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We all play a part in student success.

The first four weeks of each semester provide an experience that can start students on the path to success. All of us – faculty, staff, and students themselves – play an important role in getting each semester off to the best start so that students can continue on with great success!

Before the Semester Starts

Pre-Semester Checklist

Get a jump on preparing for online classes with our  Pre-Semester Checklist.

Online 101: Learning the Basics of Online Learning

Even if you're completely new to online learning, Columbus State has all of the resources and support you need to succeed. Visit cscc.edu/online101 for everything you need to know to master classroom technology, access College resources, and make the most of learning in the online environment.

Student Success Workshops

Our series of Student Success Workshops, held during the first four weeks of each semester, are a great way to learn new success strategies and connect to College resources dedicated to help you meet your education goals. Join us for any of the live virtual workshops, or log on any time 24/7 to attend on-demand online workshops

First4Weeks logo

Strategies for Students, Faculty, and Staff

The research-based strategies below are proven to make a positive difference for students. There are tactics that focus on the start of every semester, and others that can be used all semester long. Choose one or two from each category to implement this semester. Then add more next semester, and the next, right up until graduation!

Student Strategies to Start Strong

Check out our Student Success Workshops available on demand 24/7 to set yourself up for a great semester and beyond!

Connect

Build Relationships and Connect

Learning in the online environment can make it feel even more difficult to connect. We're here to help you make those important connections with faculty, students, and staff to develop your Columbus State network. Building your network at Columbus State expands your support system as you make progress toward the academic, career, and financial goals you’ve set for yourself.

  • Learn your instructors’ names. You will find them on your course websites on Blackboard.
  • Send your instructor an email before - or right after the first class session - to introduce yourself. The online environment makes it difficult to assess when students are engaged, so this sends an important message that you value their class.
  • Read the syllabus for each class and put assignment deadlines and other important dates on your calendar or planner. If possible, print out the class schedule so you have access to it even when you're not logged in.
  • If someone in your class poses an interesting question or comment on a discussion board, or during a live class session, follow up with that person via email to discuss it more. They will appreciate the reach-out and you'll both get more out of the course material by interacting.
  • Ask and answer questions in virtual class sessions and on discussion boards. This not only shows your instructor that the class is important to you, but also helps you get a more comprehensive understanding of the course material.
  • Go to cscc.edu/advising to make sure you know who your Academic Advisor is. Schedule a virtual meeting to plan your path to graduation.
  • Sign up for Cougar Connect at cscc.edu/connect so that you are aware of virtual events and opportunities to connect with other students and faculty through workshops, leadership programs, student groups, clubs and more. It's a great way to feel more connected and part of the College! Virtual events will be added throughout the semester.

Engage

Engage and Stay Encouraged

Contribute in your classes and invest in your own learning by actively participating in virtual campus events and classroom activities and assignments. Reflect on your achievements and your goals. Remember why you made the decision to invest in yourself. You are creating your future!

Active Learning

  • Faculty office hours or appointment times are a great way to ask questions and get advice or information one-on-one. Even in the virtual environment, many faculty members have hours set aside, or have created a means for scheduling appointments with students seeking assistance with assignments or more explanation about class topics. Talking with your instructors one-on-one is a great way to make a personal connection and gain the understanding you need for academic success. And your instructors appreciate knowing you care about the course and are making the extra effort!
  • Show up to class, whether the session is live online or one of our few on-campus classes. Not missing any classes is important for many reasons: You will be up-to-date on everything that is presented. You can ask questions on anything you don't understand. And it shows your instructor that you're actively engaged in the class (to name a few). Being present is critical to your success.
  • Before class, write down three questions from the materials so you are ready to participate.
  • Turn on your camera for live online sessions. Remember, instructors want to connect as much as anyone, and talking to a bunch of static photos doesn't feel very personal. They would much rather be able to see students' faces to know they are engaged and judge when you may look confused or have a question.
  • Respond to questions from the instructor. Take the initiative when there's "dead air" (silence) in the virtual chat after the instructor asks a question. It may be outside of your comfort zone but the more you do it, the easier it will be.
  • Ask for clarification or examples when you don’t understand a topic. Chances are, if you don’t understand something, other students are struggling with the same thing. Be the one who speaks up (your classmates will thank you!).
  • If you have access to the class roster, send a group email if you have a question the class may be able to help with, or to arrange a live online study session before a test or assessment.
  • When reviewing for a test, create your own activities to help you work with the materials. Flash cards work for many students, but everyone learns differently. Try different methods and be patient with yourself as you find the techniques that work best for you.
  • Discuss what you are learning with friends and family members. During this time of COVID-19, many people are not having the same social interactions they used to have, so discussing your classes can be a great way to keep the conversation rolling.

