Busted! Challenging Myths about the Effectiveness of Online Student Support Services

Concurrent Session 1
Streamed Session

Watch This Session

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Do students who use online tutoring and other online support services have higher retention rates than those who don’t? The presenters, with extensive experience in online learning, will address this question and common myths about online student services from the perspective of both a 2-year and a 4-year institution.

Additional Authors

Amanda Mulfinger is Director of Academic Affairs at Penn State World Campus who manages undergraduate and graduate programs and serves as the co-chair of the retention team and project manager for online tutoring services. She teaches online faculty development courses at World Campus and has also taught face to face continuing education courses at Penn State University Park campus. She has been employed by Penn State since 1999. Amanda is an alum of the Penn State with a Master’s Degree in Teaching and Curriculum program and holds a Bachelor's Degree in Cellular and Molecular Biology from Lock Haven University of PA. Prior to joining World Campus in 2010, Amanda coordinated research as a Senior Data Management Analyst at Penn State's College of Medicine Public Health Sciences Department. She served as a Senior Project Associate at the Penn State Prevention Research Center where she coordinated school-based prevention curriculum and provided technical assistance for Blueprints for Violence Prevention programs across the state of Pennsylvania. Previously, she was Coordinator of Operations for the Penn State Undergraduate Education First Year Program. Amanda is an alum of The Institute for Emerging Leadership in Online Learning (IELOL) with a passion for innovation in online teaching and learning.

Extended Abstract

The value and effectiveness of online learning have been extensively studied. But there are still many myths surrounding online student support services. The presenters, with extensive experience in online learning, will examine the impact of online support services from the perspective of two types of learning environments—a two-year community college and a fully online four-year public university.


Drawing on their work with thousands of students, each presenter will discuss what online student support services are offered at their institutions; what the goals of these services are; and what they have learned. They will briefly describe the differences between online students at 2-year and 4-year institutions and will address some common myths about online student support services.  



Myth #1: There’s no measurable difference in retention rates for students who use online support services--including tutoring, coaching, and counseling—than for those who don’t use those services. The presenters will provide data from their institutions demonstrating the positive impact online student support services have on retention and overall student success.


Myth #2: Faculty will never buy into online support services. Both presenters will provide concrete examples of how they have worked successfully with faculty to improve student success rates and demonstrate the value of online support services.


Myth #3: Students won’t take advantage of online support services. The presenters will address the challenge of guiding students to use available online services and the ways in which access to online support services can help mitigate drop-outs.


Each presenter will have stories to share about the impact of specific services. At the end of the presentations attendees will have learned about online learners in 2-year and 4-year institutions; the types of online support services that are meeting their needs in today’s educational landscape; how these services have been implemented and their value assessed; and how to overcome  faculty skepticism and student reluctance.