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Student Systems of Support

Student Systems of Support

When A Student Has Tech Struggles: Tips for Instructors and Advisors 

Everywhere you look, technology holds a growing role in our lives. At the University of St. Thomas we provide an array of supports for students. Instead of a “one size fits all approach” to student tech support, we strive for personalized and responsive solutions since when it comes to technology since not everybody needs the same thing or accesses learning and technology in the same way.  

Our options run on a continuum from self-help, “do it yourself” resources to people-to-people (expert-guided) support. Options also include in-person, phone, email, live chat, 24/7 self-guided Tommie Tech, and 24/7/365 Canvas-specific support.  

Here are suggestions on how to help students find the range of technology supports available for their success.  

  • Point your students to Tommie Tech, a St. Thomas Canvas resource/tutorial site that helps students to find and use St. Thomas technologies, 24/7/365. You are welcome to give students the link that will allow them to self-enroll into this site. You can perhaps send a course announcement reminding them of this resource or post where you list other tech help information. If you tend to hear from certain students a lot about tech questions, guiding them to Tommie Tech may help address some of their needs and clear up their confusion. 
    • Graduate students can self-enroll in the Tommie Tech for Graduate Students Canvas site. Please share the link!  Fall 2019 is our first launch of this site, and students who explore the site are invited to share feedback that will help shape the site for spring 2020 and beyond.  
    • Undergraduate students can self-enroll in the Tommie Tech for Undergraduate Students Canvas site; all first-year undergraduate students are automatically enrolled in the site, but it is an option for all undergrads. 

And yet…Tommie Tech is just a part of the array of student supports at St. Thomas. If a student continues to have unaddressed tech needs or it seems like they would benefit from talking to a person right away, here are additional options. 

  • Ask students to contact Canvas 24/7/365 live chat or toll-free phone call if their technology need seems specific to Canvas (e.g., trouble uploading documents or media into Canvas, trouble opening something in Canvas). There are also Canvas Student Guides for the visual learner.  Click the Help button (question mark) on the far left, purple global navigation panel to call or chat. 

In addition to the “do it yourself” Tommie Tech Canvas site and Canvas 24/7 for Canvas specific needs, there is a range of additional ways to get personalized support from the St. Thomas Technology support team. 

  • Some students like the Email option. The St. Thomas Tech Desk can be reached at techdesk@stthomas.edu. When sending the tech desk your question, it may help to take a screenshot of your issue.
     
  • If you are on-campus and would like in-person Tech Help, please stop by! 
    • St Paul campus, stop by the Center for Student Achievement Technology Help desk (first floor of Murray-Herrick Hall, St Paul).   
    • Minneapolis campus, stop by 300 Schultz Hall 
    • Check locations and hours before making a trip to one of these locations. 
  • Phone St. Thomas Tech Help- Yes, some people still prefer talking on the phone!
    • Local (651) 962-6230 | Hours listed on Tech Desk Services page 
    • Toll-Free: (800) 328-6819 
    • On-campus: ext. 2-6230 (651-962-6230)
       
  • And students always have the 24/7 option to visit and explore the St. Thomas Innovations & Technology Services page

This post was written by Jo Montie, Online Learning Systems Facilitator and Peter Weinhold, Director of Academic Technology, with the St. Thomas E-Learning and Research (STELAR) Center at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn. To learn more about this topic, please visit our website at www.stthomas.edu/stelar or email us at stelar@stthomas.edu

Student Systems of Support, Uncategorized

Student Success Sites: Home Page as a Foundation

In this article, I introduce Strategy 2: How to create a clear home page and easy site navigation so students start and stick with it. This is the third in a series of Eight Strategies blog series for staff/faculty who create electronic orientation and learning resources for students.

There are several categories of Student Success Sites currently used at our university:

  • Onboarding sites to provide orientation at the beginning of a program or prior to a certain course;
  • Program community sites to provide connection to the people and information in a program once stakeholders have had an initial orientation; and
  • Knowledge, skills or competencies sites to teach a certain concept or subject area that is either program-specific or something that cuts across various program areas.

Home Page as a Strong Foundation

Using a physical home as a metaphor for the design of a home page may help to further leverage important elements at the beginning of a site.

When arriving home, it helps when we feel welcome, know what to expect, where to find things, and who is there to help! We want students to log in and immediately feel welcome since this will help them see this is a resource for them.

Students are more likely to start exploring the resource if their first visit to the home page helps them easily understand the reason to use the resource.

Furthermore,  students are more likely to stick with the resource and drill down beyond the home page if the site has clear navigation tips. A home base may also serve as a re-entry point or a familiar place to return back to; after all, there is no place like home.

Consider these examples to gain inspiration for crafting your own meaningful home page.  