Technology

  • If you're new to online learning or are struggling to manage the ins and outs the virtual environment, log on to cscc.edu/online101 to find information on mastering classroom technology, accessing College resources, and making the most of learning online.
  • Log into Blackboard (Bb) daily to work on assignments, review deadlines, check for updates and read announcements for each of your classes. Bb is Columbus State’s web-based course information system for online and many face-to-face classes and can be accessed at cscc.edu/blackboard
  • Get answers to your questions about technology by calling the Help Desk at 614-287-5050 or emailing helpdesk@cscc.edu Watch for technology workshops offered at the start of every semester to help you get comfortable with platforms including Blackboard, Starfish, NetTutor, and more.
  • Use CougarWeb for Students to check your student account and financial aid status (choose "Manage My Account"). Check your profile information to ensure that the College has current home address, phone, and personal email address. In the virtual environment, that's our primary means of sending communications on important CState information. On CougarWeb, you can also pay your Columbus State bill and find links to common forms and information.
  • Check your student email account every day when you are taking classes. You don’t want to miss important last minute emails from your instructors or notices about important deadlines and events from the College.

 

Aspire

Communicate, Celebrate, and Aspire

Believe in yourself and stay focused on your goals. Your instructors and professors have high expectations of you and you are capable of meeting (or exceeding!) them. Learning is a process and is different for each person. You belong here and will achieve success by inspiring yourself and others to keep moving forward.

  • Stay motivated to accomplish things. Start each day reminding yourself why you are in college and why it is important to you and your family. This is especially useful when you aren't coming to campus every day to keep yourself focused on your education goal.
  • Everyone has doubts from time to time. If you get discouraged, sit down and write a list of all the good things you know about getting an education. What does it mean to you and your family?
  • Seek out the positive and encourage people in your classes. Get to know them by emailing or addressing their questions and comments directly in the chat section for live online classes. Remember, everyone is in the same "boat" and wondering how to connect - be the one to make the first move. The more you interact with those who are motivated, the more you will motivate one another!
  • Treat each class as a new opportunity! Go into it prepared and ready to learn. Be excited about the material because that class is going to get you to the next one and closer to your goals.
  • Do a countdown to graduation by marking down the days each semester so you can see your own progress and know that it is getting closer. Know that graduation and future successes are within your grasp.
  • Inspiring others will help you stay motivated. If you feel like someone around you could use a confidence boost today, reach out to them!

Collaborate

Support and Collaborate

Columbus State is committed to your success, whether your'e learning online, on campus, or as acombination of both. We've creted a new resource, "Your College, Your Connection" to make sure students can connect with one another, with their instructors, and with the College. You'll find resources for academic, career, financial, and personal wellness planning, as well as study skills and time management. You are more than a student, you are a busy adult with many things demanding your time and attention. These things can support or hinder your success. On-campus and community partner services are here to help you achieve your goals.

IT's healthY to ask for help!

