The Tiered Approach to Student Support

Section 6.3 of our e-learning course challenged students to think about how we will support students who are struggling in our e-learning environments. The question at hand and my answer are below:

Q: Consider the importance of supporting students who may struggle in an online environment, whether due to their poor work habits or due to their (???). What strategies and/or LMS tools could you use to support these students’ abilities to work independently and those with weak literacy skills?

A:  Every student group will have its own natural variation on how academically strong they will be. Think of the statistical “bell curve” – almost any group of things in nature will fall into that curve – adjusting for standard deviation etc. There will be students who struggle in almost any course. Our readings have us refer to this three level “tiered approach”.

Fullscreen capture 2016-09-24 104121 PM.jpg

So tier 1 starts us off by reminding us to use good UDL (universal design for learning) and Differentiated Instruction as part of our course design. Hopefully, this would deal with the first line of students who may struggle a little.

Tier 2 might catch some students who are struggling beyond what tier 1 above may accommodate. Tier 2 suggests interventions and adjusted instruction. More monitoring and communication is needed here for these students.

Tier 3 demands even greater levels of personalized instruction and assessment. An “in-school team” is suggested here to give the student more support.

In Summary –  As an E-learning teacher we should do the following:

Good course design
UDL / DI generously applied
Communication / Monitoring
Mixed Media (reading /video /audio)
Engaging, Relevant Content & Activities
Learning Skills
Checklists/ Customized Calendars
Challenge students to set goals, monitor themselves and reward themselves

The last three points provide some of my own personal thoughts that could help a struggling student when we start communicating with them more.  Students should be reminded and challenged to improve their learning skills. These are the “verbs” of being a good student.  Also, a teacher could help a student organize themselves and drive towards the completion of the course by creating “progress checklists” that the student could use to move towards completing modules. It might be a good idea to mix a progress checklist with a calendar to really help a student break their tasks into “do-able” smaller chunks – within specified time windows.

With all that stated … I must admit that E-learning has a pre-requisite skill set and will probably be unforgiving to those who lack a basic literacy and computer skill set. Students who lack those two skills will probably need a face to face learning environment until they develop the basics skills required to learn on their own in a digital environment.

-Dwayne Murphy


2 thoughts on “The Tiered Approach to Student Support”

  1. Hi Dwayne,
    I really liked your post! Great thinking when making tasks more “do-able” in smaller chunks. When breaking things into smaller chunks of learning it isn’t so intimidating for first timers on an e-learning course or for those that need that little extra support. But I do agree with you, students taking e-learning courses do need a certain skill set to be successful in the online learning environment.
    Thanks, Julie


  2. Hi Dwayne,
    I like the idea of a progress checklist. It would work for me, personally – someone with an organizational bent. I make to-do lists all the time, and enjoy when I can cross things off the list. Also, with the teacher providing the list for students, it could help students who don’t have that built-in organizational skill.


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