On-Demand Webinar: Ghosting in Online Courses

Last updated on: April 27, 2022

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Mental health and student attrition are major concerns for online and hybrid educators, with more than 23% of students becoming unresponsive and leaving their academic advisors and teachers to wonder where they have gone.

In our recent webinar, hosted in partnership with WCET, we explored how to uncover the backstory of students, investigate causes of ghosting, and innovate to connect with even the most at-risk students.

Topics of Discussion

Dr. Julie Delich, Vice President of Retention and Student Support Services at Wiley, and Dr. Jan G. Miller, Dean of the College of Education at the University of West Alabama, discussed the following topics::

  • Honing your student engagement skills
  • Understanding why students may become unresponsive
  • Learning to identify student archetypes and predict reasons for unresponsive behavior
  • Creating an online student retention toolkit to better engage students

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Megan Raymond:
Thank you all for joining. We’re really, really excited about this topic. Let me go ahead and advance along here. Today’s topic is Ghosting in Online Courses: Data and Strategies to Save the Academic Journey. I’m sure many of you have had experience with students showing up and then ghosting you so we’ll invite you to be part of this conversation too in the chat and you can share what some of your strategies have been that have worked. Thank you to our partner, Wiley University Services for helping us put together this webinar. And because of their large reach we were able to get a huge audience so thank you. I’m Megan Raymond, I’m the senior director of membership and programs here at WCET and I’m thrilled to pull together this great group of panelists today. As we go through if you have any questions, please enter them into the Q and A. We’re hoping that we have a lively chat too but sometimes we lose the questions if you put them into chat.

Megan Raymond:
Use the Q and A for questions and then the chat for other sharing, including if you have any resources you want to share, go ahead and pack those in there. The webinar is being recorded and we’ll share a link out to the recording as well as any resources that were shared. You can go ahead and download the slide deck in the chat. And then, we often have a pretty active Twitter discussion. If you want to follow along, the hashtag is WCETWebcast. Again, just a reminder about the Q and A. And I’d like to go ahead and welcome our moderator today, a longtime friend of WCET and of mine, Cali Morrison who is the chief instigator and a courageous coach with Creative Synapse, LLC. Welcome, Cali.
Cali Morrison:
Hi, good afternoon. Thanks, Megan. I’m glad to be here for this super exciting topic. I think this may have the best webcast name I’ve ever heard. As Megan said, I am currently serving in my own consulting business and coaching business with Creative Synapse. You can find us online if you have questions. And I’d like to turn introductions over to our two core presenters today. We have Dr. Julie Delich, who is the vice president of retention and support services at Wiley. Julie, will you tell us a little about yourself?

Dr. Julie Delich:
Thank you so much. It’s so nice to see all of you here. Hello. My academic journey has had twists and turns as many of us have. I mean, you’re going to hear my biases coming out so I’ll confess them right at the door. My background started out in clinical mental health. I was an outpatient therapist for eight years so you’re going to hear that come raging out in a lot of my opinions and strategies. And then transitioned to higher education about midway through my career and have been working in higher ed for about 20 years now, both as adjunct faculty, as well as in the retention space. I’ve been able to work with a variety of different universities from the not-for-profit to the for-profit, to the small, to the large, public, private. I’m really fortunate to have been able to have interactions with a wide variety of institutions. And I will pass it over to my colleague, Jan, to introduce herself and tell us a little bit more about her background too.

Dr. Jan Miller:
Thanks, Julie. Hi, you all. I’m Jan Miller and again, you can tell I’m from the south. I live in Mississippi and I work at the University of West Alabama. I serve as the dean to the college of education and also over the division of online programs. I’m from Mississippi and so my root’s here. I was an elementary school teacher. Most of my career in Mississippi, I served as a school leader at a K-12 school for most of my time and it was a very rural school. It was actually the school that I grew up and I graduated from. I went back and I actually served as the school leader to teachers who taught me so that was a neat experience. The last 14 years I’ve been in higher ed again, serving most recently as the dean to the college of education. And I’m super excited today to share some of the strategies and best practices that we use and we’re looking forward to interacting with you all, so welcome.

Dr. Julie Delich:
Let’s dive right in. Some of you are already doing this on this blustery day in a lot of the country. I’m in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. It’s not too windy yet here but I know it’s coming so I can see all of you in the Midwest. It’s important to create culture when we’re in an online environment so we wanted to model that for you. If you haven’t already, please go ahead in the chat and tell us where you are right now. Just like we would want to have our students introduce themselves to each other to start creating that sense of culture. And I keep seeing wind as it’s flying by. Oh, I saw Philly. Hello, shout out Pennsylvania. Oh, wow Alaska, Chicago, Texas. Oh my gosh, there’s so many amazing places popping up. This is great. Thank you so much for sharing with us where you’re from and seeing the diversity of where everyone’s from.

Dr. Julie Delich:
Throughout this presentation, Jan and I are going to try to model a lot of what we’re talking about. Oh, and Redding here. You’re even closer. Hi, good to see you. Let’s go ahead and dive right in with the next slide and start talking a little bit more about the format of our conversation today and what we have planned. This conversation and this presentation was actually inspired by the Ghost Hunters show. I don’t know if everybody’s seen it. It was on Sci Fi and I think Discovery picked it up for a little while. But just like in the Ghost Hunters show, we’ve actually put this presentation in the same kind of three parts that you see. In the Ghost Hunters show, we usually start out by hearing the historical context and the background of the haunted place that they’re going to explore. Jan and I are going to start off by giving you some context and background on the students and the environments that they are coming from.

