Retention Experiment

As we all know, “retaining” students is a big issue with online classes. where the drop rate is traditionally higher than onsite classes. Right now I’m trying a couple of new things.

Moodle has several weaknesses, of course, and one is the way it displays the comments on a quiz essay question. It is difficult to tell the quiz question from the student’s answer, from the correct answer, from my comments. They are all in the same typeface and color. One way I get around this is by using the html font tag on the correct answer when I write a test, which is a pain when upgrading, but there you are. But it’s still hard to see my comments, and I don’t really want to write all comments in font tags as I grade.


So tonight it occurred to me that one little thing might help. Instead of just writing a comment, I start with their name and a comma. So instead of “This is a good answer” I wrote “James, this is a good answer”. I figure their name will jump off the screen at them even if it’s in the same font.

The other thing I’m trying is emailing students who miss the quiz. I offer partial credit for up to a week, but after it’s due I password it so they have to ask me for it. Moodle makes it easy to see which students didn’t take a quiz (at the bottom of the screen it gives you to the option to view “Show students with no attempts only”). I have begun using Quickmail, which lets me select several students from the list to send an email to, letting them know that they missed the quiz but can still take it for partial credit. I ask them to Message me from inside the site for the password, which gets them into Moodle and gives me a record of our communication.

I’m hoping these two techniques will help students see even more that I am truly there. I think instructor “presence” is crucial in an online class, and the individual touch (if it’s not horribly inconvenient to the instructor) can be helpful.

1 comment to Retention Experiment

  • Hi Lisa,

    Personalizing the feedback with the students name is a nice touch. And emailing them to take the quiz is a great idea too. Its the little things can make the difference.
    One of the best online teachers I have worked with always introduces himself to the students at the start of term, asks them to introduce themselves and answers all by name, usually responding (briefly) to something they said about themselves.

    I guess one of the problems with retention is that it requires a lot of effort to make things more personal and respond and interact more so it doesn’t scale well.
    – Eamon