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Author: Chris Roddenberry and Tom Rankin

In the fall of 2016, we embarked on a journey to integrate high-touch processes into our online introductory courses in psychology and business administration. Examples of our processes include such well-known technology best practices as instructor personalized videos (including weekly course communication), synchronous events (including a welcome orientation for students), text messaging, virtual office-hour sessions for students, contacting at-risk students during the first week of class, issuing reminders of upcoming due dates, and following any missed assignments with a personalized message.

Instructor personalized videos

Synchronous events

Text messaging

Virtual office hours

Contacting at-risk students during the first week of class

Issuing reminders of upcoming due dates

Following any missed assignment with a personalized message

Now for the good part—we saw improved results! Student surveys showed a substantial improvement in responses to questions on learning environment, instructor interaction, and student-to-student interaction. And to those still concerned about academic rigor, the question with the biggest improvement in student opinion: The course challenges me to obtain a deeper understanding of content. Second, students were more likely to successfully complete the course. Finally, students performed better on standardized student outcome test questions. Our team was excited that these three metrics aligned so favorably as we continued to learn and improve.

And, of course, we will continue to evolve our protocol/process, but the idea to collect great best practices and turn them into best processes appears to have some real merit. In addition, it's a fun journey.

Chris Roddenberry is an associate professor of psychology, and Tom Rankin is an assistant professor of business administration at Wake Technical Community College.