Dr. Julie Delich:
The next thing the Ghost Hunters do is they start their investigation so they actually start exploring the space. We’re going to talk about how to investigate your own environments in the same kind of way to hunt for those prospective ghosts in your classrooms or in your programs. And then finally, on the Ghost Hunters show, they use innovative technology to catch their ghosts so they have all of those cool gadgets. While we don’t necessarily have gadgets to share with you, we have innovative strategies to share that we wanted to put into that third category. It’ll be context and background, investigation, and innovation. Those are the three parts to our presentation today. If you are here and you care about students in any capacity, then this is a totally appropriate presentation for you.

Dr. Julie Delich:
We know that there’ll be people with a variety of backgrounds and areas of focus so we’re going to do our best to give you suggestions that’ll fit. If you’re an educator, if you are an administrator, if you are in the advising department, if you’re running and leading programs, so we’re going to really try to give you as much breadth as well as depth as we walk through today. Continuing to dive in onto the next slide, we really wanted to call attention here to the concept that anyone in your classroom has the potential to be a ghost. And we’ve been measuring this at Wiley and at UWA for a number of years of how many students disappear without an explanation. And we’ve noticed a pretty consistent trend. In the past three years, about 23% of our students that are dropping are doing so without any response, without any explanation. And so that’s what got us starting talking about this topic of what can we do to intervene and start moving those rates in a downward direction and have a better standing of what these students need.

Dr. Julie Delich:
23% is a high number in my humble opinion and we obviously want to move that down so that we can make interventions based on students needs and not guess when they’re not giving us that information. Moving on to the next section here, we wanted to start off by helping you think about your goals and your intentions as an educator, advisor administrator. Because your goals and what you’re thinking about can definitely play a role in the way you can reduce ghosting in your courses and in your programs. We’re going to go ahead and have you do this and Jan is going to talk through some of what her goals are.

Dr. Julie Delich:
What we’d like to do as we advance to the next slide is just encourage you to write down three goals that you have for yourself in either teaching, advising, or leading a program or a course, an upcoming term or semester, whatever context makes sense for you. And we’d love to see a few of these in the chat. As you’re thinking about what your goals are, go ahead and feel free to post a few but Jan, would you talk through some of what your goals are as an educator?

Dr. Jan Miller:
Absolutely. I teach at the university a lot of online courses. I also teach face-to-face and hybrid. And so the neat thing is for me, I really find myself having the same goals regardless of the format. And so one of the first ones to me that is so important because the majority of the classes that I teach are online, is I really want to put a face-to-face feel to online learning. And so I know the more interaction, the more opportunities that I can do that it feels like the connection is always stronger. And so that probably to me is one of the most important things. Another thing that I really strive to do and at our university, we really want to treat students more than just a number. We want to recognize them by name. We want to see their pictures, their videos, the more that again, we can connect, the more we understand who they are and what they are.

Dr. Jan Miller:
And so when we see them in real life we can say hey, Julie. It’s surprising to me how they’ll recognize us even out and about even in an online environment. That’s always very good. Also, I think the more personalized that I can be as far as teaching a course, the better. One of the first things I really like to do in my classes, whether it’s whatever format I gather, I create a Google doc. And so I want to know things like their name, their birth date, their cell phone number, an alternative email address, those kind of things. Because I will use them throughout the course and I will also kind of gather all this information to send E-holiday greeting cards. You know what I mean? Because you can never, even after the course is done, to keep that connection going to the institution is always a positive thing. And so I guess to sum up my really three, the more personalized, the more connections, the more I build relationships, I find I have less ghosts in the class. Those would be kind of mine, Julie, that I would like to share.

Dr. Julie Delich:
Yeah. And there’s so much of that echoing in the chat. I’m glancing through Jan, as we’re talking and a lot about community and connection and retaining students. Safe space came up a couple times in the chat. There’s so much good conversation happening. Thank you for those of you courageous enough to share those in the chat. It’s really helpful. The other thing that Jan and I talked to each other about is being transparent about your goals. Posting them somewhere in your classroom, in your advising environment, really letting students know this is what I’m thinking about. This is my goal for the semester, the course, et cetera. It creates that level of human connection instantaneously that you’re suddenly no longer just the voice behind the screen. You’re a real person who has your own set of goals and things that you’re driving towards.

Dr. Jan Miller:
I agree. And Julie, one thing I didn’t mention and of course this is totally up to everyone but I always share my personal cell phone with my students. I find they never have abused it, knock on wood, but they can text or they can call, they can leave a message. Of course, they can always email me and I know now, there are so many apps and other ways if you didn’t want to share your cell phone that you could communicate. But I’ve noticed lots of people are pretty in communication and I think students appreciate that we’re just so open to say text me, call me. I’m here for you. And so that’s just another strategy I wanted to mention.

