Online Student Support in a Post-COVID World
Concurrent Session 3
How did pivoting to remote student services due to COVID-19 provide equity of access between online and campus-based students? Presenters address unexpected findings from a study exploring the nature of online units at 31 HEIs. Results and questions of equity and continuation of expanded online services will be discussed.
In 2019, a cross-university research collaborative initiated a year-long qualitative inquiry into the evolving nature of online units at a cross-section of higher education institutions across the United States. The sample consisted of 31 colleges and universities representing 17 public non-profit and six private non-profit four-year institutions, six two-year nonprofit, and two private for-profit institutions. The team sought to understand the precedents and implications of the current and future states of online units within the participating institutions to identify common structures and themes, as well as benefits and consequences that peer institutions can learn from as their online operations evolve. The research team conducted a series of three semi-structured interviews, and coincidentally, scheduled Student Support as the final set of interviews to be completed in the Spring of 2020 (during the COVID-19 crisis). What resulted were highly nuanced and informative data suggesting that student support for online students in areas previously not addressed were suddenly not only at the center of administrators’ discussions but also growing in capacity. The findings contribute to a growing body of knowledge that highlights gaps between student support services offered to campus-based students versus those offered to online students. Ironically, many chief online officers may posit that online students may need more support than their campus-based peers who benefit from affordances of a physical community.
A lingering question is whether the support for online (and remote) students gained during the pivot to emergency remote teaching and learning during COVID-19 is here to stay, or merely a temporary fix for campus-based students--prompting our research team to question the true lines of demarcation of student support for students, modality aside. Further, it prompts important inquiry into equity between campus-based and online student support, and highlights the need for more emphasis on equitable service for all.
Key takeaways from the session include:
- Study findings related to the support of students, regardless of modality.
Study findings related to leadership opportunities for chief online learning officers.
- Reflections on the implications for future changes on our campuses related to the study findings, as well as the experiences of attendee’s campuses.
In a breakout room, small attendee groups will participate in a 3-2-1 exercise where they will write down 3 things they learned, 2 things they found most interesting, and 1 thing they still have questions about. Session presenters will then take a sample of the questions and open it up to the larger group for dialog and problem-solving.