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Reaching out to students before they reach challenges

image of phoneIn higher ed, reaching out and making contact with students early on in the semester is a newly promoted strategy for student success.  Reflecting on strategies I’ve seen instructors implement successfully, the old slogan, “reach out and touch someone” came to mind.

AT&T, who happens to be my provider of all things smart phone and unlimited texting, coined this slogan in the 1980’s.  Not only did they hone in on the importance of the personal connection made possible by their high quality sound, one of the commercials showcased a version of distance learning by phone!

AT&T Reach Out and Touch Someone Commercials

In the short video there are two 30-second advertisements from 1986.  One focuses on the feelings of a mom returning to work for the first time being reassured by her grown daughter that she’ll be just fine.  In the second commercial, a young woman is learning violin over the phone from a maestro.  This brought up the following questions and ideas to me.

1.  What do our non-traditional students need from us for positive early feedback to know that they will be just fine, too?  Many of them have successfully done other things for years, but college is something new and nerve-wracking to them.

Taking a few extra minutes in the beginning of the semester to give students reassurance that they are welcomed can be as simple as writing a few words on the top of their page.  Or, responding online to something they said in an introductory forum letting them know you read their words.  Creating groups early on for studying support is also an idea to consider.  This connects students together, creating a sense of interdependence in your course.

2.  Given today’s smart phones are capable of talking, texting, researching, photography and video recording, are there ways to connect students with coursework and communications/feedback between you and them?  This question is part of a much larger discussion on teaching with technology that all can contribute to either by commenting below with strategies or sharing a blog post of your own.

Research and resources:

How’s Class?  Using Early Informal Feedback Presentation

Implementing Early Informal Feedback (EIF)

Suggested Strategies for Student Success, adapted from the Community College Survey on Student Engagement


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