Dr. Julie Delich:
Yeah. I appreciate you bringing that up because a lot of times when we talk to faculty and administrators and they’re frustrated with ghosting, their outreach strategy is to reach out within the LMS. If a student is ghosting you, they’re not you in your LMS, right. They’re not logging in. The more you can do to have that personal connection, the more likely it is that you’re able to create that connection point when the student most needs it. I appreciate you bringing that up. Just as important as our goals, the next slide is moving us into talking about your intentions. Setting the intention for the semester, the course, the term, and really thinking about what exactly you are intending to accomplish. And we’ve created some question prompts for you to consider on the next two slides. On this next slide, it’s really more kind of about the tactical of how many students are in the class or on your caseload or in your program?

Dr. Julie Delich:
Why are they taking this? Is it a pre-req? Is it a course that they’re likely to be excited about that has a wait list typically? Is it hybrid? Is it completely virtual? What are the tools that you’re using? And how much do you know about the students coming into this course? Do you have some of that analytics data about how many of the students are first generation students in the class? How many of them might have socioeconomic stressors and that are utilizing Pell grants to fund their education and really potentially struggling with insecure housing? Those kinds of really intense details, do you know those? And if not, how can we find those for you? I’m going to go ahead and flip to the next slide Jan, before you start sharing some of your answers here because these are the really needy ones. These are the questions that you get into the what challenges do you typically see students have with this course semester, et cetera?

Dr. Julie Delich:
I know personally I’m thinking a lot right now about summer term, right? And last summer, you know how there’s the great resignation going around? Last summer was the great vacation, right? Everybody took off and went somewhere because we’d all been locked up for so long. And we saw students dropping at such higher numbers. Summer is hard anyway, for retention. That’s the kind of questioning you want to be doing for yourself. What are the challenges you’re expecting? And then challenge yourself to get really analytical about what percentage of students do you expect to ghost. Do you measure that? If you don’t, great time to start right, of how many students are disappearing typically in this course, semester, or program. And then where would you like it to be? And obviously we would love 0% ghosting but realistically, where do you want to try to get to show some steady improvement and some difference? I’ll stop Jan, you share some of your intentions please with the group.

Dr. Jan Miller:
Absolutely. Thank you, Julie. When you talked about the background of the students, I really think that resonates so well with me. I like to do a lot of icebreakers with my students and I like to do the, even with different modules. But certainly to begin a new course I like to do things like you’re going to Walmart, you’re going to buy five things that tell me who you are and what you’re about. You have to list the five items, you have to tell me why you’ve chosen those and how those resonate with you. And so those are always so interesting. We usually do this via the discussion board but students will say, oh, I really love chocolate too or I’ve got kids and I’m at the toy’s section also. They start making connections with each other really, really quickly.

Dr. Jan Miller:
I would encourage any kind of icebreakers to get those backgrounds. Again, I mentioned that Google doc where I find out their alternative email address, their cell number. I don’t see share that with the students. I use it for me but I’ll create a notes section. If someone writes in the discussion board I’m going to have a baby in two weeks or I’m going on a vacation, I’ll put in those notes. And so I’ll put it in my calendar, check on Julie see if she’s had the baby yet. It’s those little things that again, the more you know and the more you make those connections, I really feel like the students appreciate that. I did want to mention on the challenges. We always are going to have students who motivation or participation is not where it needs to be.

Dr. Jan Miller:
And so what I try to do is, you can monitor participation really through the grade book. I mean, that’s seems to be the easiest route for me so if there are missing assignments, if I see that they’ve not chimed in the discussion board, to reach out to that student individually to say hey Julie, we miss you. And if they don’t respond to my email, that’s when I typically will go to strategy two for me, which is send them a quick text to say, is everything okay? Again, having that personal contact information is really, really good. Another thing that I typically do, we this a lot in our face-to-face classes. We would have in case of an emergency contact person and a number but I find even in the online environment, I put that on my Google doc. If Julie’s not participating and she’s also not responding to me, I might reach out to whoever Julie listed as their emergency contact. Again, trying to go above and beyond is super important. Those are some things I just wanted to mention.

Dr. Julie Delich:
Yeah. Thank you, Jan. And again, lots of support in the chat for similar kinds of approaches. Please keep doing that, everyone. As you have a thought, feel free to pop it in the chat. Now we’re going to transition a little bit on the next slide and we’re going to continue the conversation to talk about some dirty little secrets in education. And these are the kinds of things that we don’t love to talk about but we have to talk about things that our students perceive to be true even if it’s not true for ourselves as individuals. Before we flip the slide, I want to comment that I know that because you’re here you likely don’t buy into these dirty little secrets but student perception matters. All right, so let’s go. Let’s talk about the dirty secrets.

Dr. Julie Delich:
A lot of students assume that educators and advisors don’t care about them as unique individuals, unless we prove it otherwise. A lot of students assume they are a number to us. And while I know that’s not true for anybody on this call or you would not be here, I think it’s really important to be aware that that is likely the mindset that a lot of our students are bringing to our classrooms. The second dirty little secret is that students know that a lot of our courses are not designed specifically for an online modality and they can feel that. They can feel when a course gets lifted and shifted from a face-to-face teaching experience into online. And we haven’t done some of the adjustments to make it more appealing in an online environment. That’s another dirty secret. And then this is the one that I think pains a lot of us the most. It certainly makes me sad.

Dr. Julie Delich:
Students know that we expect them to drop out. And not only is that an expected reality but students also know that the school gets paid if they make it past the add-drop time. And so once add-drop passes they understand that if they disappear, it’s not necessarily going to financially hurt the school. That’s a really painful reality if you’re in the students seat, to be thinking and no wonder they think we don’t care when they know that these things are happening and are true. Let’s shift then to okay, so now we know the dirty secrets, which ones do you feel like you have to enter interact with the most? I think we have a poll for the audience.

Dr. Julie Delich:
Yeah, there it is. Oh, love when technology works. Which of these dirty secrets do you deal with the most or is it not applicable for you? Is there a different problem maybe that you see? We’d love to see you give us some feedback on which of these dirty you seem to encounter the most in your experience. I’ll pause a little bit to let that poll accumulate. And then folks helping us manage the technology, can we see the poll results immediately or is that something that happens later?
Kim:
I can launch that, yes. Just let me know when you want me to close it and I’ll…

Dr. Julie Delich:
Let’s go ahead and call it and let’s see what the poll results shared for us. Thank you so much, Kim. Yeah, I’m not surprised, Dan. I’d love to hear your opinion here. I’m not surprised that the biggest one is that students assume we don’t care and that they’re just a number. Jan, what do you think?

Dr. Jan Miller:
No. That’s what I was going to mark myself as I was just listening. It’s not surprising to me at all. I am curious on the N/As for those people that these didn’t apply. I hope they’ll chime in the discussion board because those may be some dirty secrets we need to add to our list that we’ve forgotten about.

Dr. Julie Delich:
Fair enough. I’m reading just a couple of them, Jan, that looks like work conflicts. The class is scheduled at the same time as my job and it’s not fair that you expect me to participate in a synchronous session. Yeah, there’s some other dirty secrets it looks like we have to go through here. Thank you for those of you sharing, keep doing it. Now, let’s continue forward to okay, we know there’s dirty secrets, we know that students ghost. What do we do about this? How are we going to help our students? Well, the first thing we need to do is start predicting. Who is a student that might be ghosting our class? And I want to reiterate, every student has the potential to ghost. Even your students that are rock stars, that are doing all of the assignments on time and the right things in your class.

Dr. Julie Delich:
They still have the potential to ghost because the highest risk students for ghosting are suffering silently. That’s what makes this so important and so dangerous. And one of the things Jan and I talk about a lot and that we work with on our advisors a lot is the idea that students are dealing with quite a bit of shame. And shame is not a topic people like to talk about or open up about but it does often play a role in why the student is suffering silently and why they are ghosting our classes. What we’re going to do to get really specific is we’re going to look at some possible student ghosting archetypes. And talk through some of the things that might tempt that kind of student to ghost and to feel shame in our classrooms. The activity we’re going to do next is talk through each of these archetypes.

Dr. Julie Delich:
And we’re going to really focus on a description of the archetype, what would tempt them potentially to ghost the class, and then some potential interventions that might help this style of student from… Help them not ghost, help them stay engaged in the class. I’m going to take this next one, the star student. The star student is one that educators often deeply relate to. If you’re hearing yourself in this one, I would not be surprised. Your star spirit students are the ones that tend to always be excelling. Going above and beyond, really pushing themselves to be the best all the time. What tempts this kind of student to disappear from your class is when they can’t perform at their highest level. Whether it’s a family issue, a health issue, even just one bad grade can cause this student to fall apart. My youngest son is a star spirit and he had the flu this weekend and Monday, he missed school.

Dr. Julie Delich:
And Tuesday, when he went back in at study hall, he went right into his AP teacher’s class and was very concerned and he missed a quiz. And the AP teacher had him take the quiz right there. But before the AP teacher had him take the quiz he said, “In your grade book right now, you have an F. Because I gave you a zero on that quiz that you missed yesterday.” And my son lost his mind. He was so out of sorts. Even though he knew he could take the makeup test, just hearing that he had an F was so shattering his identity as a star spirit. He didn’t do well on the quiz. It’s really important with this subset of students that we’re talking about what they do well. We’re focused on their strengths. We’re really empathetic when they have a grade like a B or that we don’t overemphasize that they currently have an F because they have to make up a test, right?

Dr. Julie Delich:
That empathy for this kind of learner is important even if it’s super obvious to you that they’re fine. Or they got a 98 instead of 100 and you’re like oh, come on it’s still an A. This student might see that as utter and complete failure, right? It’s important to be really thoughtful about helping these learners reframe failure as part of the learning experience not a definition of who you are, right? When my son came home we did a lot of cognitive reframing, told you I had mental health biases. We did a lot of cognitive reframing around okay, how are you going to do for the entire semester based on this one quiz that you know you didn’t do as well on? Did you learn the material? Should we talk to the teacher?

Dr. Julie Delich:
Just taking our time to think through it, does this define you as a learner? Is it going to mean anything in a week or two? Helping him really see this is just part of the learning journey. That is kind of the description of the star spirit, what tempts them to leave, and what you can do to intervene. Jan’s going to walk us through the next two kinds of potential archetypes you might see in your classroom. Over to you, Jan.

Dr. Jan Miller:
Yeah. I want to talk about the apathetic apparition. And so typically these are the students that are reluctant to sign up for your courses. They may have to do it because it’s a job requirement or maybe they’re getting re-certified and they have to take a class. I kind of put in this bucket if you think about it online, a lot of our adult learners can be in this category. Because for some of them going back to school, it’s been a while and then if you’re talking about now, I’m going to have to learn online. I can see to begin, with some students may start as apathetic but then turn into a star spirit as they see some success. I can kind of see where students can jump from different categories but definitely to the temptations for this type of student would be, it’s easy to kind of revert back and just not interact and just do the bare minimum.

Dr. Jan Miller:
They see no applications to what they’re doing in class so the more that we can make assignments more real life, associated to the real world, I definitely see that as a possibility to make them more engaged in the learning. The intervention for these students is small manageable assignments. They’ve got believe that they can do this. And I do find the more praise that we can give the better. And remember earlier when I talked about, I collected their cell phone information, for this type of learner, an unexpected text for me to say you are doing such a great job in the class, Julie. Keep it up. I’m super proud. Don’t hesitate to reach out if you need me. Remember, I’m here. Another thing that I will often offer to these students, especially if they’re adult learners and maybe this is their first class in a long time, they’re a little reluctant to send their work in, maybe writing hasn’t been a strength.

Dr. Jan Miller:
And so I always say look, if you want to me to preview your assignment before you turn it in for real, I’m happy to look at it. I’m happy to give you some feedback. And that seems to settle them down a little bit. Again, I do stress with this type of student, the more they can plan… If the assignments due Saturday at midnight, don’t wait at 11:00 PM to try to submit because that’s when the tornado or the storm’s going to come through and knock out the power. Again, pacing is important but you have to teach this sometimes and talk it to your students the importance of trying to take it little bites at a time. One of the things too, that I’ve done in this is so often you can see good qualities come out.

Dr. Jan Miller:
For instance, I teach a lot of the instructional leadership classes and maybe I’m teaching a class that’s in the counseling program but I really see signs of leadership in Julie. And so if I say, Julie, when you finish this degree, you really should think about leadership. We’ve reduced our option and you can easily add this onto your certification. Again, I’m looking for little things that can help make them better. Anything that I didn’t say, Julie, on the apathetic apparition?

Dr. Julie Delich:
Oh, I think you’ve absolutely described that beautifully. I love that you framed it as this isn’t necessarily a student that’s always going to stay apathetic. They could turn into a star. I love that you added that context, Jan that’s so-

Dr. Jan Miller:
Yeah, I definitely can see that happening. They may be reluctant at first so I did want to mention that. Now we’ll talk about, I know we’ve all had a slow shadow in our class. I kind of call this as EOR. They’re just so slow. They just want to go along. They may work diligently but it takes forever for them to complete those assignments. These are the ones that are going to wait like I said, till 11:00 PM to turn in something that’s due at midnight. And what happens is they fall behind and guess what? They stay further and further and further behind. And so for these students, having those deadlines, having those periodic check-ins with them and encouraging them, turn things in ahead, let’s do pieces at a time. That really, really seems to work.

Dr. Jan Miller:
I think too, for this type of student having flexibility, especially if it’s in an online environment. I try to tell my advisors and my professors because of COVID we’ve all had to become more understanding, more flexible. And just because we’ve always done it this way and grades are always due here and you turn it in right now, I try to encourage my students. If you communicate with me on the front end that a family member has taken ill and you’ve got to help take care of, we all have been there and we understand. What we don’t like is for it to be after the fact, after the due date. Again, it’s modeling on our behalf, it’s communicating, it’s being flexible but these slow shadows will probably be one of the first to ghost because they just have a tendency to kind of revert. And so again, staying in touch with encouragement and praise will go a long way with these students.

Dr. Julie Delich:
Great points. Thank you so much, Jan. Let’s keep moving on to, we’ve got two more archetypes to talk through with you. The squeaky specter. The squeaky specter is a student that does the work but is really loud about complaining and being negative. And their negativity often is very contagious in the classroom or in the chat. They have a lot to say and it’s usually not positive and often it’s personal and geared at you as the faculty member or the advisor. This student is really tempted to ghost when they don’t feel heard, when they don’t feel like they’ve been validated or listened to. Even though sometimes it’s hard, even though you can feel every ounce of your being wanting to defend your curriculum and defend your intentions, the best thing you can do for this kind of squeaky specter is to give them a place just to tell you what they think and feel privately, right?

Dr. Julie Delich:
Create a space away from the class that allows them to be heard and validated even if you don’t agree. And what helps me with this… This is a hard student to deal with, right? Because they often are really, they’re coming at you with sometimes a lot of venom. And it’s important to remember that usually this kind of behavior is coming from a place of pain. And if I can keep that in the front of my mind while I’m dealing with this kind of student, it softens me and it allows me to be more empathetic and to be less defensive. I don’t have to agree with what they’re saying but I do give them an opportunity to tell me what they’re thinking and feeling to share their point of view and really listen. Because sometimes there are some really good stuff in what they have to share and it can show you some of your blind spots that you might not have been aware of.