Strategy 2 Home Base Examples:  

  • The Registration Readiness site, created by St. Thomas Academic Advising team members Susan Anderson, Drew Puroway, and colleagues, introduce new students to key first-year content electronically in a Canvas site before they come on campus for orientation and registration. At the top of the home page, there is a welcome message and clear communication about the purpose of the site and steps to get started.  

This Registration Readiness mini-course will prepare you to register for Fall semester classes when you attend Orientation and Registration (O&R) this summer.

    • Start by watching this welcome video on this home page;
    • Next, scroll down this home page and read all of this information;
    • Then, select the “Start Here” button at the bottom of this page to begin this mini-course.”

  • The Tommie Tech for Graduate Students site introduces new students to St. Thomas technology and includes recommended steps for getting the most out of the site. A welcome message from Dr. Ed Clark, Chief Information Officer at the University of St. Thomas, explains why this resource exists and how it may benefit them.

    The home page also includes a short video from a graduate student and additional navigational tips including pointing out a feature where pages will check off to help them keep track of which pages have been explored already. We know student time is important and want to point out helpful, time-saving features.
  • The Orientation to Online Learning site home page includes a 50-second captivating video of a student guide explaining why the site is important to their success in upcoming online classes. During the first two minutes on the site’s home page, students want to know the what, why, and how regarding the site. The home page also includes contact information for the site moderators (if you get stuck in the orientation site), and a clear Start Here and Navigation Tips section.

Wrap Up

The home page can serve as a foundation that students start with and may come back to multiple times. What you put on your home page will depend on your context and preferences for content organization. I hope that these examples further feed your own journey, and would welcome hearing from you about your examples!

This post was written by Jo Montie, Online Learning Systems Facilitator with the St. Thomas E-Learning and Research (STELAR) Center at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn. To learn more about this topic, please visit our website at www.stthomas.edu/stelar or email Jo at jkmontie@stthomas.edu. 

Student Systems of Support, Uncategorized

Articulate the Goals, and Identify Ways to Assess the Goals

In this article I introduce Strategy 1: Articulate the Goals, and Identify Ways to Assess the Goals. This is second in a series of blogs tailored to faculty and staff who create electronic learning resources for students. Our university uses the Canvas LMS for our for-credit courses as well as for orientation and student success sites.

The strategies in this blog series apply to resources created in both Canvas as well as resources using other electronic platforms. See the February Success Site blog for a list of all eight strategies.

The word goal with an arrow hitting a target in the "0"

 

 

Strategy 1: Articulate the Goals, and Identify Ways to Assess the Goals.

 

As you plan your student orientation and success sites, be explicit about the purpose(s) the site is designed for. As you clarify what you want students to get out of the resource, think about practical ways to assess the effectiveness of the site.

In other words: What are you aiming for, and how do you know when you hit the mark (or at least inch closer to it)?

To assist you in this planning stage, view this five minute Backwards Design Process video. This video is offered as inspiration and to give you ideas to adapt to your situation—not as a rigid prescription.

Our St. Thomas E-Learning and Research (STELAR) team incorporates elements of the Backwards by Design (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005) process into our course design with faculty. I think that this Backwards by Design approach is also helpful in the development of student success sites (including orientations and community sites).

Example of Strategy 1

During the fall 2018, a St. Thomas team launched a new student success module in Canvas called Degree Planning Essentials. Our purpose was to help students to understand their responsibilities for their own degree planning, to learn more about degree graduation requirements for their degree, and to know about the electronic degree planning tool “Degree Works.”

At the end of the module, students take a six question quiz that checks their understanding of concepts presented in the site. Students need to earn a certain score on the quiz in order to be able to register for their next semester. They can go back and further explore the site material and then retake the quiz at any time. We included a survey at the end of the semester to invite additional student feedback on their experience with this tool.

Kudos to Susan Anderson (Director of Academic Counseling), Christian Sobek (Administrative Assistant), and Dr. Wendy Wyatt (Associate Vice Provost of Undergraduate Studies) for identifying a clear purpose and goals for this Student Success Site. The team also identified a way to assess how the resource worked for the students during this first round to further inform the use of that resource during the second year of implementation.

Continually Revisit Your Goals (Strategy 1) to Reap Benefits!

These initial extra efforts in the design process (clarifying the purpose and goals for your site and how to assess how you reach your goals) will really pay off.

Don’t be surprised if you need to clarify your site purpose and goals as you begin developing the site. Eventually being able to articulate the goals, followed by ways to assess your goal(s), is an important step.

If the purpose (and what you want students to learn) is fuzzy for you as a developer of the site, chances are that it will also be fuzzy to the students. Conversely, if you clarify the site purpose and goals, this clarity will facilitate your ability to communicate the purpose and goals of the site to your students and thereby aide their success!

Strategy 1: Foundational to the Other Strategies

Recall the February Success Site blog and the eight strategies to plan orientation and success sites.

