Irene learns about teaching – Part 1b

So, how do I know if I am connecting and motivating my students. THRIVES, the course I am using as a focus for these reflections, is a course in our LMS designed to introduce students to the culture of the college and present a model of successful student skills, behaviours and attitudes that new student can follow. Given that THRIVES is a non-mandatory course and, unfortunately at the moment, has little opportunity for student to instructor communication and no opportunity for student to student interaction, I have had to turn to other indicators to judge rates of engagement.

First, a little background on how we set up the course. In order to ensure the materials and design were learner-focused, we used Fink’s Intergrated Course Design model. In particular, examining the situational factors of the course lead to design changes. Considering the context of our teaching and learning situation and the nature of our subject along with the characteristics of our learner and of our teacher forced us to debate how to address the challenges we knew would be part of this project. This lead to a careful consideration on how we would introduce the course to students and how we would communicate with students during the course, the adaptation of an OER textbook, the use of video lectures and the addition of H5P interactive learning elements. I use we for the development as I still had collegues to work with by the time the pilot began, I was alone in the implementation with the exception of my Director.

During the Spring 2019 semester, I piloted THRIVES with approximately 1,000 1st semester students. I planned two emails to introduce and explain THRIVES and designated Thursdays for THRIVES for weekly announcements. In addition to the instructor email within the course, I mentioned our THRIVES email in every communication. One way I could check student reaction was to monitor these emails. Based on the questions received, I did two more emails to all students to clarify our purpose for enrolling students into THRIVES and clear common confusion.

Using Blackboard Course Activity reports, I was able to check the activity rates of my students and the amount of time students were engaging with the THRIVES material. At the end of the pilot, 80% of students had logged into and viewed something in THRIVES. I also used the Gradebook to determine the last date students had access THRIVES and the number of quizzes they attempted. Early in the semester, student activity rates were high but quiz completion was almost non-existant. I added an icon to all the quizzes and emailed directions with the icon to the students. I had included interactive self-check learning objects using H5P and I believe that some students thought those activites were the quizzes for the modules. After this email, quiz completion increased. At the end of the semester, 22% of active students had completed quizzes.

Using the course reports, I was also able to track the day and time that students were access the modules. My Thursday for THRIVES announcements were driving activity as Thurdsay and Friday became the most common days for THRIVES activity. These announcements highlighted part of THRIVES and also used messaging that promoted our expectations of students. These expectations included go to class, get involved, take responsibility, learn independently and embrace diversity. My thought was that even if all students saw of THRIVES were the announcements, they would receive reenforcement our college values.

For the Fall 2019 semester, I also moved all the THRIVES videos to a YouTube channel that I monitor and that allows for tracking of views. This is another way I can track how student are using the different elements of the course. I also set up individual page tracking within the modules and other course content areas for college polices and guides so check their usage.

While the lack of student to instructor and student to student interaction is not idea, it is the best I can do at this time. I am running nine sections of THRIVES with over 6,000 enrolled students for the Fall semester. I would not be able to cope without a lot more support. I may be techically running my very own MOOC.


Fink, L. D. (2005). IDEA Paper #42: Intergrated Course Design. Manhattan, KS: The IDEA Centre. Retrieved from

For more on using Fink’s Intergrated Course Design, see Integrated Course Design to Improve Student Learning from Northern Illinois University.

Featured image: St. Clair College, 2019

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