Various issues may occur when dealing with different students whom have individual needs and problems. Here are a few scenarios you may encounter and their potential solutions.

Students Dropping Out of Courses

Drop out rates for students in distance education settings are normally higher than those for students in traditional educational institutions. You are encouraged to do all you can to increase the completion rate of your students (in most cases this will increase your income and will reflect favourably on you and your course).

As an Open Learning Faculty Member, it can be frustrating to have students who do not complete their coursework. Many reasons are beyond your control. They include students’ personal problems or changes in their jobs or schedules; they may also include inappropriate placement, misunderstandings about course objectives and taking too many courses at once. Open Learning Faculty Member-related reasons can include personality clashes and misunderstandings.

Experienced Open Learning Faculty Members will advise you not to take these dropouts personally. It is important to realize that in some cases nothing you can do will convince certain students to stay with a course. Try to keep track of the student drop-out rate of your course—identifying the causes where possible—and remember all of the potential causes, recognizing that only some are within your or TRU-OL’s control.

You can try to retain students in a course by making them aware that they may have the options of applying for a course extension or registering again at a later date.

Student Inactivity

You may become frustrated by students who promise to deliver work, but do not. Despite promises of action, some students never seem to achieve any visible progress, even after your follow-up calls and other encouragement. Part of your frustration may arise from feeling that your time spent with the student has been wasted as they have shown no effort in their studies.

If you are able to identify the causes in an individual case, you may be able to suggest either an advising or an instructional solution. For example, it might be helpful to remind students to send in assignments one at a time, rather than in a batch.

In the Open Learning, students in most cases are able to choose courses without proving their ability to complete them. Advisors make suggestions about course selection, but ultimately the student is responsible for selecting a course. Many students register for courses without talking to an advisor at all. Students sometimes find that they are misplaced in a course and are unable to perform adequately. This problem is a major source of inaction. If the problem is detected early enough, it may be possible for students to transfer to another course. Students may withdraw from a 30-week course within five weeks after their course registration date and still receive a partial refund as well as register in a new course if they wish.

Students who Monopolize your Time

Some students may phone you only because they want to chat. Some are lonely and want a person to talk to, some discuss personal problems and some want advice on non-course matters.

You may choose to assist with these student needs when possible, but you may prefer to find ways to discourage excessive time spent on non-course related matters.

You can refer students to a TRU-OL Advisor for general educational assistance, or to sources outside TRU-OL for other assistance. Ultimately, you will have to decide which issues fall within your mandate as an Open Learning Faculty Member and how much time constitutes a reasonable demand on your services. Don’t hesitate to explain that other students may be trying to reach you.

Students Phoning at Inconvenient Times

Students may call at inconvenient times in order to leave a message, but if you find your VoIP telephone ringing in the middle of the night or other inappropriate times, feel free to discourage the student or temporarily turn the ringer off.

Reticent Students

Using open questions is often effective in drawing out students who are not comfortable talking on the phone. It may help your reticent students if you cite the importance of student-OL Faculty contact and assure them that TRU-OL will pay for long distance calls (in Canada and the US).

Student Conduct

Plagiarism

Students may sometimes attempt to present the words and ideas of another person as their own, without acknowledging the source. If you suspect that a student has plagiarized material on an assignment, express your concern to the student and have a conversation about the importance of academic integrity.

Review TRU-OL’s plagiarism policies with the student. Follow the policy as described in Policy ED 5-0.

Any decision to assign a “0” grade as a result of plagiarism should be reported to the Associate Director, Program Delivery with the supporting evidence and using the Academic Integrity Case Report Form.

Aggressive Behaviour

You may be faced with unacceptable student behaviour such as hostility, aggressiveness, constant complaining, emotional outbursts or intoxication. It doesn’t happen often, but it is upsetting when it does.

If a student is persistently problematic or continues with threatening behaviour, or if you want to submit a formal complaint about a student’s behaviour, please contact Delivery Support at deliverysupport@tru.ca.

If a student wishes to make a complaint please ask them to put their issues or concerns in writing and direct them to Delivery Support at the same email address.

Additional information about student conduct is contained on the TRU website.

Students with Unique Challenges

Many students choose to study at a distance because their personal situations limit them in some way. Consider these limitations, so that you can appreciate the difficulties that such students face. For example:

Incarcerated Students

Students in prison may be difficult to contact by phone and it might not be possible to include them in telephone conferences (if applicable). They may be unable to find suitable study facilities or their schedules may be disrupted by prison activities and they usually do not have access to email or the Internet. As a result, their assignments may not be ready on planned dates.

Course extensions may be granted to incarcerated students who are experiencing problems. Please note that TRU-OL will not release your name, phone number, address or other information to an incarcerated student; Delivery Support will act as the liaison between the student and the OL Faculty member.

These students send their assignments by land mail to Delivery Support. Once received, Delivery Support will forward the assignments to you.

Hospitalized Students

Hospitalized students may have trouble making phone calls or their coursework may be interrupted by medical treatment. The effects of treatment or their ill health may prevent them from progressing as quickly as planned. Please advise these students to send supporting documentation and their request for accommodation and/or an extension (if they need it) to Disability Services or the Office of the Registrar (if the illness is not part of an ongoing condition). This should always be done before the course’s completion date.

Remote Students

Some students live in remote communities such as logging camps, where the only phone available may be in an office. Trying to reach these students can be a challenge. You may leave messages for students but they might not always be passed along and it may take several calls to reach the student. Email and/or land mail can be a more effective means of communicating with students in these situations.

Students with Disabilities

The Disability Services Office (DSO) provides a wide range of services to students with disabilities that may include the following:

  • Course material and TRU-OL publications in alternative formats, for example, electronic or large print.
  • Instructional recommendations based on assessments.
  • Referrals for adaptive technology and equipment.
  • Examinations modification and accommodation based on assessments.
  • Fee waived course extensions with documentation.
  • Financial aid in the form of bursaries, grants and scholarships.

Verification of disability is required to receive services from the DSO. If you suspect a student has a disability, please encourage the student to contact Disability Services or you can call for information and/or guidance. When OL Faculty members contact Disability Services on the student’s behalf, policies associated with the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act apply.

In order to discuss a student’s record, the student must sign a release of information. Disability Services does not inform OL Faculty members as to which of their students have declared that they have a disability. Students must voluntarily inform their instructors themselves or sign a release form from Disability Services to inform their instructors.

For more information on services available to students with disabilities or on instructional strategies, please contact Disability Services via e-mail at dso@tru.ca or visit the website.