This content was published: November 6, 2017. Phone numbers, email addresses, and other information may have changed.
Pre-term email to students
At a recent Oregon Community College Distance Learning Association meeting, former colleague Steve Smith and online instructor Jenn Kepka presented on the work they are doing at Linn Benton Community College to improve completion rates in online classes. There were a number of practices that were employed, but the one I found to be simple, elegant, and easily repeatable was a pre-term email that Jenn sends to her online students the week before classes start. She shares her email template with a CC-BY 4.0 license so you’re welcome to use and modify it so long as you give attribution to her work. I like it so much that I created a copy with PCC specific information so you can try it out with your students.
Why does this work? Although it’s only one piece of the puzzle that Jenn and a few others have employed at LBCC, she’s seen a dramatic increase in completion. Some of the other practices that they have implemented are similar to what we’ve tried to accomplish with the Virtual Backpack, but at the start of the class instead of before registration. And others are similar to what we (meaning the Distance Learning Advisory Council) hope for from the What Works Well guide. But one of the reasons I chose to highlight this particular practices is because it does a few critical things.
- Connects the instructor and the student. You’re reaching out to introduce yourself and your course. You’re showing the student that you are looking forward to having them in your class.
- Establishes expectations.
- If they aren’t yet familiar with Brightspace, they can watch the intro videos and check out the Online Student Resource Center.
- They know what they need to do to succeed that first week.
- They understand what the workload will be like.
- Start prepared. Students know what materials they need for your class. You can even link to your Course Detail page if you need the link to the bookstore. ;)
- Preempts redundant questions. You tell students answers to questions they are going to ask anyway. Nothing wrong with making your life a little easier.
if you do give this a try, please share how it goes. We are continuing to explore ways to improve completion in online classes, but this one is so simple it’s hard not to promote.