent online classroom observations by faculty managers can leave online instructors with little usable information on the effectiveness of their methods of engagement. Are they capturing the attention and interest of their students? Are they drawing students into deeper understanding of the course content? A few simple indicators, such as number of posts per week, number and time of posts per day scratch the surface of the available data.

In Samuel Hubbard Scudder’s essay, “Look at your fish!”, the writer describes a zoology student’s perspective in learning to observe enough detail to begin to truly understand the nature of a fish he has been assigned to study. Instructors need the same level of observational and analytical skill to see beyond the commonly used indicators of classroom success (or failure). It is not enough to depend on simplistic or even non-pertinent information. Instead, instructors need to dive into their classrooms as experimenters and use the power of close observation to guide the highest number of students to the best possible outcome.

An observant instructor can use data to demonstrate which students are engaged in their classroom and which ones are falling behind. By noticing and responding to these indicators, an online instructor can adapt to the responsiveness of each individual class in real time, drawing in reluctant or hesitant learners and improving the odds on their success.

  • Peter Conrad, University of Phoenix, Phoenix, AZ, USA
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