  • Everyone can use a hand sometimes and it's health to ask for help. Make a list of all the things you need to be successful in college, including personal needs and challenges. More than likely, there is a free service on campus or a community partner agency to help you! Find resources and connections at cscc.edu/connection.
  • Take advantage of all of the free resources available to you. Tutoring, Supplemental Instruction, Disability Services, Career Services and Counseling Services are just a few. Visit cscc.edu/services for a complete list of services available to our students.
  • Don’t wait until there is a problem. Seek help and support often and early to avoid issues before they arise. For example, if you have an A in a class and want to make sure you keep it, our free online tutoring is an ideal way to help you review and reinforce what you're learning. NetTutor can be accessed through each of your Blackboard courses (click on the green "N").
  • Get to know the librarians and IT support professionals who can help you find or use resources. You can access LIbrary services remotely at cscc.edu/library, which includes a live chat option. The IT Help Desk can be reached at 614-287-5050, at cscc.edu/helpdesk, or by emailing helpdesk@cscc.edu
  • Make a personal commitment to physical wellness. It's an important aspect of staying mentally and emotionally well, so make sure you’re caring for your whole self!

 

 

Faculty Strategies to Start Students Off Strong

The first four weeks of each semester provide an experience that can set students up for success. Even seemingly small gestures can make an important impact on a student. You are a critical part of helping them get off to a great start.

Based on the St. Louis Community College model, named as an Achieving the Dream Best Practice, the research-based ideas below are proven to make a difference in student success during the first four weeks of the semester and beyond.

Directions:

  1. Select at least one strategy from each category to carry out in your classes.
  2. Be sure to assess the impact of the strategies you have implemented.
  3. Provide tips based on your experience to other faculty by emailing cougarsucess@cscc.edu.

View our tips for helping students succeed in an online environment

We’ve developed a new tip sheet to help you support student success in a remote environment. Read more


Connect

Build Relationships and Connect

Create a sense of community and belonging for all students. Whether in person or virtual, there are many ways to build community in your classes.

  • Personalize your BlackBoard course materials so your personality comes through. Digital Education and Instructional Support (DEIS) can help you. Email teaching@cscc.edu or call 614-287-5991.
  • Consider adding video messages to your announcements. It's a simple process using Kaltura. Find information and instructional videos here.
  • In the first class, ask students to introduce themselves and share why they are in the course or something else about themselves. Consider posting this as an early assignment using the Discussion Board in BlackBoard.
  • Start class by taking attendance. This helps connect student names and faces (and reinforces the expectation of students coming to class, which is a critical factor in success!).
  • Strive to learn students’ names. Make notes about each student to help you remember personal aspects. Make a point to use their names in subsequent classes.
  • Share something about yourself and your passion for your discipline and the course content.
  • Encourage students to tell you about specific concerns they have. You could do this by creating an assignment or including a syllabus statement that lets students know you are interested in them and able to connect them to additional resources.
  • Encourage your students to meet with you one-on-one during your office hours or by scheduling a virtual meeting. Students are often reluctant to reach out for help – and research shows that is one of the top factors in students who don’t succeed in college. Let them know that you’re there to help, and let them know they can find information on office hours, or how to schedule a one-on-one meeting, in the course syllabus or your welcome message.

Engage

Engage and Encourage

Promote active learning and build technology skills.

Active Learning

  • Communicate the “why” behind assignments to help students connect with the big picture for the course.
  • Perform at least one Classroom Assessment Technique (CAT) every week, such as minute paper or muddiest point. 
  • Engage students in at least one active learning strategy every week. Ideas include link-pair-share, QR code creation, clickers, jigsaws, magic moment or service learning. 
  • Consider a syllabus quiz, small group discussion, polleverywhere.com, or other activities to engage students.
  • As we continue to operate remotely, connecting with students virtually becomes an important part of helping to ensure their success. Be sure to let your students know about virtual or in-person office hours, or how to set up a one-on-one appointment with you. Post this information your Blackboard course and add it to your syllabus. Another great idea is to add the information to your email signature, so students have a quick reminder each time they receive an email or response from you.