Clarity on your goals and ways to assess this (Strategy 1), in turn, helps inform the design of the site (Strategies 2-5). And clarity on the goals will also help you to better communicate the benefits of the site to others (Strategies 6 and 7).  Finally, as you launch your site and reflect back on the “first run” of your site, reflecting upon what you are learning (Strategy 8) will be much easier by having initial designer goals and ideas on assessing them.

The next blog will illustrate Strategy 2: Create a clear home page and simple site navigation so students start and stay with it.

Citations:

Galanek, J.D., Gierdowski, D.C, & Brooks, D.C. ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2018. Research report. Louisville, CO: ECAR, October 2018.

Wiggins, G., & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by design (2nd edition). Alexandria, VA:  Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

This post was written by Jo Montie, Online Learning Systems Facilitator with the St. Thomas E-Learning and Research (STELAR) Center at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn. To learn more about this topic, please visit our website at www.stthomas.edu/stelar or email Jo at jkmontie@stthomas.edu.

Student Systems of Support

Student Success Sites: Strategies as You Plan and Develop Your Site

This is the first in a series of blogs tailored to faculty and staff who create electronic learning resources for students. In this article, the concept of  Student Success Sites is introduced, followed by a list of strategies to consider during the planning and development phase. Subsequent blogs on this topic will give more details on these strategies.  

The “What” of Student Success Sites

Student Success Sites are digital learning resources available to students before, during or towards the end of their educational program that contribute to student success. These electronic Student Success Sites can be resources for any students including those in fully online, blended or on-campus programs. These sites may take the form of one learning module (i.e., a chunk of learning on a certain topic) or consist of several modules within a site.

These are several categories of Student Success Sites currently used at the University of St. Thomas:

  • Onboarding sites to provide orientation at the beginning of a program or transition “all aboard” to a new experience such as orientation to your first online class;
  • Program community sites to provide connection to the people and information in a program once you have had an initial orientation; and
  • Knowledge, skills or competencies sites to teach a certain concept or subject area that is either program specific or something that cuts across various program areas.

Increasing the Likelihood of Success in Using Success Sites

We want these electronic resources to support student success. Yet, simply calling something a “success tool” or a “student success site” does not automatically lead to success. How can we use data and research, along with hunches and context, to move towards increased student success?

For one thing, as you articulate your Student Success Site goals, also start to envision how you might measure your success at reaching those goals. This up-front planning about how to assess effectiveness of new sites you create will help you to over time make data-based improvements on these resources.

The March 2019 blog post about Strategy One (Articulate the goals for the site and ways to assess its effectiveness at meeting those goals) will further describe this approach.

 

Another way to use data to inspire your work: Read the Educause ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2018 Report  (Galanek, Gierdowski, & Brooks, 2018).

This study of over 64,00 undergraduate students includes a section of research findings around online student success tools.

 

The ECAR report describes two types of Student Success Tools:

  • Academic Success Tools that include early alert systems, information on how to improve performance in a course, electronic tutoring tools, and more; and
  • The Work of Being a Student Tools that include things like self service appointment systems and degree planning tools such as tracking credits and courses registration.

The study findings describe how Student Success Tools can contribute to students’ academic success, and identify strategies to improve their use and effectiveness. As I read the phrase “Success Tool” in the report, I think of our Student Success Sites as a particular form of Student Success Tool.

The findings in the ECAR 2018 Study are extremely useful. I wanted to point you to this resource now since I will circle back to ideas from this study in future blog posts.

Devices and Platforms Used for Student Success Sites 

Our Student Success Sites can be accessed electronically from a laptop, desktop, iPad, or mobile device. Some of the content and activities in these sites work best when using a laptop or desktop; however, we strive to create these sites with an assumption that some or much of the content may be accessed from a mobile device.

Variety of mobile devices and tablets

Hands typing onto laptop

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the University of St. Thomas, a growing number of Student Success Sites exist within our Canvas learning management systems (LMS) for the following reasons:

  • Canvas is the platform students use for their for-credit courses, so using Canvas for these sites builds upon the familiarity of a system that students already need to use;
  • Canvas uses a module structure which allows presenting information and activities in a sequential way that scaffolds on previous content; and
  • Because students use Canvas for coursework, there are options to leverage a “flipped” classroom model. For example, some orientation content is presented online prior to students coming to campus for in-person learning interactions, and/or online content is delivered following an on-campus session.

We also recognize that Student Success Sites might be hosted in other online platforms beyond your university’s primary (for-credit courses) LMS and envision over time that some of our St. Thomas Success Sites will also exist in other types of electronic environments or additional technologies that interface with our LMS.

Hand drawing lightbulb

 

 

Eight Strategies to Consider as You Develop Your Site

 

The following eight strategies grow out of reflecting upon various St. Thomas experiences using Canvas as a resource for student success. Consider how these strategies could assist you to plan and develop Student Success Sites.

