University of Innsbruck (AUSTRIA)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN21 Proceedings
Publication year: 2021
Page: 4133 (abstract only)
ISBN: 978-84-09-31267-2
ISSN: 2340-1117
doi: 10.21125/edulearn.2021.0877
Conference name: 13th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 5-6 July, 2021
Location: Online Conference
At the University of Innsbruck, we offer a Digital Science minor that targets interdisciplinary students. In the winter semester of 2018/19, we started a pilot phase teaching a programming course. Student interest in the course was high but the pass rate was low. It was mostly due to a high drop rate. Over semesters, we developed a strategy to increase the pass rate to a satisfying level.

As we teach a highly heterogeneous group of students, who need intensive support, the learning groups are kept small (20-30). As our courses are optional, our budget is limited and we cannot simply increase the number of parallel groups to address high demand (up to 4 booking requests per seat). Therefore, we need to focus on the effective usage of available resources.

For interdisciplinary students who usually lack prior experience in the subject, it is important to clarify all misconceptions about our courses and their syllabus. To address this, we developed a participant management strategy supporting students in their decision if our courses are relevant and manageable for them. Our strategy starts at the end of the registration period and ends a few weeks into the semester.

We start by observing booking request numbers to identify overbooked courses and be prepared for required actions. For overbooked courses (at least 1.5 requests per seat) we send out a call for awareness to students. In the call, there is detailed information on workload, content, grading rules and even temporary access to the complete course material. This usually results in 10% to 30% request cancellations.

When accepting students in a course, we overbook the capacity by 20% to accommodate a potential drop rate. Accepted students get a welcome note and students on the waiting list instructions on how to officially join the course with delay. Regardless of their status, all have access to the course material and communication channels.

In the first two to four weeks of a 15-week-long semester, we have a trial period with a constant flow of outgoing and incoming students. In this period, students can see to what extent a course meets their expectations. To foster this process, in the first week, we conduct a survey where we ask students about their expectations. Before the end of the trial period, we clarify all false expectations.

During the trial period, students need to manifest their interest in the course by either attending classes or excusing their absences. We introduced this rule due to the unresponsiveness of students. Participation of students who do not manifest their interest is cancelled. If students lose interest in a course, they may cancel their participation themselves without being graded (25%).

On the other hand, during the trial period, we accept students from the waiting list. To keep it efficient and transparent, we use a forum where we publish vacancies. Students may apply for vacancies on a first-come-first-served principle. If they are within the limit, they can just join the next class without any confirmation. In the first two weeks, vacancies are usually taken within an hour or two. Later, the interest decreases and at the end usually some vacancies remain. After the trial period, the number of participants is usually around the capacity of the course.

Over semesters, we have experienced that our strategy allows us to accommodate all motivated students to join the course while starting from up to 2.5 booking requests per seat.
Participant Management, Monitoring, Call of Awareness, Waiting List, Trial Period, False Expectations.