Technology

  • Many students are new to online learning or may be struggling to manage the ins and outs of the virtual student experience at Columbus State. Direct them to cscc.edu/online101 to find all the resources they need to make the most of their online course experience.
  • Take note when students are not accessing BlackBoard regularly. Email them to make sure they are comfortable with the technology, and ask if you can be of assistance.
  • Always demonstrate any new technology or skill that will be used in the class as part of an assignment.
  • Upload/add Blackboard’s “how-to” YouTube videos to your course. 
  • Create an early assignment that asks students to log into BlackBoard, as well as update their contact information on CougarWeb.
  • Let students know the importance of having up-to-date email, phone, and address information on file. (Remind them that you can’t help them if you can’t reach them!)
  • Acquaint students with the IT Support Center at (614) 287-5050, where they can get in-person technical assistance.

 

Aspire

Communicate, Celebrate, and Inspire

Inspire students with your high expectations and belief that they can meet them.

  • Keep the mindset that your goal is to help students learn, and that assessments, assignments and exams are tools to help you do that.
  • Always incorporate positive feedback on graded materials, beyond check marks, deductions, and final score.
  • Create rubrics that clearly define grading criteria for each assignment and provide these to your students when giving the assignment. In a virtual course, be sure to tell studnets what testing/assessment expectations are for your class as they may differ across the college.
  • Early feedback is important, so strive to return graded papers quickly, especially in the early weeks.
  • Discuss what students need to do to be successful in YOUR course. Let students know that you have high expectations—and that you believe in their ability to meet them.
  • In the first week, have students complete a short writing assignment or class quiz worth very few (or no) points. As you grade it, include helpful suggestions on how to improve performance.
  • Celebrate the good stuff and share inspiring stories! Focus on progress. Congratulate students who make significant progress in their work.
  • Share your path to higher education to inspire them. It is important that students know you struggled too.
  • Build opportunities for students to reflect on their learning. For example, ask students, “What were your biggest challenges with this assignment?”
  • Inspire students with the story of your journey through college and the ups and downs you had.

Collaborate

Support and Collaborate

The best instructors know there can be outside factors creating barriers to student success.

  • Collaborate with student support services and provide students with information and referrals to support them in their academic, career, and financial goals.
  • Build your knowledge of campus resources to support student success. Use the resource sheets, on the First4Weeks website ("Printable Tips" PDF below), and the website to direct students to programs, workshops, and other resources. Remember cscc.edu/LearnOn is created to help students succeed in the remote/online environment.
  • Help students connect and collaborate with one another and with the college through cscc.edu/connection.
  • Integrate learning about campus resources into class assignments, for example:
    • Create an exercise that includes having students use online tutoring services,  or the Writing Center.
    • Create an exercise that connects students to Student Engagement and Leadership, Counseling Services, Career Services, the Library, etc.
  • Customize a resource announcement for your course in BlackBoard that links students to campus resources. (Resource links can be found at cscc.edu/services.)


Print College Resource List

Staff Strategies to Start Students Off Strong

The first four weeks of each semester provide an experience that can set students up for success. Even seemingly small gestures can make an important impact on a student. You are a critical part of helping them get off to a great start.

Based on the St. Louis Community College model, named as an Achieving the Dream Best Practice, the research-based ideas below are proven to make a difference in student success during the first four weeks of the semester and beyond.

Suggestions:

  1. Select at least one strategy from each category to carry out in your department/office.
  2. Email cougarsuccess@cscc.edu and ask to be added to the First4Weeks Blackboard Organization.
  3. Be sure to assess the impact of the strategies you have implemented.
  4. Provide tips based on your experience to other staff through the First4Weeks Blackboard Organization.

Connect

Build Relationships and Connect

Create a sense of community and belonging for all students.

