Conferencing Strategies for Teaching at a Distance Discussion Questions
Your online student calls and says, "my computer has broken down, I have lost all of my notes and will not have another system to use for a week. What should I do? " Oh, yeah, it is the fourth week of the course and the student is one of the worst. What action will you recommend? Why?
Your first reaction may be to tell the student to drop the class, but the key here is patience and flexibility. Remember that technical problems can happen even to the best of us. Besides, the drop date has already passed and this student probably needs your class to graduate. First, direct him to the campus computer labs. If the students can't come to campus, suggest that he go to a public library where there are computers hooked up to the Internet. If he doesn't have time to go to the library (motivation is low), suggest that he find a friend who has a computer. Tell him that if he wants to successfully complete the course, he needs to find time to access a computer.
Now, the case of the lost notes (or messages posted to the Virtual Classroom). He he made a hard copy or saved them to disk as you had recommended in the course syllabus just in case something like this happens? If he hasn't, he should rewrite them and either fax or mail them to you. He could impose on another student in the class to post the responses for him.
Also, (snail)mail him/her the assignments for weeks five and six, and have him mail (or fax) the completed assignments back to you.
All of this is made possible because of the asynchronous learning environment, which is flexible and convenient. In an on-ground course, if a student misses a lesson, he misses the dynamics of the course, but this is not the case in an asynchronous class. While he may miss the initial discussions, he can read the discussions and make comments at a later date. He can also complete the assignments later once he is back online. A student who is experiencing technical problems should not be penalized. He should be allowed to finish the work even after the class has officially ended. If there is a group project involved, the student should be assigned some other activities to substitute for the group project. However, it should be noted, that the course dynamics for this particular student will shift towards the low synergy end of the learning continuum. Finally, if you are scheduled to teach the same course for the following semester, you can suggest that the student participate in the upcoming class.
Finally, it is quite possible that this student does not meet the necessary requirements for successful online students. If that is the case, he should be counseled to consider taking the on-ground equivalent course and definitely not take another online course in the future.