Dr. Julie Delich:
As long as you can move them away from being negative with the whole group, that’s a really helpful intervention to prevent this person from ghosting and from taking people with them when they ghost. The last one we’re going to talk about is probably my favorite because it’s my oldest son and I relate to it a little bit too. The feisty phantasm is the type of student that might not take your assignments super seriously or your program or course super seriously. They can be very easily off track and distracted and they some really interesting, crazy wild stories that they love to share in the classroom or online. Usually what tempts this kind of learner to disappear is when they’re not getting enough attention or they get labeled for this kind of behavior. They get called a class clown or a distraction or some kind of negative labeling gets assigned to this kind of learner.

Dr. Julie Delich:
And yes, there’s a feisty phantasm in every classroom where I work, Luke. I see that, I feel that. What do you do with these kinds of learners? The best thing you can do is help them feel connected to the content and give them a space to shine. If you let this student tell a wild exciting story that’s related to your content, they can actually be your biggest asset. They can help entertain your class. They can make it practical and real and exciting and interesting. And I totally did make archetypes related to my children. That’s a good call out, Kendra. My oldest son is 100% the feisty phantasm. He tells crazy wild stories and he had a teacher that just got him and encouraged him to go to debate club. And he just absolutely blossomed into this incredible academic student. He excelled he’s a freshman in college and doing incredible work. Because this one teacher got it and knew that if I gave him a place where he can really be appropriately animated and excited, he can be successful.

Dr. Julie Delich:
That’s another thing. This can be a hard student to deal with too so having that kind of where it’s coming from perspective can really help you soften your approach. We have another poll for you. We can transition to that. Which one do you relate to the most? Which of these spirits kind of speaks to your archetype, your inner person? Now of course, nobody fits perfectly into anyone. We change as Jan talked about throughout our journey and our life but we’d love to see kind of where you fall. Because we have some ideas around where most educators, I think I already told you that. But I’d love to see your results here on where you all fall. Hopefully, I’ve scattered along enough to give you time to pick one. Let’s see our result. Ah, we were right, Jan. We’re in a room full of star spirits. 64% of you connected more with that star spirit, which is exactly what we thought. People that love education and love excelling in education tend to become educators. Jan, did you want to add any other thoughts that I missed from your perspective?

Dr. Jan Miller:
No, it’s awesome. I’m like your amien sister right back here, reading all these great comments, so good.

Dr. Julie Delich:
Fantastic. Let’s go ahead then and start transitioning into the next part of our presentation. Just like the Ghost Hunters here, we’re going to start talking about kind of investigating and getting into more of the reasons why things happen and some activities to help with your investigation. Moving into the next slide here, we wanted to just review with you kind of the top three general reasons why students ghost. This is across all archetypes across all student base. Jan, do you want to take us through those first couple there?

Dr. Jan Miller:
Yeah, absolutely. Interestingly, we have some smart people on today because they talked about connecting and communication and so many of these things. But reason number one often why students ghost is lack of connection. Again, going back to the more that we can support and we can understand and that we can communicate and make those connections, that’s going to be one reason that’s going to go away. That to me is an easy one to fix. We just have to remember that lack of connection is probably one of the top reasons people do ghost. Reason two, lack of support or resources. Again, the more that you stay on top of these students especially, we use the word early intervention. We don’t want to wait till midterm or closer to the end to realize a student is ghosting.

Dr. Jan Miller:
The quicker that you can intervene, the quicker that you can identify in your grade book or through discussion board that they’re not participating, I think the better. Because then you can support them. You can find out what’s going on. What do you need? We all have resources at our disposal. And once you know the reason you can better support and you can share those resources. The more that we can personalize again, they’re more than a number, they are a person and name I think that connection and support can better be met.

Dr. Julie Delich:
Yeah. And then I’m going to try not to go too much on a tangent on this one. If you can take us back to the three reasons slide, please. About a year ago, I wrapped up my dissertation on this topic and an advising model all around shame resilience for the way we advise online learners. I’m reading it in the chat, it’s so easy to fall into this trap of these are adults, they should know how to do this. Or these are adults, they should own their own journey. Because we’re adults and we’re star spirits and we did the thing. It’s so easy to fall into some of those traps, those mental traps and not think about the fact that some of these learners don’t have shame resilience skills. No matter how old they are, no matter how worldly and experienced they are, shame resilience is key to being successful.

Dr. Julie Delich:
We’re going to dive a little deeper into that. Now, go ahead please and flip to our next slide if you would. We’re going to actually talk you through rewriting some phrases that can be a dentally shaming. I want to be really clear here that we don’t think any of you are purposefully shaming your students. Again, you wouldn’t be here, right, if you had that intent. I know that’s not true. This happens inadvertently. To prove that point, both Jan and I are going to share an academic shaming story in our own personal experience and help… This usually opens Pandora’s box where people start thinking about all their own shaming incidents. In undergrad, I was in an art for educators course and I’m not a very strong artist. It’s never been my particular talent. I admire it and I love it. It’s just not something I’m natural at.

Dr. Julie Delich:
When I was in this art course, the professor’s way of grading was you would put your work on a panel on a lunch tray from that term and then he would put your tray in order of best to worst around the room. And then the top third was an A, middle third was a B, bottom third was a C, and then there were a few stragglers he’d put at the end for lower. And as a star spirit, I always saw mine on the verge of a B, C, which was crushing to my soul especially with how hard I worked. I would redo assignments and take them in at office hours. And I mean, I was star spiriting the heck out of this class. I don’t think this professor was intentionally creating a shaming environment. Even though to most of us, there’s probably some horror I would think from the faces I’ve seen when I’ve talked about this before that you would never do something like that.