 

  • Make each conversation friendlier:
    • Be sure to address each student by name before asking for their ID number
    • Introduce yourself to the student you’re helping, with your name and title
    • Ask students questions about themselves and how they are doing
    • Decode higher education terminology during conversations by defining terms that may be new to students
    • End conversations with motivating words of encouragement
  • Listen actively. It’s easy to jump to a solution after hearing part of what someone is saying instead of listening to the entire question or situation.
  • Ask the second question. New students may not know enough about Columbus State to understand what they need or who they need to talk to. Help them out by asking a follow-up question to figure out what they need to accomplish.
  • When you transfer a student to another office, call ahead to make sure someone is available and understands what the student needs. 
  • Verify contact information on file and explain the importance of current mailing and phone information. Help students complete updates, either on CougarWeb or by calling (614) 287-5353.
  • Make sure students know how to reach you for further questions and assistance.
  • Email students who miss appointments, and send email follow-ups after appointments.

Engage

Engage and Encourage

Communicate the “why” to help students connect tasks to the big picture.

  • Listen, and let a student talk through a problem. Help them talk their way through to the solution that is best for them.
  • When you give a student an answer, explain the process involved so that the student knows what to do the next time they encounter a similar situation. If a student asks a question that requires an answer of “no,” don’t stop there. Explain why and help them explore other ways to achieve their goal.
  • When possible, let the student look up information and navigate the website while working with you, to help them build skills and a comfort level with the technology.
  • Ask students to repeat important information back to you in their own words so you’re sure they understand.
  • Remind students that some departments send messages only to their Columbus State email account, and remind them to check it daily.
  • Acquaint students with the IT Support Center (formerly the Help Desk) at (614) 287-5050 where they can get technical assistance.
  • Show students where they can find dates and deadlines related to college services.
  • Remind students to sign up for RAVE alerts at cscc.edu/rave.
  • Many students are new to online learning or may be struggling to manage the ins and outs of the virtual student experience at Columbus State. Direct them to cscc.edu/online101 to find all the resources they need to make the most of their online course experience.

 

Aspire

Communicate, Celebrate, and Inspire

Remind students often of that they are valued and have the ability to achieve their goals. Remind them that acclimating to any new experience is a learning process.

  • Help student workers understand their important role and how to better help other students.
  • Encourage participation in campus groups that build leadership skills, like Women’s Connection, MAN Initiative, and discipline-specific mentoring programs. Virtual events will be added to cscc.edu/connect throughout the semester.
  • Praise students for things they have accomplished. Each step forward takes them closer to their goal.
  • Incorporate inspiring messages into daily interactions. End conversations with encouraging words like “You’ve got this” or “You’re going to do well here.”
  • Help students develop skills to have appropriate conversations about difficult topics—role play, or discuss how conversations may go, what kinds of responses to avoid, and how to have a productive discussion.
  • Encourage students to talk to professors directly. Remind them that getting to know professors on a personal level helps the learning process. Our professors are here to help students succeed!

Collaborate

Support and Collaborate

Provide information and referrals. Integrate learning about services to support your students in their academic, career, and financial goals.

  • Build your knowledge of campus resources to support student success. Use the resource sheets, the First4Weeks Blackboard Organization, Cougar Connect and web pages cscc.edu/LearnOn and cscc.edu/connection to direct students to other resources.
  • Use cscc.edu/online to connect students to resources to help them succeed in the online learning environment.
  • Remember, students have many things going on outside of college, so there may be barriers to their success that we aren’t aware of. Pay attention to “red flag” statements so you can help them identify and solve problems.
  • Students may be very stressed about their situations. Be calm under pressure. Be the rational one and de-escalate a situation that may be stressful for a student.
  • If you can’t assist a student and need to send them “up the chain of command,” take time to help them understand why they need to follow the proper channels and help them understand how our process works.

Print College Resource List

Achieving the Dream

 

 

First 4 Weeks