Online Student Success Initiative (OSSI): Increasing Student Success and Engagement through Embedded Online Services

Concurrent Session 6

Brief Abstract

In this session, we will discuss how the University of Memphis has has addressed the enhancement of student course success, program retention, and timely graduation rates through our Online Student Success Initiative (OSSI). Results will also be discussed including faculty and student evaluations and the impact of OSSI on student success.


For forty years Roy has coordinated adult, professional training with regards to leadership development and academic technology. His training strategies have encompassed thirty-one Asian and Latin American countries in his position as a field coordinator for Campus Crusade for Christ, Intl. from 1975-1999. Since 2000, he has been providing e-learning leadership services at the University of Memphis, most recently as Director of Distance Learning. Roy's career focus is to assist the development of a world-class array of training strategies and tools that help educators maximize technology for engaged learning. Such learning would vitally serve adults seeking to improve their quality of life and career through higher education. Hailing from Johnson City, TN, Roy earned his History B.S. (East Tennessee State University, 1974) and a Biblical Studies M.A. (International School of Theology, San Bernardino, CA, 1987). As Director of Distance Learning, Roy provides leadership for the following programs: - UofM Online Degree Programs - UM3D Instructional Impact Services - Off-campus Satellite Centers - Professional and Continuing Education - Public Service Funding.
Leonia Houston is an Instructional Designer for the University of Memphis, experienced online instructor and eLearning specialist with over eight (8) years experience working in higher education. She received a Bachelor of Accounting ('07) and Master of Science in Instructional Design ('08) from Mississippi State University. She has been involved in technology professional development and service to faculty and preservice educators at the University of Memphis since 2009, and has served on several campus advisory committees centered around faculty development, student success and technology innovations. She is member of several organizations dedicated to research on the implementation of technology in education and has presented at a number of local, regional and national conferences around the country.

Extended Abstract

        Due in part to unique characteristics of the online student population and an imbalance of student services among face-to-face and online programs, online students may demonstrate lower course success rates than students in onground courses. Recent initiatives within distance learning at the University of Memphis have also bolstered the need to provide explicit support for online students before and during their enrollment as an online student. In response to such needs, our team launched the Online Student Success Initiative (OSSI) in 2016 in to explore a variety of embedded 3rd party services and their impact on the academic success of students enrolled in a sampling of online courses. In this session, we will discuss how the UofM has has addressed the enhancement of student course success, program retention, and timely graduation rates through OSSI and related interventions.

        During this session we will also discuss contributions such services may make to increase learning effectiveness and increase student satisfaction with online learning. Assessments of OSSI’s effectiveness indicated the availability and integration of such services may have had an impact on student success. Likewise, such online services and interventions, which included professional and technology skills tutorials, online readiness assessments, and online tutoring, may benefit a broad audience of online students across a variety of domains. Populations impacted by such services may include graduate and undergraduate students, students with novice online learning skills, and students lacking motivation due to an imbalance of support structure. Results of OSSI, including faculty and student perceptions and an analysis of student success rates, will also be shared during this session.

        Feedback received from interactions with university administration, staff, and faculty, as well as prior speaking engagements with audiences across our state, suggest this practice would be equally beneficial for the OLC Accelerate audience, specifically higher education distance learning staff and individuals providing instructional design solutions and instructional interventions for online programs. In addition, continued studies of such interventions may reveal the impact of a variety of services on online student success, such as: (a) the impact of online proctoring solutions on persistence and academic integrity or (b) the impact of learner readiness assessments on self-regulation and motivation. As the population of post-traditional students increases at 4-year institutions, investigations of such interventions are necessary and timely.

        We will also discuss ways in which practices like OSSI can help to address online quality standards, including: (a) the receipt of information about student success services prior to enrolling in a course or program, (b) advisement on skills required prior to enrolling in a course, and (c) applying a student-centered approach “rather than trying to fit existing on-campus services to the online student.” More specifically, interventions and programs like OSSI may help to to ensure that “all online students, regardless of location, have access to… learning resources that adequately support online courses.” In addition to meeting such standards, results suggest the integration of these services may improve the quality of online learning by increasing learning effectiveness, providing online access to services that have historically been available only to on-ground students, and increasing the satisfaction of both faculty and students with the online learning environment.

        In order to effectively engage participants in the topic, we will: (a) define and describe OSSI and its goals, (b) discuss the results of OSSI from year one of implementation, and (c) collaborate with participants to identify future solutions for online learners congruent with OSSI’s goals. Interactions with participants will include a pre and post-survey, small group discussions, and opportunities to share the breadth of online student support solutions implemented on their campuses and related results.