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Quickpoll Results: What is expected of you

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Hands typing on a laptopFor our next installment in this series, the Online Learning Student Services team wanted to know if students have a good understanding about what is expected of them in their courses now that all classes are either remote or online. Without the structure of a classroom lecture, or being able to stop by office hours or take a look at the whiteboard for reminders, on top of learning how to use D2L Brightspace, we anticipated that some students may be struggling to consistently identify their instructor’s expectations with this transition to remote learning.

By and large, though, the majority of the 402 students who responded feel like their instructors are effectively establishing expectations for coursework, participation, and deadlines. Specifically 288 students (71.6%) affirmed that they understood what was expected of them in their online and remote classes. While most students simply indicated they had a good grasp of their course expectations by saying “yes”, some students took the opportunity to highlight some things their instructors or doing well or identifying what would make course expectations even clearer:

Yes. Our instructor does a great job outlining the expectations in a clear manner. He also sends reminders when the due date is approaching for assignments.

Generally, but that’s not to say I don’t have to dig for it.  There is no consistency between classes on how the shells are formatted.  I think the homepage of the shell should be updated each week with a summary of what the week will hold – front and center, first thing I see, tell me what’s happening this week.  Then go into content for lectures, discussions for discussion posts, assignments for assignments etc etc.

Yes, though I wish that each class had a formal way to touch base each week on what the focus is for the week, either an email from the instructor or under content for that week.

For the 45 students (11.2%)  who indicated that they do not have a clear idea of what is expected in their classes, the most of the feedback was regarding course organization. This primarily included disorganized or hard to navigate Brightspace shells and lack of clarity about due dates (both of these were also top themes from the first installment of this series). Here are some direct quotes from students:

No. Every class puts their assignments or course expectations in different places. It’s really confusing and I’ve missed due dates on assignments that have been up since the beginning of the term because of location factors.

No. The assignments are not consistent. We have a mini quiz due tomorrow and it still is not posted for us to start. Exams and homework cover material with aspects he has not covered. The professor does not answer emails so it is impossible to speak with him unless you speak in front of the whole class during lecture.

69 students (17.2%)  stated that they sometimes feel like they know what is expected of them in their classes. These responses contained a combination of students who only sometimes knew what is expected throughout the term within a single class, as well as students who had some classes where expectations were evident and others where they were not.

Sometimes, but not always. With the classes I have this term, I’m finding that some of the syllabi could use some updating and it would be helpful if there was at least one video example of the instructor demonstrating the commonly used standards that they expect, just to make sure that they are clearly communicated.

Depends on class. One class the instructor doesn’t bother to use D2L or record anything. [There is] no way to track grades let alone know what chapter to read. In another class the instructor uses D2L a little too well. That class suffers from being organized into obscurity. In another class the instructor clearly has issues with technology. They will tell you to read something that was never posted or give an assignment that opens on Monday of a week that’s due that night which means you’ve got that day to go through the entirety of the week’s lessons in a single day.

Most of the time — sometimes the information is spread out across 3-5 different places. (Usually Course Content, Syllabus, Announcements, Course Description, Assignments, Course Calendar etc.) And they don’t always match up. Then sometimes unexpected due dates are announced in the discussion boards retroactively (example- in the discussion topic description for this week, there might be an announcement saying, “Please post a 3 page rough draft by Sunday night of the previous week in this discussion board” but it’s so unusual to look a whole week ahead to see what next week’s discussion post says, so how could we know to do that until this week comes?

Based on all of the feedback students gave when they answered this question, here are some of the suggestions students provided most frequently:

  • Have all due dates in one location and make sure the dates are updated to match the current term’s calendar. If due dates are in more than one location, make sure they match and that all locations get updated if a date changes.
  • Post weekly summaries about what will be happening in class, including regular reminders about deadlines and other milestones throughout the term.
  • Ensure all content that will be needed for tests, quizzes, papers, and projects is available in Brightspace.
  • Group and name content in a way that makes sense for the structure of your class so students can easily find what they are looking for.
  • Have assignments available and unlocked multiple days prior to their due dates.
  • Provide information about how much time a student should expect to spend on an assignment.
  • Use video content to demonstrate complicated concepts (this can be something you made yourself, got from the textbook publisher, or found on YouTube).

The feedback provided around this question also reminded me of a post made earlier this year by our Course Development Program Manager Rondi Schei entitled Organizing Content for Student Success. If you are seeking some additional strategies to improve your course organization as we head into Winter term, I highly recommend taking a look at Rondi’s suggestions.

Our students want to know what they need to do to appropriately engage with their course content so they can meet course expectations. We hope that this student feedback will help all faculty find some additional ways to refine your courses  so students know exactly what to do and when they need to do it.

About Morgan Johnson

I am an Online Academic Advising Specialist in the Online Learning department at Portland Community College. In this role, I support who are studying fully online on their way to achieving their academic goals. I enjoy working on a team tha... more »

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