Monitoring Student Progress and Participation
In an eight hour face-to-face continuing education course, you have the benefit of visually seeing whether students are actively engaged or sleeping at the back of the room. You know whether someone comes back from lunch to complete the course. In the Web environment, it is more difficult to gauge student involvement. You can't see if they are reading and understanding the material. If they are confused, you don't have the visual cues that might trigger you to slow the pace or rephrase important points. Depending on how your course is structured, it may be helpful to have "check points" during the course where you require students to either complete exercises or respond to questions or somehow report on their progress through the course.
One way of monitoring progress to create exercises or assignments that students need to complete as they go. These could be as simple as true/false or multiple choice questions with automated feedback, or short answer/essay types of questions that you review and respond to with feedback. Depending on how well students are doing, you will know if the course is achieving its desired objectives. If several students do poorly on an exercise, you may want to host a chat session on that topic or start a threaded discussion. Maybe you'll want to review your written material to ensure the points are indeed clearly explained.
Another concern is how do you know the students have completed the course and should be awarded continuing education credit? In a face-to-face course, you generally hand out certificates to everyone who is still sitting in the room at the end of the day. They give you an MLA Evaluation, you hand them a CE certificate. In a Web-based course, because you cannot see that they've been "sitting there", awarding credit is trickier.
While you may be very clear on your expectations of students, not all of them will complete the course on your timeline. You will want to consider whether to offer extensions past your end of course date. If you allow extensions, remember that also extends your responsibilities with the students and delays the course wrap-up.
Here are some questions to ask in determining how to award credit:
- Will you monitor student progress through the course after they register?
- How many of the course materials and exercises do they need to complete in order to receive full credit for the course?
- How will you evaluate what you receive from the students?
- Is it that they have either submitted something or not submitted something?
- Do you award credit based on whether the students understand the concepts at the end of the course?
- What if they complete all of your requirements but don't grasp the concepts?
- How will your evaluation of students differ in a Web-based environment?
- Are there tools built any course software you are using that can help you monitor student progress and completion?
Additional resources on monitoring progress: