4 Ways to Track Student Progress Online


When we think about tracking student progress in a brick-and-mortar classroom, the concept is fairly easy to visualize. Students attend class, sit in their assigned seat, raise their hands to speak (sometimes), turn in homework, and finish their pop quiz by the time the bell rings (hopefully).

However, when we start discussing how to track student progress in an online learning environment, our thoughts take a sudden halt. How do you track student progress online? What are the metrics? Can they fake their progress? Can they fall too far behind before I catch it?

1. Create Relationships

This is my permanent recommendation for every single aspect of working with students in an online education atmosphere. Every situation is easier when you know your students and they know you.

When you know about students’ offline lives, you will better be able to track their progress, look for patterns that will be their normal, and identify times when things are off-kilter. If a student typically turns in all of their work for the whole week every Saturday morning and you don’t hear much from them otherwise, and a Saturday, Sunday, and Monday go by with no work turned in, an online teacher would want to reach out to the student.

Example of a text: “Hey Catherine! You didn’t turn your work in on Saturday like usual, I just wanted to check on you. Do you need help with anything - write me back and let me know. :) - Mrs. A.

Relationships are the number one key to success.

2. Drill into the Data

Pulling data in an online classroom is often easier than in a brick-and-mortar classroom. Most major learning management systems provide the ability to see when students have logged in -- and even what they have accessed in the course and for how long. But if you are using Google classroom or other software that doesn’t provide a paper trail, it’s ok! There are still all kinds of ways to use the data to get an idea of how students are doing.

Student’s general activity and engagement is a big one - just the way it is in the classroom. Teachers know who is engaged and who isn’t when in a physical setting. Online, an instructor can see if students have responded to texts, are turning in work, and are showing up to live lessons. If they are engaged and their grades are low, then there is probably a gap in the learning. A call or time to work one-on-one with the student is a good idea. If they are not engaged at all, then the grade doesn’t matter as much, because even if they seem to grasp the class content at that time, it doesn’t mean they will continue to understand. Without a precedent in place that they are expected to respond to you, turn in work, and attend class times (if you have them), their grades can easily slip and there is no structure in place.

3. Ask them!

Students in elementary through high school will typically tell you how they feel, honestly, if you ask them. Good communication is the bookend to creating relationships in an online environment.

An example of a text to a student asking how they are doing in your course could go like this:

“Hi Will, how are you enjoying this course so far? Do you like it, love it, hate it, putting up with it?”

They will give you an honest answer and the conversation goes from there. If they hate it or are putting up with it, that is an opening to obviously find out what the trouble is. Where a student could be keeping his/her lips zipped, the student is now giving you a map to help him/her be successful.

If they don’t answer you then that is valuable data. Are they not answering because they normally don’t respond to your texts? In this case, you need to back up and start the groundwork for a solid relationship and communication. If they are good about responding, but are radio silent, then you as the instructor need to reach out again at a different time of day. Don’t stop.

If a teacher asks a student a question in a physical setting - “Hey Tina, how was your weekend?” And the student does not respond in any way, the teacher wouldn’t shrug their shoulders and think, “Oh well, she’ll answer me later.” No way.

Other questions an instructor can ask to get student talking:

  • What part of the course that week was most tricky?
  • What is the hardest part about taking a course online?
  • What is your favorite part about working online?
  • If you could change anything about the actual course what would it be?

Instructors will get great data from students with questions like these.

Look at the student as a whole.

As an online instructor, I liked to look at the whole student at a time. I would work my way through my list of students throughout the week - grade all their work at one time, reach out to them with feedback and encouragement right then, read my texts to and from them (using Google Voice on my computer), look at their participation in live lessons, etc. I could easily see patterns when I looked at one student at a time. If something was great or concerning I would take care of it right then as well.

In an online setting we don’t have the typical classroom management to think about, so use the extra time to really look at the data of your students’ work and engagement.

Working one-on-one with students is one of the very best things about an online learning environment.

Take this time to get to know students, because ultimately that's what all of this is about. Taking care of students.

How FlexPoint can help

Whether you need a content provider, teacher training on best practices, or just a consultation to help map out the online classroom terrain, our team of experts at FlexPoint Education Cloud can help meet those needs. Our focus is always to maximize learning opportunities for your students and minimize the amount of time that learning is interrupted.

Ready to help students reach new heights? Download our free guide at

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