SOU's ability to offer financial aid to our students depends on accurate institutional reporting. Faculty play a key role in verifying student engagement the first week of class. To confirm engagement, all instructors are required to assist in two ways: 1) incorporate an engagement activity into their first week of class, and 2) report any students who do not engage.
All students who receive federal financial aid are required to attend and participate in every course for which they register. This requirement applies equally to online and on-campus students. Faculty play an important role in monitoring attendance during the first week of class so that SOU can maintain its compliance with Title IV financial aid regulations. Failure to accurately report students receiving Financial Aid who do not show up for the first week of class can trigger audits leading to financial penalties and jeopardizes our ability to offer aid to our students.
Instructors must document that students have attended and participated during the first week of class. For courses that meet face-to-face, we encourage faculty to engage students in a learning activity and take roll—that’s the easiest way to check participation if the question arises later. For online courses, students must do more than simply log into Moodle, so we offer a range of suggestions below to demonstrate their engagement starting from the first week of class.
Indicators of Active Participation
Regardless of the instructional delivery mode, the US Department of Education (USDE) describes the following activities as indicators of attendance and active participation (see the formal rules at the official website):
- Attending a synchronous class, lecture, recitation, or field or laboratory activity where there is an opportunity for interaction between the instructor and students;
- Submitting an assignment;
- Taking an assessment or an exam;
- Participating in an interactive tutorial or webinar;
- Participating in an assigned study group, group project or an online discussion; or
- Interacting with an instructor about academic matters.
The following activities are not considered by the USDE as indicators of first-week engagement:
- Living in campus housing or using an institutional meal plan,
- Logging into an online class or tutorial without any further participation, or
- Participating in academic counseling or advising.
Methods to Confirm Participation
In Moodle, some easy ways to confirm participation during the first week of class are to post a forum asking students to introduce themselves and describe an aspect of how the course content may interest/affect them, create a syllabus quiz, or survey students with a questionnaire. (See specific suggestions for engaging students during the first week of class below.) Providing a means for students to actively engage in a course online enables the Financial Aid office to complete system audits and remain in compliance with the federal regulations that make it possible for SOU to offer financial aid to our students.
The easiest way to verify that students have actively engaged in your course via Moodle is to use completion tracking. At the end of the first full week of class, run an activity completion report and identify any student(s) who did not complete the engagement activity that you have designed to meet the engagement requirement described here.
"No Show" Reporting
SOU faculty are required to document any student who does not attend the first full week of an in-person course or participate during the first week of an online course. Completing this "No Show" reporting form will report missing students to both the Registrar and the Office of Financial Aid.
Prompt reporting of students who do not show up during the first week of class as described above will enable the timely review of their Financial Aid status and ensure that SOU remains in compliance with federal standards.
For more information regarding the requirement to track first week engagement, contact Finaid@sou.edu.
Suggestions for First Week Engagement
Here are some ideas for establishing engagement on the first day of class held in person: Make the Most of the First Day of Class. The following ideas could be used in either face-to-face or online courses. The examples illustrated below have been created in a Moodle course (First Week Activities) that faculty may self-enroll in as teachers (enrollment key: FirstDay), enabling them to import any of these elements into their own course(s). Note that the entry questionnaires described here can be added to any course without enrolling in the First Day Activities course.
Possible prompt: Please introduce yourself by telling us a bit about where you're from and what you hope to learn from your participation in this course. Which course objectives are you most looking forward to adding to your knowledgebase or skill set?
This “Quick Start Questionnaire” has been set up as a template that faculty can add to a course and use as is or modify. Points can be attached for submission that are auto-generated by Moodle. How familiar are you with our course topic? What do you hope to learn from your participation in this course? Which course objectives are you most looking forward to adding to your knowledgebase or skill set?
A similar questionnaire template has been created to solicit student reflections on the course syllabus: Which of the learning objectives for this course are most important to you personally, and why? Of the course assignments, which are you least (or most) looking forward to completing, and why?
Online Text Assignment
Possible prompt: Ask students to indicate what they already know about the topic and/or what they hope to learn from their participation in the course. Which course objectives are you most looking forward to adding to your knowledgebase or skill set?
File Upload Assignment [not shown]
Ask students to submit a file in response to a course-related prompt, worksheet, questionnaire, etc.
An alternative to the Introductions Forum, a glossary is another way for students to introduce themselves. A glossary offers a slightly different focus than the forum without the expectation for replies.
A Choice (one-question survey) could ask students about the extent of their knowledge or experience with the course topic.
Syllabus Quiz [not shown]
Quiz your students on specifics of your syllabus: number/timing of exams, requirements for term papers, standard due dates, grade weights, etc. Multiple choice, true false and matching questions can all be graded automatically by Moodle.