As a California community college instructor, you are committed to serving the needs of an extremely diverse student population. Many of the students in your online classes are first-generation college students and from underrepresented minority groups. These underserved groups are more likely to work full-time and manage complex family responsibilities while completing their college degrees. Being aware of the complex challenges your students are juggling can be difficult, especially in online classes.
As you design the “Getting Started” area of your online course, consider including a link to a confidential Student Information Form. This is a practice I have used in my own online classes with great success. The concept is simple:
- Create an online form. You may use a Canvas survey, a Google form, or another survey instrument of your choice.
- Develop a few demographic questions that will help you identify who your high risk students are. We know that first generation college students are much less likely to progress from one year to the next, so this is a helpful data point to identify. These students need your support. They need to know you believe in them.
- Ask open-ended questions to identify who is feeling anxious or confused. One of my favorite questions to ask is, “In one word, describe how you are feeling about this class.” You can quickly scan the answers and identify which students would benefit most from a personalized, reassuring email from you — or maybe a friendly video message!
- Also, if you plan to leave video or voice feedback in the Canvas grade book (a great strategy that is known to improve how students respond to your feedback), let students know and give them the option to opt out. Students may have reasons, like a disability, that make written feedback a better option for them.
Below is a sample Google Form I have used in my online classes. Feel free to adapt it for your own class! Open the sample form in a new window.