Dr. Julie Delich:
This professor came from the art world. He was used to being critiqued. He was used to setting up an environment where people were openly and transparently critiqued. I think from his vantage point while yeah, it probably was a FERPA violation, Sam really from his point of view it wasn’t negative. He was doing you a favor by helping you understand. Jan, do you want to share your shame inducing story with the crowd?

Dr. Jan Miller:
Yes. I’ll share a quick one because I definitely want us to finish but mine, interestingly enough is along the same as your story in the arts. As an elementary ed major, we had to take music for elementary ed teachers. I am not musically inclined at all and I wish I were but we had the old timey recorders where we would have to learn to play Mary had a little lamb and twinkle twinkle little star. Well, we would have to do these individual performances and I was horrified because he would get on us if we didn’t do it exactly right, if we didn’t have the beat, the tune. And so I was called out more times than I would like to. And I wanted to take that recorder and snap it and break it and throw it away many, many days. Yes, I was shamed many times but along with you, it was kind of in the arts. I don’t think it was purposeful. It was because that’s in his world, that’s how they make people better.

Dr. Julie Delich:
Yep. Let’s go ahead and just do one of the examples on the shaming here. I am going to pick just the middle one for the sake of time but you can go back and do these on your own. Let’s work together on this middle one. The educator says this program is too hard for you, you should definitely change majors. This isn’t a good fit. The student could hear that as you aren’t good enough, you aren’t worthy enough to be in this program. Let’s think for a minute and maybe post in the chat about how could you say the same kind of concern for the student that maybe this program is not the right fit in a way that could be way less shaming to the student. We’ll give you just a minute to contemplate that. Vanessa’s got a good one. How are you feeling the course is going? What’s working and what’s not? Beautiful, right?

Dr. Julie Delich:
That’s a question that invites a conversation. You’re checking for the self-awareness of the student. It definitely is much more simple. What’s drawing you to this major? Great one. I love that. What challenges are you facing with this program, with this assignment? Tell me more about what you see for your future. That would be my favorite one. I love tell me more about, right. It doesn’t put the student necessarily on the spot with a why kind of question. Believe it or not why, as innocent as it is, why can be a really difficult word for students? They can perceive that to mean something’s wrong that they have to defend. Let’s talk about that’s another good one, Kim. Let’s talk about your goals. Great. Okay. You all get this, right? You want to be really thoughtful about your word choices, about the way you’re framing things with students so that you can rewrite them in a way that’s helping students grow and develop.

Dr. Julie Delich:
All right. Let’s keep on moving. The next thing we’re going to do is talk about some innovative strategies we want to make sure we leave you with before we run out of time. Thank you for all the engagement. It’s making this so much fun. This is again, oh my gosh, I’m going to try not to soap box you and you’re going to have to cut me off. Okay. The five Cs are a way of interacting with students that I designed as part of that dissertation I talked about earlier and the advising model. They don’t have to happen in a linear way. That’s why there’s all the circles throughout the picture here. But it’s all about connecting with students on a personal level, creating a vision for the future with your students, challenging your students to think differently. If you hear a thought that is dysfunctional or maybe not accurate, challenging the student to cognitively reframe it, to think about the evidence and the helpfulness of their thinking.

Dr. Julie Delich:
Collaborating with your students so that they are doing parts of the journey that they’re responsible for and you’re being clear about what you’re doing. And making a personal commitment to helping that student with follow up action. The student has a follow up. They’re committing to take A, B, and C and you as the educator and the administrator, whoever take ownership of doing steps X, Y, Z for follow up and committing to those steps. Again, in the interest of time, I’m going to keep plugging away to the next strategy. Proactive outreach. Jan talked about this. Don’t wait. Don’t wait till they’re in trouble. Reach out before the students are struggling. Make those connections early. Use those five Cs frequently and that’s part of what you do to create a safe space for students is use those five Cs. And then the support plan is an individualized approach. It’s not a deficit model. It’s not an at risk model. It’s a how can this student gain more support in a place they need it? Jan is going to on the next slide, walk us through an example of a potential support plan you could build.

Dr. Jan Miller:
Yeah. And so you can take this template and tweak it for yourself but let’s just say I’ve got five students that I know they’re in the slow category. And so I come up with a plan and I’m going to meet with Julie and Jan and Tim, I come up with a plan and it’s individualized but you can kind of categories your students together. And the more that we have a plan, I think the better that we’re going to meet their needs when we are intentional and they know we care and having a plan, it just always works best.

Dr. Julie Delich:
Absolutely. Thank you so much, Jan. Let’s wrap it up with a conversation about some best practices and some trends that we’re seeing. We wanted to talk through just three best practices on the next slide with you. Jan’s going to talk about the first two I’ll cover that last one.

Dr. Jan Miller:
Yeah. Long lectures are out. We know that. We tend to tune out so smaller is better and this… when you can do bite size content, it’s always best. Always keep that in mind. We’ve said this from the get go, be proactive. Outreach to your students is essential. The more that you can check in and often it’s key.