  1. Articulate the goals and ways to assess the goals of the resource site.
  2. Create a clear home page and simple site navigation so students start and stay with it.
  3. Design resources that are accessible to all students, not just some students.
  4. Offer a variety of ways that students can engage in their learning.
  5. Embed welcome, equity and anti-bias messages into these resources.
  6. Plan an effective introduction of the resource to students so that they know how to find it and why to use it.
  7. Involve the faculty, staff, and student leaders connected to the student experience.
  8. Apply a framework of continuous learning that will help you reach your goals and grow systemic capacity.

Future Student Success Site blogs drill down into these strategies and offer examples of what they look like.

The March 2019 blog will unpack Strategy 1: Articulate the goals for the site and ways to assess its effectiveness at meeting those goals. This first strategy lays a foundational for your Student Success Site and will assist you in leveraging all the other strategies. Bookmark this blog site!

Citation:

Galanek, J.D., Gierdowski, D.C, & Brooks, D.C. ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2018. Research report. Louisville, CO: ECAR, October 2018.

This post was written by Jo Montie, Online Learning Systems Facilitator with the St. Thomas E-Learning and Research (STELAR) Center at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn. To learn more about the work of our team and to access additional resources, visit our website at www.stthomas.edu/stelar.  If you have questions about this article or future topic suggestions, please email Jo at jkmontie@stthomas.edu.

Student Systems of Support

Digital Learning Essentials Site: A Resource for Students and Faculty

This article describes the Digital Learning Essentials online student resource and how faculty can use this site to support student success.

What is the Digital Learning Essentials Site?

Digital Learning Essentials is an online resource for St. Thomas undergraduate students to prepare for online courses and any Canvas courses. Although the site targets student needs, we think students are more likely to explore the site when faculty point out the resource, so we are increasing our efforts to get the word out to faculty.

This Canvas site grew out of a process of listening to student and faculty feedback during the 2017-18 school year where we learned that some of our undergraduates—especially those taking online or blended courses, found it beneficial to have access to technology and Canvas resources before or at the start of an online class.

Three self-paced modules guide students through content and activities on these topics:

  • Your Tech Prep helps students to check their computer set-up and technology resources.
  • Explore Canvas helps students to learn about the St. Thomas online learning platform.
  • Learning Success highlights learning resources on topics such as time management.

Once enrolled into the site, students can access the site for their entire program: this is a 24/7/365 resource! Students also have the option to earn a Digital Learning Essential Certificate of Completion to further demonstrate some base technology and digital learning knowledge and skills.

Who Can Access the Site?

First-year undergraduates (starting fall 2018) are automatically enrolled into this site to have access to this resource when they need it; other students who are not first-years can be given these self-enrollment directions by their instructor:

To self-enroll into the Digital Learning Essentials site, copy/paste this URL into a new browser window https://stthomas.instructure.com/enroll/GPWRWH, then accept the course invitation.

Faculty use this same link to self-enroll and explore firsthand what is in the site to determine if or how you’d like to have their students use the site. Site moderators monitor the discussion board, update course content, review requests for the certificate, and respond to occasional student questions. Non-St. Thomas users can contact Jo Montie to request access to a visitor version of the site.

How Can Faculty Use the Site to Assist Students with Online Readiness?

Review this list to consider ways that Digital Learning Essentials may be a resource to you and your students:

  • Provide the Digital Learning Essentials self-enroll link in your professor announcement the week before class starts.
  • Include directions for participating in the Digital Learning Essentials Site in a Get Started module. Here is an example of how Professor Paul Wojda (Department of Theology) introduced students to this resource in a Start Here module page.

  • Suggest reviewing a portion of the site before an upcoming class activity. For example, ask students to complete the “Using VoiceThread” or the “Taking Proctored Exam” page. Or perhaps design a “Go Find These Five Things” activity or quiz to tailor the activity to your course content.
  • Require students to complete activities in the site to earn the Certificate of Completion and then share a copy of the certificate with you. See the home page of the site for the requirements to receive the Certificate. Here is an example of a direction page for your Get Started module:

  • Offer a review activity after students complete the resource site. Professor Alison Underthun-Meilahn (Department of English) includes these directions for a 5 point reflection assignment after students complete Digital Learning Essentials:

We hope that these ideas inspire your creative thinking on how to support your learners in pre-course preparation for online and blended courses. To share your examples or for help finding ways to leverage the Digital Learning Essentials site, reach out to Jo Montie or any STELAR instructional design partner.

This post was written by Jo Montie, Online Learning Systems Facilitator with the St. Thomas E-Learning and Research (STELAR) Center at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn. To learn more about this topic, please visit our website at www.stthomas.edu/stelar or email Jo at stelar@stthomas.edu.