How Can I Help Students Who are Struggling with Online Learning?

October 20, 2021

After more than a year of transitions and fluctuation in course modalities as we follow the path determined by a pandemic, the concern for students who struggle with online learning has become a more obvious challenge for many faculty who weren’t previously part of the online learning community.

The pandemic induced rapid transitions in teaching and learning modalities for students and faculty. The transition to online learning environments highlighted new challenges and opportunities for student and faculty engagement. Dr. Brian Udermann, professor from the Exercise & Sport Science Department at University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, presented recommendations for supporting students who struggle with online learning. With more than twenty years in higher education, Dr. Udermann encouraged instructors to use empathy, to consider the situation from a student’s perspective, and to reach out personally before reacting to late assignments in a punitive manner. In his experience, students who are struggling appreciate him reaching out to check-in with them. It is an opportunity to discuss the course requirements and any support the student might need to be successful.

During the discussion, led by instructional designers Laura Million, Jodie Nehrt, and Pamela Williams, faculty shared the strategies they’ve used and discussed some of the challenges they’ve faced in online student support.

SIUE’s Institutional Procedures

  • Default tabs in the Blackboard Course Menu that include resources for students
  • Starfish EASE surveys
  • First Semester Transition Courses

Strategies for Larger Class Sizes

If you have a larger section of students, it can be harder to nurture the connections with all your students without some type of wide-spread intervention.

  • Use Blackboard's Retention Center
  • Color-code your grade center for at-a-glance grades to notice
  • Make sure you have the option for both a set office hours and flexible scheduling options
  • Plan check-in “assignments” that require students to either set an appointment with you or post to a discussion board or email you
  • Encourage/seek out other students to work together with the students who reach out for help

Communication Methods

  • Set up Teams for your class to offer an alternative to email that feels more like texts, but still protects your personal contact information and gives students a sense of privacy.
  • Instructors can set up “Google Voice” with a number for free that allows you to share a phone number with students that can receive texts or calls to your cell phone.  

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