Accelerate Online Learning: Conducting a Self-Study or Outside Review to Provide High Quality Student Support Services

Concurrent Session 2 & 3 (combined)
Streamed Session Leadership

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Brief Abstract

Recent events required rapid deployment of online educational programs and spotlighted the need for online student services. Participants will use a scorecard that allows for conducting internal self-evaluation or the OLC badging process to evaluate services. The scorecard services as a springboard for discussions to improve online student support.


Dr. Victoria Brown is the Assistant Provost for eLearning at Florida Atlantic University. She oversees instructional technology, including training, supporting, and assisting faculty and staff who utilize eLearning, as well as managing the day-to-day operations at the Center for eLearning. Dr. Brown also has twenty years of experience teaching instructional technology for educators and business trainers and managed instructional design teams. She received her bachelors and masters degrees from Central Missouri State University and her doctorate from the University of West Florida.
Josh began serving online students and faculty in 1998, as the first distance learning help desk employee at the College of Central Florida. He has experienced the pains associated with the growth of online learning from the administrative, as well as the student perspective. He has served as his college's representative to the Members Council for Distance Learning and Student Support, of the Florida Virtual Campus, since 2010 and is currently serving as chair. This combination of student, administrative and policy experience services him well, as he seeks to continually improve the learning experience for online students.

Extended Abstract

With public perception about distance education changing and evolving, distance education has become the solution for teaching when students are unable to go to campus. With the recent pandemic, online instruction became the only solution. In the future, educational institutions will more likely use the online delivery to address other emergency situations such as severe weather events. Institutions need to be sure they can pivot their online student support services quickly. By providing online student support to distance learning students, that pivot can occur quickly. Engaging students with the institution through student services is valuable when considering quality of distance education students’ experience. Through the student services, students can access the equivalent support services that allow them to be successful academically and reduce the feeling of isolation. More importantly for distance-learning students is accessibility of services without driving to campus. Home and work can be more than 30 miles away. The support services should include the entire life cycle of students including the recruitment process, admissions, enrollment, and academic support. Some institutions are also looking for ways to create online experiences similar to campus experiences. Several studies have been conducted to determine the effectiveness of delivering of online instruction at a course level. However, recent studies at the college level have indicated that online students in distance learning programs may not be as successful. Students taking some online courses have a higher retention rate that those that take only online courses (Scott, Sway, & Daston, 2016). Shea and Bidjerano (2018), determined that the tipping point for taking of online classes verse on ground was 40% of the total coursework in successfully completing a degree at the community college level. In the same study, the quality of the student support services appeared to be a contributing factor in the success of students at the community college level regardless of the delivery mode (Shea & Bidjerano, 2018). The availability of online student support services is variable. In a study of 40 higher education institutions to determine accessibility to services by online students revealed that only 8 of 16 administrative support services were available at 42% of the institutions (Jones & Meyer, 2012). The number of services available at baccalaureate institution was lower possibly because these institutions were focused upon serving the traditional college populations which the researcher noted could be the reason for nontraditional students seeking degrees at the for-profit institutions (Jones & Meyer, 2012). When online services are available, the traditional students often benefit as well. The demand for the services increases as the online services options fit into the busy lives of students working part-time (Britto & Rush, 2013). The goal of the research groups was to design a student support scorecard to support institutions in conducting self-studies of the online support services keeping in mind those to students who are unable to come to the campus. The scorecard was designed using a Delphi research methodology. The participants in the research group included distance learning leaders and student support specialist at both the college and university public institution levels. The group identified the areas of support that the online students needed to be successful. The group then refined the extensive list to those that were felt to be the most critical. Once the areas were identified. The research participants determine the criterion within each of the areas and what would constitute exceptional, acceptable, and required improvement. The scorecard has 11 categories of support services and 51 indicators. Each of the indicators is worth 2 points. The 11 different categories include: admissions, financial aid, veteran services, career counseling, orientation, post-enrollment services, library, students with disability services, technology support and graduate. 2 points: Exemplary Level of Serve is the availability of the service in an off-campus format: on-campus, virtually, extended workday hours and weekends. 1 Points: Service is Available as one or more options beyond on-campus or on-paper. 0 points: Limited of No Service is available in any mode To complement the scorecard is a guidebook. Within the guidebook are broad description of the activities expected within each of the categories. Following the descriptions are the quality indicators within that category. The quality indicators serve as descriptors of the activities for off-campus students which should be occurring at an institution to replicate the services students on-campus receive. Each of the quality indicators in the rubric has a description of what would be considered full implementation of that quality indicator for 100% off-campus programs and classes. Full implementation allows the student to participate anytime and anywhere without the need to visit the campus. Partial implementation indicates the student can access many services without visiting the campus, but some services might require a visit to campus, or because access is limited to typical work hours. No service would indicate the student must come to campus for that service. Following the indicators and levels of implementation at the institution is a list of suggested practices. This section serves as guidance to the institution related to services or activities the institution can provide to support off-campus students. The suggested items provide guidance for items that are scored within the scorecard. Examples have been gathered through research. The scorecard can be used two ways. The first way the scorecard functions as a tool for self-study. That process can look different based upon the university. Typically, a person becomes responsible for guiding the process. From there, both top-down and bottom-up evaluations can occur evolving both leadership and the units. Based upon the results, the institution can design steps forward to improve the service provided. The second process is to use the OLC badging process for an outside review of the services. The institution assists in gather artifacts that supports the offering of the online services. Those are then shared with the reviewers. If the institution obtains a high-quality score, then a badge is awarded. If not, the institution receives guidance in how to improve the services that are meeting quality. The session is lead by two of the reviewers who can offer tips in submitting for the high quality online student support services badge. References Britto, M. & Rush, S. (2013). Developing and implementing comprehensive student support services for online students. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 17(1), 29-42. Jones S. J. & Meyer, K. A. (2012). The “virtual face” of distance learning at public colleges and universities: What do websites reveal about administrative student support services? Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, 15(5). Retrieved from Scott, J., Swan, K., & Daston, C. (2016). Retention, progression and the taking of online classes. Online Learning Journal, 20(2). 75-96. Retrieved from https://olj.onlinelearning Shea, P., & Bidjerano, T. (2018) Online course enrollment in community college and degree completion: The tipping point. International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 19(2), 282-293). Retrieved from EJ1178654.pdf XU, D. & Ran, F. (2020). Noncredit education in community college: Students, course enrollments, and academic outcomes. Community College Review, 48(1), 77-101.