ARP Action Plan Part A

Posted by Debby on 20th October and posted in EDC 638A

What are you choosing to study?
My hypothosis is that online classes will have better retention and more student success if students feel a sense of community and connection with their instructor and classmates. I will examine how I teach online, what techniques I can use to foster community, and how the changes I make in my own online classroom affect the students I teach. Based on my personal experiences in this project, I would like to generalize what I have learned and share it with other online instructors.

Online education is a wonderful opportunity to increase access to higher education for students who may not otherwise be able to attend classes, for a variety of reasons. These include family obligations, work schedules, health problems, and transportation issues. However, there is a high drop out rate among online students. I would like to examine the question “Does improved community in the online classroom increase student retention and success?”
What is the status quo that you will be working to improve?
At my college, there are several online instructors who conduct correspondence courses. The students read some notes, write up an assignment or two to email in, and get very little interaction with other students and the instructor. There are also many others who are very interested in teaching online, but don’t know where to start. In my position as distance education coordinator, I have the unique opportunity on my campus to train, influence, and mentor these online pioneers.
I will be working to improve communication and community in my own online classes and use those experiences as a model for others who are teaching distance education classes at my college. I would also like to work with other colleges in the California Virtual Campus network to make distance education a more satisfying experience for all involved.
What evidence is there that this area needs improvement and that now is a good time to undertake changes?
I am presently gathering statistics for student retention rates in all of our online courses. I have access to retention rates for my own classes for the Spring 2002 and Fall 2002 semesters. Nationwide statistics show a 40-60% drop rate in online classes. Based on my own experience, and the comments from other instructors, I feel that a number of these drops are the result of four factors: (1) lack of student prepardness for the online environment; (2) poor instructional design that leaves the student feeling confused and disorientated; and (3) lack of communication, or perceived lack of communication, from the instructor to the student; (4) student perception of isolation from their classmates and instructors. Other reasons for dropping are due to factors outside the control of the institution or instructors including work and family responsibilities, technology problems, and motivation (Diaz, 2002).
This is a good time to undertake changes because I am in the unique position of participating in an online program that claims to model best practices in distance education and community building. I will be able to use my Pepperdine experience as a source of ideas for my own online classes. In my position as a distance education mentor and California Virtual Campus advisory board member I have the potential to make a positive impact on distance education at my own campus as well as region-wide. All of these factors have converged in the last few months, making this an ideal time to undertake and implement this type of research.

  • Mercedes Fisher

    Nice start…I like how you integrated the Diaz piece. It is clear how this literature contributes your focus…try to find some sociocultural piece that does the same for your community argument above…also you might link to your current workplace model and link to where it is sited as a best practice example.
    Prof. Mercedes

  • Mercedes Fisher

    Try to share more here on how this is different then what you already do … what skills will be new. If your current model at your workplace is
    exemplary what kind of model is it? Is a community model?

  • Mercedes Fisher

    Keep your focus in mind as you start the story of your ARP and offer your interpretations, but maintain a healthy skepticism about the focus
    itself. Always consider the possibility that you are not yet on the mark. A guiding question: “What is this (really) a study of?” It is a cycle of alternation between action and critical reflection. It has to be reflective.
    … action –> reflection –> action –> reflection …
    1.Brainstorm how might you try out ideas in your practice as a way of increasing your knowledge?
    Thanks and please feel free to add anything from these readings that was meaningful for you too.
    Mercedes Fisher Ph.D.
    Associate Professor Educational Technology
    Graduate School of Education and Psychology
    Pepperdine University

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