Keep Students on Track

Support Students’ Executive Functioning Skills Development


In general, many 18 – 25-year-old students benefit from intentional faculty support to further develop their executive functioning skills, those skills that are associated with organization and strategies to set and achieve goals.

As this unprecedented global pandemic continues, the stress that students experience may continue to impact their ability to manage their work and stay organized. This semester it may be even more important for you to integrate “scaffolding” into assignments to help keep students on track.


No matter what your course modality (but particularly important for fully online classes), these strategies will benefit students:

  • Sequence course assignments in a predictable course rhythm. For example, online discussions occur Wednesday and Friday, every week of the semester. This will help students know what is coming and stay organized
  • Break up long-term assignments into components parts with individual due dates. Provide feedback on these smaller assignments. This will help students work on bigger projects over time (with the benefit of your formative feedback) and not just wait to begin close to the due date.
  • Create checklists to help students include all the component parts of a complex assignment.
  • Create and assign a syllabus quiz (with minimal point value). This will encourage students to actually read it!
  • Carefully monitor student logins to Blackboard and Teams the first couple of weeks of the semester. Contact students if they are not logging in.
  • Schedule a Blackboard announcement for each upcoming assignment and make sure to send it as an email.
  • If you use the “Due Date” feature in Blackboard, make sure you are consistent and assign a due date for every assignment in your course. Students use the Blackboard calendar feature, they will come to rely on it, so they may miss something that does not have a date assigned.
  • Schedule a weekly time to review who hasn’t logged in recently or who has not submitted recent assignments. Email them. Offer a specific next step for what they can do next (i.e., “the quiz is now closed, but you can still contribute to the discussion board”), remind them of your late policy, ask questions, and offer support. Let them know you notice when they are not showing up.
  • To help students manage time, include run times of videos and an estimate of how long you think it will take them to complete a reading and an assignment. Ask them to track their actual time so that they can refine their workload planning.

Monitor engagement in the class

The Retention Center

The Retention Center allows instructors to monitor which students in a course may be at risk. Using a set of rules that are either built in or created by the instructor, students’ engagement and participation are visually displayed. From the Retention Center, instructors can communicate with struggling students and help them take immediate action for improvement. Examples of retention center uses might include:
retention center access

  • Create rules to track specific activities (or lack thereof) which indicate risk.
  • Contact the most at-risk students immediately and flag those you want to monitor closely.
  • Keep track of correspondence with at-risk students and make notes about each student from within the Retention Center.
  • Create rules to let you know which students are doing well and reward their work, discover student mentors, assign group membership, or find teaching assistants.

The Retention Center is accessible from the global navigation menu in the top right of the page, and also accessible in the Evaluation section of a course’s Control Panel.

Helpful Tips on Using the Blackboard Grade Center

  • The Last Access column displays the last time a student entered your course. Click at the top of the column to organize by dates so (reverse the order by clicking again) you can see if there are students who haven’t logged into Blackboard for a while.
  • Grading Color Codes

    This optional feature is especially helpful in:

    • Large enrollment classes
    • When grading is done by TAs
    • When quizzes and tests are automatically graded in Blackboard

    You can set it so that grade cells with grades lower/higher than (whatever you choose) can be colored differently and easy to spot in the Grade Center.

    Blackboard Video on Grading Color Codes
    See Blackboard: Grading Color Codes in the Grade Center in the UVM Knowledge Base

Teams Meeting Attendance

BEFORE YOU LEAVE YOUR Teams class meeting, you, as the meeting owner, can download a participant list (xls file) that shows when each person entered and left the meeting allowing you to confirm whether students were there, and for how long. For now (until this is fixed), this is not available if you have left the meeting already, so be sure to capture it before you leave!

To find this file:

  1. After class is over, re-join the meeting
  2. Click on the participants icon
  3. At the top of the participant list, to the right of “Participants” there is the three-dot symbol indicating options. Choose “Download attendance list.”
  4. Teams usually downloads to your computer’s download folder. You can open it in Excel.

Identify and reach out to students who appear to be struggling

The Dean of Students Office offers resources to help you identify behaviors that could point to underlying issues and offer suggestions for guiding your conversations with students who appear to be struggling with anxiety, depression, grief and loss. If you suspect that a student may need The Dean of Students to intervene, the “Concerning And /or Risky Event (CARE)” form is a way for you to anonymously report your concerns.

References and Resources

How to use the Retention Center, see Blackboard’s documentation.

Blackboard Video on Grading Color Codes.

See Blackboard: Grading Color Codes in the Grade Center in the UVM Knowledge Base

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