Best Practices | 7 Ways to Bring Closure to Your Course
Can you believe there's only a month left in the semester? You and your students may be tired and taking it one day at a time, or perhaps you're excitedly counting down the end of the term.
What signals the end of the semester? For students (and instructors), the grand finale might be submitting the final exam or assignment, which certainly is an exciting moment, but what does this endcap say about the course? We're with our students for 16 weeks-we build connections, knowledge, and skills together, and then we celebrate these achievements with an assessment. I'm not opposed to exams and final papers; it's imperative to assess student achievement and instruction. However, I don't love the idea of saying farewell by means of assessment.
This is especially salient in an online course. Oftentimes the final interaction is clicking the Submit button on a final exam or assignment page-the last thing students see is aSubmission page. Does this mean the course over? Is there something else students need to do? Abrupt endings can leave students in limbo, giving them feelings of uncertainty, anxiety, or even apathy. Eggleston and Smith (2002) report that many faculty typically don't engage in effective course conclusions, and 90% of students indicated they would appreciate more closure in their courses.
When you say goodbye to someone, whether it's a loved one, a colleague, your pet, or a stranger you've just met, how do you conclude your interaction? I typically close my interactions with a hug or handshake, and at bare minimum a smile and verbalized goodbye. Why shouldn't we treat our students the same way? This doesn't mean avoiding a final exam or paper, but I think we owe our students a parting of ways. Something that lets them know the course has culminated-something that provides them (and us!) with a satisfying and academic sense of closure.
Here are 7 ideas to help you do just that.
The One Thing
Ask students to share the single most important or most interesting thing they learned in your course in a collaborative space such as a Google Slides presentation, Padlet, Glogster, or discussion board. You can also encourage students to include graphics or multimedia to personalize their post. When complete, the collaborative work will showcase snapshots of learning, which can be revisited by students and used to inform your instruction.
Tip: This can be easily adapted for other prompts, such as:
- What is something you accomplished in this course that you are proud of?
- What was the most challenging aspect of this course? How did you conquer it?
- In what area do you feel you made your biggest improvements?
If you'd like to extract more than one thing, a 3-2-1 invites students to share three concepts they'll remember from your course, two ways they can apply what they've learned, and one lingering question they still have. Ideally, you'll want to deliver this activity a week or two before the course closes so you can respond to students' questions.
Tip: These prompts encourage students to synthesize what they've learned and make personal connections. They also reveals student interest and perceptions of your course concepts, which can guide future instruction.
Have students create a course memento-something that represents their personal experience with your course and captures a memory of their learning experience. This could be practically anything. Students could create a graphic, drawing, postcard, digital badge, poem, hashtag, Tweet, Instagram post, or commercial; or they could share a song, meme, video, quote, or image. You control the criteria and freedom students have with this activity, so you'll want to provide clear instructions.
Tip: Students can share their uploads in a communal space such as a discussion board or Google Slides presentation so everyone can see the class contributions.
Top 10 Lists
Invite students to compile a Top 10 list for your course. You might ask them to identify the top 10 things they will use in their academic, professional, or personal lives; the top 10 facts learned; or the top 10 misconceptions about the course topics (and their truths). The list topic will depend on your subject matter, and remember that your activity criteria will guide student focus and creativity.
You could end your course with a video where you provide students with a personal sign-off. Your video might include a review of what students have learned in your course and how they might apply their knowledge and skills as they advance in their degree program, career, or personal life, or you could share pivotal moments and specific interactions from the semester. Much like a course introduction video, this is an opportunity to showcase your personality and intimately connect with your students to wish them farewell.
Tip: Canvas Studio conveniently offers webcam and screen-capture options in Canvas. You can also schedule an appointment to record your video with the CIRT Creative team in our video studio.
A survey created with Qualtrics or Canvas Quizzes can query students on their overall learning experience in your course. This feedback will provide feedback on your instruction and identify strengths and needs for your course. The data can also supplement ISQs to support your promotion and tenure.
Tip: Incorporate a couple open-ended questions to gather robust metrics on your course and instruction. Your instructional designer can provide you with multiple-choice and qualitative questions for inspiration and help you set up your survey.
Schedule an in-person goodbye somewhere on campus, such as Starbucks or a meeting space in your department building. You could also host a picnic on the green and invite students to bring their lunch or snacks to share. Invite students who can't attend the face-to-face meetup to say farewell in a discussion board and share their favorite Starbucks drink or recipe-something related to your meeting place.
Note: You'll want to include context for any activity you choose to implement. Let students know that this is the end of the course, and that you're highlighting their accomplishments and sending them off with your chosen activity. A personal note and goodbye from you is also a nice touch.
Fast-forward to a few months from now. What will your students recall when they think back to your course? Will they remember a challenging assignment, an exciting project, or a particular grade? Or will they relish in what they learned and how they grew in your course? A culminating activity has the power to help students recognize everything they've accomplished in your time together. Most of all, it will give your students (and you) a positive memory and satisfaction of closure.
There's still time to create a culminating activity for this semester. So why not open your calendar right now and block time for this? You can also schedule a consultation with your instructional designer for support or additional ideas to bring academic closure to your course.
I'd also like to hear what you're currently doing (or how you intend) to wrap up your online course. Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wishing you a smooth end to your semester!
Eggleston, T. J., & Smith, G. E. (2002). Parting ways: Ending your course. Association for Psychological Science Observer, 15(3).