Student Accountability in the Adult Education Online Classroom

We were recently asked by a student’s case manager (TANF) about students not completing the work in the online program but rather having others do it.  We talked with a casework, a few instructors, and a couple i-Pathways coordinators in programs in IL and beyond.  Here is the information that came from that discussion.  We hope you find it helpful and please do follow up with questions if you have any.

What if someone else could potentially log on and submit lessons for the student? How can a teacher ensure that a student is the one completing work so he or she is ready to meet the benchmarks set at intake? With any home-based distance learning system there is the risk of cheating. The strategies explored will help programs and teachers develop an environment of accountability as it relates to distance-learning.

There should be set learning goals and timelines for post-testing and GED Testing that are based on an initial student assessment. Retention efforts indicate that goal setting and relevant timelines should continue to be a part of the teacher /student conversations. Face-to-face post testing should be scheduled to determine if the student is utilizing the instructional project to its fullest potential. Let the student know that the role of the teacher is to measure progress and use assessments in order to adjust instruction to help. When these expectations are clearly defined, the student understands how their progress is being measured.

What happens when the student is not making progress as determined by a post-test? Here is an example of how one program addresses the student who is not making adequate progress or is suspected of cheating with their lesson submissions.  After post testing, the test scores are provided to the student for a comparison of their original test. If there is no progress, the student is told “this online program is not benefiting you”. Based on the information, the student is transitioned to the traditional classroom. So something to look out for is the amount of lesson submissions is not increasing the student’s TABE score.  This leads to the concern of someone other than the student doing the submitted work.  It is important to let students know upfront that you have checks and balances in place to help you determine if they are actually the ones doing the work.  Of course the hybrid option is ideal as programs are better able to monitor student activity. The hybrid model of delivery may be a better fit for the student who feels they need face –to-face contact with a teacher.

Something to note, if a student is testing at a 9th grade level or higher, level gains may not be visible with post-testing. Alternative assessments such as the Official Practice Test  can be used to determine if a students background knowledge is growing. Focus on a student’s ability to make level gains during the time spent in a distance learning program. The coordinator of the local i-Pathways program, the DHS caseworker and the TANF recipient should be working closely together and there should be a clear expectation and agreement that the TANF recipients’ cash benefits are tied to two things.

1. Attendance (submission of i-Pathways lessons)

2. Grade Level Gains (determined by pre and post-testing).

Another thing that might also assist in these efforts is a learning agreement/contract outlining the distance learning criteria and how it will or will not be counted as activity for TANF benefits.

Despite whether student performance is tied to a social service program or not, it’s not always just a matter of their level of activity, they also need to be engaging and making gains in a distance learning situation. If a student is consistently submitting a lot of work, but not communicating with the instructor and not making grade level gains, then online learning may not be working for that particular student. In some programs it is not the instructor that takes on this kind of conversation, but rather, the coordinator or intake specialist who takes on that burden. In a distance learning setting, the blocking or dropping of students is handled by someone other than the instructor so it doesn’t damage the student/instructor relationship. It is important that the student feels welcome to continue in a program in some capacity.  It is important to have things in place that help programs determine how students will continue and ultimately what will be the best way to serve each student as an individual.

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