PRINCIPLE #2: Effective online teachers apply equitable methods to promote student access and success while acknowledging institutional obstacles.
“We need to give each other the space to grow, to be ourselves, to exercise our diversity. We need to give each other space so that we may both give and receive such beautiful things as ideas, openness, dignity, joy, healing, and inclusion.”
— Max de Pree
Research from the CCRC’s report suggest that community college students who choose to take courses online are less likely to complete and perform well in those courses. The results also suggest that online courses may exacerbate already persistent achievement gaps between student subgroups, particularly first-generation students. Researchers concluded that a significant contributing factor to lower success rates online was the lack of ‘range and intensity’ that students need to perform well online. Recommendations to improve student success and bridge the achievement gap included providing readiness exercises for technology and links to support services at the beginning of the semester, and highlighting these resources at regular intervals throughout.
The CCRC’s report included recommendations to improve student success and bridge the achievement gap to include “readiness exercises, screening, early warning systems, technical support and tutoring.”
Community College Research Center. 2013. “Creating an Effective Online Environment.” Teacher’s College: Columbia University, NY
My teachings reflect this principle through the following ways:
Online Learning Fundamentals Module:
When students enter college, many of them have not been prepared for the rigor and expectations that await them right out of the starting gate. Taking courses online can add to that existing stress because students perceive that they don’t have as much support. To combat this stress, my courses include online readiness exercises and success strategies which are included in the first module. Students are directed to complete college orientation and technology training before engaging with course specific content. Readiness items include description and links to college resources and support, learning management system tutorials (Canvas), and successful online-learning tips and practices.
Integrating Open Educational Resources
To help bridge the accessibility and achievement gap to students who come from a marginalized background, my courses utilize current Open Educational Resources. Offering free textbooks to students helps bridge the equity gap by reducing cost and increasing access. It also allows me to customize materials to fit the specific needs of my students. Check out the research from Community College Consortium for Open Educational Resources (CCCOER) that supports this movement of removing financial barriers that prevent students from entering the doors of college. CCCOER is an organization which supports the idea that “education is strengthened when shared openly” (CCCOER, 2018). There are a vast number of non-profits and college faculty dedicated to developing high quality open access textbooks. Check out the “Resources for Educators” page for links to some of the largest collections and browse titles or subjects that pertain to your discipline. A few of my favorite titles are linked below, as examples of two types of OER materials that can be used – the “whole” textbook, or “grab-and-go” content. These resources are licensed under the CC-NC-SA model of attribution.
Early screening: “What’s Your Story?”
For the purposes of screening students for risk-factors and identifying barriers to achievement, I created a low-stakes assignment called “What’s Your Story?” This reflective writing exercise has proven to be extremely fruitful in identifying areas where students need specific support, and for building trust and relationship – breaking down the wall students may feel exists between reaching out for help or “gutting it out.” I respond individually to each student with tailored feedback and recommendations to relevant support services both online and on-campus. Time and time again, students have shown courage and honesty in sharing their dreams and struggles. Through this assignment I have been able to connect countless students to academic support services and counseling. Most importantly, this assignment starts a conversation that continues throughout the semester, creating space for students to communicate their struggles, questions, and victories in a safe and confidential manner.