Trying to Cross the Finish Line

1 0 454

Thanks to everyone who weighed in on a previous blog to share their use of Discussion Boards in online and on-campus classes. I particularly loved the suggestions for using the tool as an ungraded community center for online classes. The suggestions I received made me rethink how I will use the board in my summer and fall classes. Please continue to share your perspectives: Talk to Me About Discussion Board 


This week I’m struggling with the challenge of the disappearing student. It’s the last week of classes and attendance is dwindling. While this is not atypical in my experience, this semester the problem seems particularly distressing. The students who are no longer coming to class are some of the stronger ones academically. These are students who did well on the midterm exam and consistently turned in assignments … until two weeks ago when everything seemed to stop.


Our college uses a retention tool called Starfish, which has been fabulous for keeping track of attendance and “flagging” students who are having academic or personal difficulties. I’ve been able to successfully connect several students to academic support this semester by referring them to our college Success Center through Starfish and the students seem to appreciate the ease at which they can schedule appointments with me through the same tool.


As a last ditch effort, this week I sent emails to students in which I pleaded with them to finish the course in which they have been doing so well. While I know full well that the students need to take ownership of their education, I truly hate to see any student give up so close to the end. I found myself offering extensions, extra help … anything to get the students across the proverbial finish line.


As the COVID-19 Pandemic is coming to an end I’m wondering if this student fatigue is fallout from the months and months of online learning many of my current first year college students experienced in high school. Some, for example, have complained that returning to in-person classes has reintroduced social pressures that were eased during the Pandemic.  Or, perhaps the argument for a quarter system (versus our current two-semester academic year) has some validity with the mindset of today’s students. 


Thoughts? Suggestions? 


Tags (1)
About the Author
Suzanne K. McCormack, PhD, is Professor of History at the Community College of Rhode Island where she teaches US History, Black History and Women's History. She received her BA from Wheaton College (Massachusetts), and her MA and PhD from Boston College. She is currently at work on a study of the treatment of women with mental illness in late-nineteenth and early-twentieth-century Massachusetts and Rhode Island.