Dr. Julie Delich:
And then finally we’ve talked about connection. They want connection with you. Students also want connections with skills that lead them to employment, right, and or mentorship. Jan and I work with another organization called Mentor Collective. If you haven’t heard of them, they’re phenomenal. They have a really great algorithm with matching students and mentors that we’ve seen some cool retention results from based on tons of research, really aligned with everything we’re talking about. But you can build that into your curriculum and your advising too. How does the course link to a career outcome, link to mentorship opportunities? All right. I’m trying to speed up my talk. I know you can see some of our chat between the moderators about trying to wrap up so we can get to your questions. General conclusion, make ghost hunting part of your prep process.

Dr. Julie Delich:
Do the goal setting, do the intention setting. Think about what you’re going to anticipate seeing, measure it. Really put some intentionality behind this. We know you’re busy but add it to your prep. We talked about posting your intentions somewhere your students can see. Seek out support from each other. I don’t know if you all are following the chat. It is amazing. There are some incredible comments flying by and some of the support that I’m seeing you all give each other. There are people that you can connect with right in this particular webinar so exchange info. Stay in touch, create a support network of people that understand what ghosting is and have the same kind of mission you do to overcome it and help your students.

Dr. Julie Delich:
And then we’d love to hear more. We have an email that if you want to send some of your best practices or your stories, some of the stuff you’ve sent in the chat feel free to send to this email. And we have a hashtag so if you want to stop student ghosting as a hashtag, if you’re posting anywhere, please feel free to do that. We’d love to follow your ideas. Okay, cool. I tried to talk as fast as I could moderators. Do have time left for some questions?
Cali Morrison:
We do. And we have quite a few questions. Those that we’re not able to answer during the live session, we will type up answers and share those with the recording of the webcast. I want to start with the first one, which was where do the student profiles and the data for this presentation come from?

Dr. Julie Delich:
We created the student profiles ourselves. The data comes mostly from Wiley’s experience with about 60 different universities that… And Jan and I have worked together specifically on the students of UWA but the data itself that we collected to design this comes from the Wiley portfolio of schools.
Cali Morrison:
Thank you. Our next question came from anonymous and it says, what advice do you all have for nurturing safe spaces for students to be seen and heard when their whole experience with us is online from start to finish of their degree?

Dr. Julie Delich:
Yeah. Such a good question, Jan. I’ll give a real short answer but I’d love your opinion here. Anything you can do to give them opportunities for face to face or synchronous connection, even if it’s outside of a requirement is really going to help create that safe space. Particularly, if they have something that’s personal that they want to share with you. Jan, please go ahead. This is your friend model.

Dr. Jan Miller:
Absolutely. We try to use video a lot and so we have class sessions. We say, if you can join, join. If you can’t we’ll record it but even in the discussion board, we’ll have students to do videos introducing themselves. And so what I find students start making connections within the class. And so it’s not always, as you mentioned, Julie, the responsibility on me. I find students when they see kind of the tone, they start supporting and reaching out to each other too. Even those students who they see are ghosting. But the more that we can make it feel face-to-face and that interaction is key.

Dr. Julie Delich:
And Jan and I actually tried to model that a little bit and it looks like it’s working so I’ll just highlight that for a second. We talked about, I’ve seen these incredible comments and you should connect with each other. And like people are posting LinkedIn links all over the place. All you really have to do is provide the space and notice it. And people will often, especially your star spirits, will very quickly go ahead and jump in and make those connections. Just give them just a little bit of space to do it.

Dr. Jan Miller:
And Julie, I’m thinking now a great icebreaker in my class going forward would be an introduction to the five ghosts and say, we don’t want anybody to be a ghost. Which one are you? And let’s make sure we all stay interactive and participating. I may have to borrow this for an icebreaker.

Dr. Julie Delich:
You got it. I love it. I love it. We are coming up really close on time. We have some other great questions but I think they’re ones that lend themselves well to answering in writing. I think next up is turning back to Megan who is going to close us out with a couple of announcements from WCET for our community. Thank you all so much for a great presentation today.

Megan Raymond:
Great. And thank you Cali, Jan, and Julie. I’ve really enjoyed this. I loved the theme throughout and the interaction was unprecedented so kudos to all the participants. You make these fun and engaging so thank you for contributing. I just want to run through a few things and any important announcements about other cool things we have in the works with WCET. Someone had requested the link to WCET. It’s right there, wcet.wiche.edu so get online, view our previous webinars. We have lots of great resources. You can follow our blog. The webcast was recorded and we’ll share a link to the resources. We’ll get follow up responses to the questions that were left unanswered in the link to the recording and all of it will be free and open on our website.

Megan Raymond:
If you are thinking that this would be a great session at the annual meeting, or you want to get together and share some of what you’ve learned throughout your ghosting and online experiences, submit a proposal. You have until tomorrow at midnight to get your proposal in so keep that in mind. And I’d like to acknowledge all of our sponsors that underwrite our events and programs here at WCET. They make our work happen so we are indebted to them as well as our supporting members. And if you’re not a member of WCET, either reach out to me or get on our website and learn all about the benefits that extend to everybody within your organization. Again, thank you and we’ll see you on the next webinar. Take care, everybody.

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