Embedding Online Student Communities to Improve Student Retention & Satisfaction

Concurrent Session 7

Brief Abstract

Many online learners struggle to integrate academically and socially to the online learning environment, resulting in student attrition.The panelists will explore the relationship between developing and nurturing an intentional online learner community with a focus on improved student satisfaction and persistence. Through a series of questions, panelists will reflect on a connected set of strategies to support hybrid and online students.

Presenters

Dr. Luke Dowden is the founding Director of Distance Learning at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, where he has served for 8 years. He is an alumni of the OLC Institute for Emerging Leadership in Online Learning (IELOL). In 2014, Dr. Dowden received the Bruce N. Chaloux Award for Early Career Excellence in Online Education from OLC. He excels in areas of online program development, accelerated learning pedagogy, fiscal management of an online learning enterprise, faculty professional development and change management.
Sherri Restauri, Ph.D., Senior Executive Director of the Coastal Office of Online Learning, Coastal Carolina University Sherri currently serves as the Senior Executive Director of the Coastal Office of Online Learning at Coastal Carolina University. She is an Associated Faculty with the Psychology Department at CCU, and specializes in teaching senior-level classes in lifespan psychology, such as Child Development, Adolescent Development, and Gerontology. Sherri has served in academia within the field of online learning for over 20 years in the role of instructional designer, LMS administrator, faculty, and over the last decade plus as a university-level administrator. In addition to her work with Coastal, Sherri also serves the MERLOT organization as the Editor of the Professional Coaching board, as well as an editorial board member and peer reviewer for the Psychology MERLOT board. Her research focuses on methods for improving student success in the academic environment, to include all modalities of learning (online, face-to-face, hybrid, flipped, etc.). She has worked as a consultant for a number of organizations to support the development of online learning initiatives.

Extended Abstract

Many online learners struggle to integrate academically and socially to the online learning environment, resulting in student attrition. The panelists will explore the relationship between developing and nurturing an intentional online learner community with a focus on improved student satisfaction and persistence. A series of questions will generate a robust discussion on a connected set of community building strategies to best serve hybrid and online student populations. Session participants will be polled and invited to engage in the conversation with panelists. Examples of the questions to be posed for the panelists and audience participants include:

  1. What are your greatest challenges with serving all learners in your online community? (Word Cloud Option)

  2. Help the audience understand how the online learner community is defined.

  3. What does online community look like?

  4. What do you envision it will look like?

  5. Who is responsible for creating and nurturing the online community as it has been defined by your University?

  6. Is your student community engagement initiative program based or format/delivery (online and hybrid) based?

  7. What type of infrastructure is needed to support a robust online student community?

  8. What type of student engagement is appropriate for your population?

  9. How do we build authentic, organic engagement opportunities for our students?

  10. What are the risks with forced engagement?

  11. Are there common, integrated engagement strategies threaded throughout hybrid and online courses regardless of discipline that are connected to the larger University aspirations, goals, and strategies?

  12. If so, what are some examples?  

  13. Bringing Them In. How has your institution defined what standard onboarding means for hybrid and online learners and how does this compare to your onboarding with “traditional” students? What is the role of social engagement in that strategy?  (Sherri will address online orientation standardization/modules here)

  14. Keeping Them Engaged and Connected. How are traditional engagement strategies being translated to online delivery? E.g. Learning Communities, First Year Experience, Peer Mentors etc.

  15. Is your institution strategically building career skills along the way?

  16. Do leadership roles get created for students during their educational career and after it ends? Role of Peer Mentors in building community

  17. Transitioning Them to Career Change or Advancement. What happens at the end of the life cycle?

  18. How are you connecting your graduates to alumni affairs?

  19. What tools, such as ePortfolios, are you using with your students to transition from academic class performance and skills to real world skills? What are the results?

  20. How are you preparing to address your regional and program accreditor requirements relating to student support?