Two Strategies for Improving Online Student Experience

Concurrent Session 2

Brief Abstract

Student experience is the factor that often determines online enrollment and persistence. Schools can communicate that they care by measuring learner readiness and providing resources for support. Taking a proctored exam may be a frustrating student experience. Schools can improve the proctoring experience by providing multiple proctoring options.


Carol has worked with educators for over 20 years in a variety of roles including sales/account management, staff development, technology implementation/training, marketing/communications, and most recently as Senior Solutions Consultant/Sales Manager at SmarterServices. In her role at SmarterServices she enjoys helping administrators explore how to improve student success, protect academic integrity, and grow online/distance programs at their institutions. She has a Marketing Degree from Troy University and an M.B.A. from Auburn University.
Julie has worked in higher education for over 23 years with a BS degree from Faulkner University. After staying home with her young children, she began her career at a local university focusing on student support & success before moving on to SmarterServices. As the first sales & account manager there, she has worked with hundreds of institutions learning about student success, higher ed challenges, QEP, and accrediting standards that impact school initiatives. Her expertise lies in technology, internal operations, marketing, & identifying specific needs within organizations.

Extended Abstract

Competition for online students is fierce. With practically all institutions now offering multiple degrees online, students have many attractive options. Students may choose to enroll online with a school based on athletic allegiances, low-cost providers, or be influenced by ads on TV. And recruiting students is only half the battle – you also must retain them. If students are not pleased with your program, they can easily switch to another school. So, what is the determining factor by which students initially select your online program and then stay enrolled? It is very likely STUDENT EXPERIENCE.

Students are consumers and they expect (sometimes demand) an experience that is learner-centric, intuitive, supportive, and provides multiple options. To attract and retain students you must communicate that you care and that they are in control of their own education. This session will share two strategies that you can use in your eLearning program to foster student-centeredness by measuring readiness and providing proctoring options.

To attract and retain online students you must immediately convey that you care. One great way to do this is to empower the students to understand themselves as learners. Students need to understand their attributes and skills that are strengths. They also need to be aware of their opportunities for growth paired with resources that your school provides to help them be successful. Shoreline Community College (Shoreline, WA) recently polled students after taking the assessment and almost all agreed that it was a useful tool to help them identify their level of readiness for studying in an online course.

Over the past twenty years over six million students from over one thousand institutions have increased their level of readiness using the SmarterMeasure Learning Readiness Indicator. The assessment primarily uses non-cognitive indicators to give insight into learners’ individual attributes, learning preferences, life factors, technical knowledge & skill, as well as reading and keyboarding skills.

One of the early indicators that a student is not satisfied in an online program is a low level of engagement in the online course room. Most learning management systems provide robust metrics of learner engagement. But simply knowing that a student is not engaged is not helpful. Schools need to know why the student is not engaged and then reach out to support them. The non-cognitive factors measured by SmarterMeasure are typically the “why” that explains the “what” of low engagement. When an advisor or success coach is equipped with information such as the student’s level of technology competency or how many hours per week they are working, it makes the conversation they have with the student much more meaningful.

Schools often utilize demographic variables to predict students who are likely to drop out. It is true that factors such as being a first-generation college student or coming from a family with a low socio-economic standing are very predictive, but they are not malleable – schools cannot change those factors. But non-cognitive factors such as motivation, control over procrastination, willingness to ask for help, etc. are coachable. Self-awareness of levels of readiness coupled with strategies for support have been shown to boost retention rates.

When asked about how taking the assessment was beneficial to them one actual student stated, “While taking the SmarterMeasure survey I learned that I struggled with my personal attributes, locus of control, and technology knowledge. To help overcome these obstacles I started putting myself out there more meaning that I take responsibility of what happens in my life. My Locus of Control was completely wrong I felt as if it was not my fault why the things happened to me. But over the term I had to take a step back and realize that things happen for a reason and I need to own up to things. The survey also stated that that my persistence was average, but it could be better. In order to change this, I have started putting assignments in my planner and marking important dates on my calendar to keep me on top of my work. By making these changes I now see that I can do more things than what I see, I know that I have to keep pushing forward to be the best I can be.”

One phase of the student experience that can be frustrating for students is exam proctoring. Students may be anxious simply about having to take an exam, and when you add to that the frustration of having to be proctored by a methodology that is not their choice, it can make a student want to say “enough is enough!”

Just as students needs options of delivery systems for taking courses (on-campus, online, hybrid), they also need choices when it comes to taking exams. SmarterProctoring provides more proctoring options than any other proctoring provider – seven.

Using SmarterProctoring students can schedule and manage three virtual proctoring options (automated, record-and-review, or live), three face-to-face options (testing centers, testing professionals, instructors), and one hybrid option. Hybrid Virtual Proctoring is a “bring your own proctor” model through which someone at the institution which could be testing center staff, eLearning staff, graduate assistants, or the instructor serves as the live, virtual proctor. The testing session is continuously monitored by artificial intelligence to detect testing anomalies and then the live proctor from the institution can look in and stop the exam in the LMS if needed.

Students are truly appreciative when schools take the time to help them understand themselves better as learners. Students also appreciate it when schools go to the effort of not making proctoring a one size fits all experience, but rather giving them multiple virtual and face-to-face proctoring options.