Student Info Form: Identify High Opportunity Students in Week 1

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. But this awareness is essential to your ability to support them.

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 form provides me with data about my students, enabling me to identify those who will benefit most from my high-touch interactions. 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 opportunity students are. They need to know you care about their learning and will be there to support 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.

Posted in Articles, Course Design Showcase, Rubric Section B.

Michelle (@brocansky) is Faculty Mentor, Online Teaching & Learning for @ONE and CVC-OEI and author of Best Practices for Teaching with Emerging Technologies. Michelle began teaching in the CCC system in 1999, has been teaching online since 2003, and has been an online educational developer since 2009. She also teaches the History of Photography online for Mt. San Jacinto College. Learn more about Michelle at or connect with her on Twitter @brocansky.


  1. I’m not sure how I will be able to teach low level ESL online when most of the students don’t have computers but phones.

    • Hi Shirley. Thanks for comment.

      While I do not teach ESL, I do have experience using VoiceThread and Flipgrid, two asynchronous voice/video tools. Both of them come with a mobile app, which means students can complete the speaking and listening assignments from their phones once they download the free app. They also both come with a Canvas integration. VoiceThead is a premium tool. Several CA Community Colleges have a site license to it. Check in with your colleagues to find out if it is available at your college. Flpgrid is free for educators. I encourage you to read this article written by two excellent online ESL instructors, Denise Maduli-Williams, of Miramar College, and Dayamudra Dennehy, of San Francisco City College. They discuss how they used Flipgrid to connect their students across the state in real-world activities.

      I hope this helps. Hang in there. And if anyone else has a suggestion for Shirley, please feel free to leave a comment!

  2. Hi Shirley, Michelle and all — I tried to get my class on Flipgrid last semester (after we were sent home) & found out that students need a gmail account in order to post videos. I had already had them try so many other things, like canvas and zoom, that I didn’t even try to get them to get a new email. BUT – since we’ll be starting off online (TDL) next semester, it might be easy to require students to have a gmail account.

    • Hi Helen. I’m glad you brought this up. There are two ways to use Flipgrid. Only one of them requires students to authenticate with a Google account (or a Microsoft account). That is not the ideal workflow for students.

      If you use the Flipgrid LTI integration for Canvas, students are not asked to set up accounts or verify an email address. Rather, they log into Canvas, navigate to the assignment you have set up (using the External Tool option and selecting the Flipgrid app from inside of Canvas), and tap the link on the assignment page. That will then open Flipgrid on their computer or if they are on a phone, it will download/open the Flipgrid app. (Students on a phone must use the Canvas mobile app, as opposed to using their mobile browser for the course – this is important).

      To use this workflow, you must install the Flipgrid LTI in your course. Some colleges permit faculty to add LTI apps at the course level and some do not. This is a local issue so you’ll need to check with your online support colleagues for assistance. If you are new to using third party tool integrations in Canvas, I strongly recommend that you work with your local Canvas support staff for assistance.

      As you’ve noted, if you do not use the Flipgrid LTI integration for Canvas, then students are prompted to authenticate with their personal credentials for a Google account or Microsoft account. Students cannot be required to have a Google or Microsoft account for a course, as doing so requires them to share personal information with a third party company. If you use this option, you would need to accommodate students who do not have an account and prefer not to create one.

      To view the steps for installing the Flipgrid LTI in Canvas, please visit the Flipgrid support site:

      I hope that is helpful.

  3. This is a neat tool, but I don’t know how to make a survey. Will we learn how to make one in the Temporary Online Distance Training?

    • Hi David. We are happy to hear the survey idea is helpful to you. You are welcome to use any of the questions in the sample form above. However, you will need to use a survey tool to develop it in your course. If you simply paste the questions into a Canvas page, your students can view them but there is no way for them to reply to them. You could create a survey in Canvas using an ungraded quiz (or make it graded if you’d like students to receive points for it). Here is the Canvas Guide for that:

      Or you could create the survey in a free external tool like Google Forms (which is what I used to create the sample above) or Survey Monkey and embed it or link to it on a Canvas page in your course.

  4. Hello! I’ve taught beginning level ESL students online and I can assure you that they are not ready
    to use VoiceThread and Flipgrid.

  5. I’ve been teaching ESL (all levels) for twenty+ years, and though technology tools need to be introduced and scaffolded intentionally and with language support, I have found that my ESL students (including beginning levels and seniors) responded very well to Voicethread and Flipgrid. One aspect that I think is very important is that being able to record and share on their own time and to be able to prepare, practice, and re-record as often as necessary makes the experience even more equitable than a F2F class can be. Before the pandemic, in my F2F classes, I always included either Voicethread or Flipgrid assignments, and it was wonderful to see the quietest students in class posting first and/or lengthy responses online. Now, nothing is perfect, and I definitely provided extra tech support and walked students through the process with appropriate and necessary language support, but they all did it. During the past 13 months with all of our ESOL classes being fully remote, I have relied on Voicethread and Flipgrid for students to practice listening and speaking.

  6. I enjoy face to face or voice to voice interactions. Reading and responding to post will be VERY challenging for me.

    • Hi Patricia. I bet many of your students feel the same way! Do you use asynchronous voice or video interactions in your course? You and your students can respond to the survey in Canvas with voice or video by recording a media comment or with Studio (if you have access to it). I always respond in video to my students who share that they are anxious/overwhelmed. Verbal and non-verbal cues are so important in creating psychological safety.

      You could also use an external tool integration like VoiceThread or Flip (formerly Flipgrid) for discussions.

  7. Reading through the instructions in Module I, I feel a bit overwhelmed by so much information. I have been teaching (Child Development) students with limited English skills. In other words, I have been teaching child development classes bilingually (Chinese and English) for some time. I am wondering how to make this online course meaningful to them while providing adequate information yet not overwhelm them.

    • Hello, Peijue. Thank you for taking the time to share your experience and your reflection. What a brilliant observation. The way students psychologically respond to an online course is a very underresearched opportunity in higher education. Applying what you learn from your experiences as an online learner to your teaching is an incredibly powerful way to improve your online class(es). Keep reflecting and making small changes. Over time, they will make a big impact.

      Take care,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.