Towards a sustainable support strategy for online students

English: Steph's Rol Model
English: Steph’s Rol Model (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This was a presentation given by Elizabeth Smith and Anne Lonie. The objective of the course is to introduce students to engineering, and the professional sustainable practice that goes alongside the engineering skills. Some of the personal attributes that are covered are effective teamwork. cross-cultural sensitivity, and effective presentations. There are 3 assessment tasks that are part of the course, including an individual report (15%), an individual development portfolios (35%), and engineers without borders group project (50%). These activities worked well on-campus, but did not translate well to the online environment. Commencement of teaching – 39 students, week 6 – 29, by week 13 – 26 were still enrolled…and only 6 passed the course.

A range of strategies were trialled around offering the students support in an effort to support students and help with retention and success.

Reflective practice was an issue, so to help students get started a video was put together, along with, for example, detailed hings and open ended sentences. This provided an opportunity for early formative feedback. Students struggled with the progressive nature of the course too. The discussion forums were quite successful with a high contribution rate. To support the early stages of teamwork there was an introductory forum for students to respond to, as well as the use of an ice breaker wiki, virtual helpdesk sessions, and a Belbin inventory. Out of 6 groups, only 1 group completed the assessment successfully. The successful group made regular use of the collaborative tools, the online forums, and had an obvious leader who was motivated.

To improve the course there are plans to reduce the scope of the group project, and students will be able to submit work progressively. Tutor training in providing efficient and effective feedback is important, and the re-structuring of the course so that support resources are obvious.

This was a refreshingly honest overview of something that didn’t work, and where the presenters are going to use their findings to address the issues.


About ictenhancedlearningandteaching

I am a director and consultant at Ethos Consultancy NZ ( I have a keen interest in all aspects of ICT Enhanced Learning and Teaching (ICTELT) where the focus lies on ways of scaffolding and empowering learners. In particular, I am interested in the way that creative, blended approached to Academic Professional Development can create trust, rapport and encourage reflective practice. As such, ICTELT is approached from facilitation, design, evaluation and assessment as opposed to the tools and what they can offer. I am a strong advocate of the potential of Web 2.0 to empower learners from all walks of life and cultures, especially after my experiences working for 6 years in the Middle East. In particular, I am interested how ePortfolios can be used in the VET sector (especially where Literacy and Language challenges are faced), in Recognition of Prior Learning, and in authentic, applied assessment. I have been involved with designing and developing ICTELT approaches and programmes for ten years. Following research informed approaches and design, I apply a qualitative, iterative process to evaluate the effectiveness of interventions, programmes and tools, encouraging learners' voices and input from all stakeholders.
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