Using failure to learn

Submitted by Christina Van on
What is the Purpose of the Assessment?

 To increase retention in online introductory classes.

Describe the necessity for this assessment

General need to increase retention in early college classes to increase overall persistence.

Describe how the practice will be implemented

Based on previous research,  I believe that initiating telephone contact early in the semester with introductory level online students would increase retention and possibly have a positive effect on grade. I set up an assignment in half of my online psychology 101 classes in fall 2018 indicating I would contact them by phone in the first half of the semester and requesting their phone number and best time to call.

Interpret, compare, and describe the results

I failed. I was unable to contact all of my students by phone for a variety of reasons, and unable to leave voice messages for many.  I decided to use this as a learning opportunity and asked for feedback on my original plan to call as well as if they believed it was a useful intervention (if I had completed it). I also apologized for not following through, both because they deserved it and because I wanted to model taking responsibility.

After analyzing, and reflecting on the outcome, what are the next steps?

100% of the students who responded told me that although they were nervous about me calling, they would have appreciated a call and felt it would have increased their sense of connection in the class.  Moving forward I will plan the same intervention next semester and ensure that I start early, manage my time, and send emails to those I am unable to contact.  I have learned how time-consuming it is and can plan better next semester.


I planned an intervention to increase retention of online introductory students by making telephone contact with them early in the semester. The intervention did not go as planned as it was far more time-consuming than expected and I was unable to leave voicemail messages for a variety of reasons on a number of student provided cell phones.  Students were aware of this planned intervention and have provided information to me during the first week of class about how to contact them and best times. As I was unable to contact most of my students, I posted an apology and request for feedback about the assignment to model taking responsibility and find out if it was a worthwhile endeavor despite the time commitment. From student feedback it seems to value to students is high and I will attempt the same intervention next semester with more knowledge of the time management necessary.

Completed Full Cycle
Course Number
PSY 101
Average: 3.8 (5 votes)


Erik Huntsinger Tue, 01/29/2019 - 9:57am

I appreciate your intervention Christina.  I know how time consuming that project must have been.  It might be anxiety-producing for most peopleat any time in history to talk to their professor over the phone, but that might particularly be true with our new generation of students.  Have you considered having students select days/times in your calendar during regular office hours to schedule a phone call?  That might reduce some of the missed contact.

Catherine Cochran Tue, 01/29/2019 - 12:25pm


This is an excellent intervention!  As a student, I remember taking online courses, and I felt disconnected many times.  I would have appreciated my instructors reaching out to me on a personal level.  If students were anixious, it is always scary to have intial one-on-one conversations with your college instructors.  

I am curious to see what results you find.  I hope you do this again with your online classes!

Thank you for sharing!


Amy Hill Tue, 01/29/2019 - 12:38pm

Hi Christina!

I hope you keep us updated for next semester as I am very interested in the outcome given we have online classes within our program.