Online Student Support in a Post-COVID World

Concurrent Session 3
Streamed Session Research Equity and Inclusion

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Brief Abstract

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.


Dr. Bouchey is Associate Professor and Dean of Online Education at National Louis University where she is responsible for standards of quality and service for online programming across the institution. Dr. Bouchey has had the opportunity to lead all aspects of an online campus and programming in her career and spends time each week in deep dialog with an engaged personal learning network discussing the evolving nature of online education. Dr. Bouchey holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University at Albany, an M.B.A. in Entrepreneurship from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and a Doctorate in Education from Northeastern University. She is a co-founder of the CORAL Research collaborative focused on online leadership and scholarship; her personal research interests include the nature and future of organizational structures of online units in institutions of higher education, as well as inventive and high-impact pedagogical practice in online teaching. Dr. Bouchey writes and is widely quoted in the academic and popular press; her articles and curriculum vitae can be accessed here:
Erin is a Librarian at Orange Coast College in Southern California. Prior to this position she was the Senior Director of La Verne Online, the virtual campus of the University of La Verne. Erin was brought in to develop and implement a strategic vision for online education at the University. Prior to working in La Verne Online, Erin was an academic research and technology librarian for more than 15 years. She also teaches online and is an adjunct faculty in the EdD in Organizational Leadership program at the University of La Verne. She is a 2018 IELOL alumni and a founding member of the Collegiate Online Research Collaborative (CORAL). Her research interests are in faculty trust and readiness for change; resistance and readiness towards online education in higher education, and effective leadership and organizational structures of online education.

Additional Authors

Shelley Kurland is the Dean of Virtual Campus at the County College of Morris in Randolph, New Jersey. She has been an educator since 1999 and involved in distance education since 2003. Shelley’s areas of expertise and interests are in distance education, active learning, faculty learning, and the use of digital technologies with pedagogical considerations. She uses the question, 'Is this the best for the student?' as the compass for her professional work. Shelley's scholarly activities involve active contributions through professional presentations in the areas of teaching and learning in all delivery methods. As part of her action research dissertation study, Rethinking Teaching in STEM Education in a Community College: Role of Instructional Consultation and Digital Technologies, Shelley discussed educators’ tendency to introduce or to implement technology without aligning it to a theoretical framework, which may lead to the 'using technology for the sake of using technology mindset'. She developed and introduced the Learning-Teaching-Technology Cycle. Each of the elements – learning, teaching, and technology – is critical, connected, and inform each other as an educator designs and implements an activity and/or lesson. Shelley holds a B.S. in Exercise Science and Sports Studies from Rutgers University, a Master of Arts in Teaching with a concentration in Teacher of the Handicapped and a Doctorate of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Teacher Education/Teacher Development. Both postgraduate degrees are obtained from Montclair State University. She also serves as a member of the Instructional Technology Council (ITC) Advocacy Committee and a member of the New Jersey Community College Consortium’s Distance Education Affinity Group. She is part of OLC's IELOL Class of 2018. Shelley was also the recipient of NJEDge Distinguished Service Award for Educational Technology in 2018.

Extended Abstract

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: 

  1. Study findings related to the support of students, regardless of modality.
  2. Study findings related to leadership opportunities for chief online learning officers.

  3. 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.