The online classroom environment has the opportunity to be developed in a way where students feel connected, engaged, and as if they belong to their very own community. 

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Online students have a lower retention rate and course completion rate compared to face-to-face students.

Instructor presence is a critical factor related to student success online.

Online instructors must be flexible, responsive, and committed to engaging and retaining students (Roody, et al., 2017).

Reasons Students May Struggle Online

  • Procrastination
  • Technical Difficulties
  • Confused by Content
  • Feeling Isolated
  • Lack of Motivation

How to Identify Struggling Students

Implement Early Check-Ins

Contact students early on in the course to see if anyone has any questions. This creates a classroom dynamic where students understand the instructor as a caring support system.

Encourage Engagement

Creating an online community in the classroom provides another opportunity for engagement for students. This can be used as an additional tool to determine if students are struggling with a lack of engagement.

Monitor Student Progress

Faculty can use assignments and discussion postings as a guide to determine if students are struggling in the course based on if items are late or not turned in at all.

How to Support Struggling Students

Resources and Instructions

Sharing resources such as tutoring, student support services, and other resources can help students who are struggling.


Constant communication with students can help keep them informed of upcoming assignments and changes to course material or deadlines.

Flexibility with Deadlines

If possible, extending deadlines takes some of the pressure off of students who may not be able to complete the given coursework.


  • All online students have the potential to struggle in online courses.
  • Faculty can create communities in the classroom and reach out to individual students to show support.
  • The earlier a student is identified as struggling the sooner interventions can happen to support that student.


The mission of the Rothwell Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence is to empower faculty members in their pursuit of professional growth through diverse offerings for the universal goal of student success.

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This section provides resources for assessing student learning, assessing your teaching, and improving your class(es).

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This section provides guidance on classroom management, issues, methods, assessment, improvement, diversity, equity, and inclusion. Topics include feedback, engagement, instructor presence, and active learning.