Where Access Intersects Achievement: Virtual Integrated Student Support Resources

Concurrent Session 7

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Through partnering with our course development team and curriculum specialists Rasmussen College Library and Learning Services have worked to seamlessly deliver learning resources at the point of need within our course management system.


BethMarie Gooding began her work with Rasmussen College in 2005, initially as a campus librarian at the Fargo campus. She moved to the national online campus as their librarian in 2009 before becoming the Associate Dean of Library. She is a graduate of Indiana University with a M.L.I.S. in Library Science and an M.S. in Education. BethMarie is on the board of directors for PACODES an international library project in South Sudan and is active in academic conference presentations and organizations including ACRL, ALA and the Online Learning Consortium.
As the Dean of Library and Learning Services at Rasmussen College, I oversee our CRLA-certified mentoring and tutoring programs in which our online Peer Tutors and Peer Mentors facilitate approximately 7,000 virtual appointments with students annually. I also serve as the Professional Development Director for the College Reading and Learning Association and as a board member for my state chapter of NADE. I am an (NCLCA) Certified Learning Center Professional - Level Three.

Extended Abstract

Reenvisioning how learning resources can be accessed and incorporated directly into course content has been a priority initiative for our library and learning services team in the past year. Just as student support resources evolved over time to meet the nuanced needs of a largely residential student population, determining the best practices for supporting students in accelerated, online, and/or hybrid courses is an ongoing, collaborative journey of discovery. As the diversity of modalities in which a student encounters within their higher education experience continues to increase, much attention has (rightfully) been paid to the curriculum and pedagogy of courses occurring in these varying modalities. Not as much emphasis, however, has been placed on the development of new or adjustment of existing support systems for students in these modalities. The recent Association of College and Research Libraries study indicated using “analysis of multiple data points (e.g., circulation, library instruction session attendance, online databases access, study room use, interlibrary loan) shows that students who use the library in some way achieve higher levels of academic success (e.g., GPA, course grades, retention) than students who did not use the library” (ACRL, 2016, p. 4). Similarly, students who are less academically prepared when they enter college benefit in terms of both GPA and college persistence when they receive formal academic support (Coladarci et al., 2013; Laskey & Hetzel, 2011), particularly when such help is received early in their college careers (Tinto, 2004). It follows, then, with so much focus on success rates of students in different course experiences, that ensuring the student support measures meet the needs of students enrolled in a variety of course modalities should be emphasized.

Integrating student support resources directly into courses is also a response to the needs of nontraditional higher education student populations. As Nellen (2003) points out, nontraditional student populations are drawn to distance education programs in part by the ability to work on course content at nights on weekends. This makes promoting traditional academic support services - which would require the student to commit even more time during standard business hours - even more challenging. However, there is evidence that “broadening the external resources (e.g. academic resources)” for nontraditional students enhances their learning experiences (Chao and Good, 2004, p.10). Institutions that are able to adjust the availability of resources for students will be more likely to see nontraditional students take advantage of those resources. Services offered at times or in ways that make it difficult for nontraditional populations to utilize may also emphasize a stigma within this population that they are unlike “normal” college students. If the modalities and times in which support resources are offered contribute to this stigma, this population of students may be less likely to seek out or utilize support services (Winograd and Rust). One traditional approach to addressing this issue in residential classrooms is creating a climate in which support resources are directly discussed within the classroom setting, either promoted by a support staff member or by the Faculty member. This approach helps students identify the most applicable resources, tie support resources to learning relevant to their coursework, and de-stigmatizes the utilization of such resources. This approach, however, is not as commonly found in online courses. One way to do this is by offering webinars in addition to residential workshops. In addition to the benefits of the content covered, this type of direct effort to appeal to nontraditional students may also have the supplemental benefit of helping them "feel connected to campus,” bridging the gap for them in relation to this especially important factor which has a demonstrated connection to academic success, persistence, and retention" (Opitz and Block, 39). This can be even further enhanced if the resources provided acknowledge the specific challenges related to nontraditional students, such as mentors or tutors who are nontraditional students themselves.

We have provided a visible “value add” in college-wide student retention goals, use of resources to complete assignments, student engagement and satisfaction. Online and accelerated students have different support needs, more and more students are the “new traditional student population” that is they are over 24 years old and do not attend college full-time. Student support resources need to adapt to meet their needs we have developed a holistic approach to student academic support. We have established working partnerships and regularly collaborate across departments, including with those in admissions, advisors, faculty, curriculum and course design allowing continuous awareness and use of resources from application through the first courses and beyond.

This session is timely given the current higher education landscape. Many institutions are expanding to meet the growing set of needs of an increasingly diverse student population. Some expansion is physical - branch or satellite campuses, for example, while other growth is occurring in the variety and enrollment size of students taking courses in hybrid or online modalities. Both situations present a challenge: supporting students equally as well in a hybrid /  online course or branch / satellite location as they would be supported otherwise. The content shared in this presentation will directly equip participants to meet this need.

We plan to engage participants in a variety of ways during the 45 minutes allotted for concurrent sessions. First, we will briefly share (in a Prezi presentation) an overview of our student population, course modality breakdown, and our roles within the institution so participants can better understand our context (5 minutes). Then, we will share specific examples of initiatives centered on collaborative approaches to supporting students so participants can walk away from this session with a clear way to begin to build support at their home institutions for similar partnerships; specifically, we will discuss our evolving efforts with Faculty, Department Deans, Advisors, and Instructional Designers at our institution (10 minutes). Next, we will screen share in real time approximately seven available resources that we have worked to strategically integrated into courses for students (10 minutes).

By the end of this session, participants will be able to:

  • Evaluate existing resources in order to identify those that are a fit to integrate into courses

  • Identify potential partnerships needed to ensure thoughtful integration of resources and approach stakeholders strategically

  • Measure the impact integrating resources has on student usage


Association of College and Research Libraries. (2016). Documented library contributions student to learning and success: Building evidence with team based assessment in action campus projects. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/acrl/sites/ala.org.acrl/files/content/issues/value/co...

Chao, R., & Good, G. E. (2004). Nontraditional students' perspectives on college education: A qualitative study. Journal of College Counseling, 7(1), 5-12.

Help-Seeking Among Historically Underrepresented First-Year College Students. The Learning Assistance Review (TLAR), 19(2), 19-43. Retrieved from http://www.nclca.org/

Nellen, A. (2003). Using technology to teach nontraditional students. Tax Adviser, 34(5), 290.

Opitz, D. L. & Block, L. S. (2006). Universal learning support design: maximizing learning beyond the classroom. Learning Assistance Review (TLAR), 11(2), 33-45. Retrieved from http://www.nclca.org.

Winograd, G. & Rust, J. (2014). Stigma, Awareness of Support Services, and Academic Help-Seeking Among Historically Underrepresented First-Year College Students. The Learning Assistance Review (TLAR), 19(2), 19-43. Retrieved from http://www.nclca.org.