Dynamic + Data Driven

PRINCIPLE #3: Effective online teachers respond to student needs and use data for continuous course improvement.

Dynamic practices stimulate change or progress within a system.  Datadriven change means that progress is compelled by data, rather than by intuition or by personal experience.  

Before you consider the process of responding to student needs and course improvement, it is important to think about “why” we should strive for excellence in this area of education.  Why does this principle hold value?  If student achievement is the end-goal of each semester, understanding that a typical class holds the next generation of leaders – students who may be at-risk, competent, or seeking direction can be a powerful motivator.

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As an educator who teaches the same classes year after year, it can be tempting to put on ‘auto-pilot’ and copy course shells from one semester to the next.  However, our students are different each time.  Technology changes continuously.  Cultural shifts have occurred.  It takes time and commitment to student success to refine and change courses to stay relevant, interesting, and engaging.  Students should know what to expect from routine discussions and assessments, but also be challenged through a variety of dynamic assignments that meet the changing nature of students and society.

data change

I use course analytics to evaluate individual components of a course and student performance. The Canvas learning management system (LMS) uses course analytics and enables me to:

  • Predict how students react to course activities.
  • See which students are at-risk and need help.
  • View how effective my teaching strategies are in allowing students to learn.
  • See a quick view of what students are achieving in my course

Checking analytics at regular intervals throughout the semester allows me to provide individual and collective feedback and support to struggling students. This data then allows me to:


Based on the outcomes of course analytics, I then connect students to campus resources and assistance when exhibiting failing grades or excessive absence from online presence. These interventions include:

  • Civitas Inspire: Educational Staff early alert system: Opportunity to log outreach, view academic records, and flag advisors for additional support.
  • West Hills College: Academic Center for Excellence: Support center where students can obtain personal assistance, supplemental instruction, access to technology and study space.

And finally… know your audience!

student feedback jpgIn every course, mid-term evaluations are conducted wherein I seek candid input from students regarding the course content, technology applications, and instructor engagement.

Evaluations are a proactive way to gauge students’ interest, satisfaction, and participation well in advance of final course assessments so that any adjustments, if needed, can be promptly instituted.

One example of student feedback that motivated an incremental change within my course was confusion about discussion board engagement and due dates.  To give opportunity for students to participate in meaningful dialogue, I require their original contribution to discussion boards be posted earlier in the week.  Their responses to classmates are due the following Monday.  I was able to modify the language in the syllabus and assignment instructions to make this requirement clear – and reminded students through announcements the first several weeks of classes of this provision in future semesters.  This has improved both the participation and quality of our discussions.

With any feedback, it is important to give students reasonable expectations for the outcomes.  I follow-up on the survey with an announcement sharing both successes and opportunities to improve.  Again, these tools are meant to increase successful outcomes in the course for students.  Partnering with them using valuable feedback gives students agency and motivation to be active participants in their educational journey!

Interested in creating a mid-semester evaluation?  Check out these great examples of student feedback tools:

Vanderbuilt Center for Teaching has great examples of in-class, online, or hybrid surveys and questionnaires that can be used or modified.

Survey Monkey: Create free online surveys that you can embed directly into your learning management system.   This website has great templates that you can ‘grab and go’ or modify to fit the specific needs of your course.

Mid-Semester Evaluation Questions.PDF