Online Student Services, How Small Institutions Got Creative in the Covid-19 Era

Concurrent Session 4
Streamed Session

Watch This Session

Brief Abstract

Research, using OLC’s Online Student Services Scorecard, indicates that size and funding of an institution are indicators of service level.  In the Covid-19 era, smaller institutions found creative ways to improve service.  Join us to exchange ideas about better serving our students through this time and brainstorm for the future.   


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.
Melanie Morgan Jackson Bio Short (50 words) Jackson has as an educator in Kentucky and Florida for almost 35 years, including 9 ½ years teaching computer science in high school, 17 years of senior level experience in higher education administration and 25 years teaching in higher education at the community college and university level. Melanie Morgan Jackson Bio Jackson has served in K-12 and Higher Education in Kentucky and Florida for almost 35 years. She has 17 years of senior level experience in higher education administration, 25 years teaching in higher education at the community college and university level and 32 years serving in KY and FL colleges and universities. Jackson also served 9.5 years in a high school teaching business and computer science for a total educational service of 34 years. Her higher education work experience ranges from a night desk clerk in a university dorm to an adjunct faculty member as well as Registrar’s Office experience in two universities, an adjunct faculty member in computer science and education, a technology help desk technician and a college and university administrator. In addition, her higher education position experience includes employment at a large public university as well as a large private university, small private university and a rural state college in two different states. Jackson has served as a college webmaster, Director of Educational Technology and Director of eLearning. Jackson has also served on several college and university committees (i.e. SACS COC Steering Team, Retention, Technology, Orientation, AVID) and as a leader on state boards (Florida Virtual Campus-Distance Learning and Student Services Members Council Chair, Chair Elect and Secretary, the Association of Florida Colleges Technology Commission Chair and the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities Board for Acadeum). Her passion is student success and increasing student learning, focused on increasing student enrollment, enhancing student success and retention and supervising college employees to aid in providing services effectively and efficiently. Jackson has experience serving on several accreditation steering and QEP teams, developing curriculum and student learning outcomes for courses as well as collaborating with curriculum development teams, employing instructional design and online course reviews for quality. Her most recent professional experience has been focused in the area of developing new technologies and initiatives to support students and the college, such as the recently developed and implemented (college’s first) mobile application (South Florida SC Mobile). In addition, through her years of leadership at South Florida State College in Florida (SFSC), the online course offerings increased 469% and the number of online students increased 1430% over the past ten years. In addition, SFSC increased hybrid course offerings by 244% and increased the enrollment of students in hybrid courses 333% over the past five years. In her three years at Palm Beach Atlantic University, Jackson has doubled the number of online programs and courses. Jackson is currently a Ph.D. Candidate at the University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida. Degree will be in Curriculum and Instruction, Specialization in Higher Education Administration, anticipated dissertation completion Summer 2021. Jackson has a Master of Arts in Education from the University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida, January 2000-August 2001. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Education from the University of the Cumberlands, Williamsburg, Kentucky, May 1993, Magna Cum Laude, GPA 3.85, Dean’s List, with additional undergraduate study at the University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky. HONORS AND AWARDS: • 'Hybrid Course of the Year', Association of Christian Continuing Education Schools and Seminaries (ACCESS), 2018 • 'President’s Leadership Award', Association of Florida Colleges, 2013 • 'AFC Technology Commission Exemplary Practice Finalist', Open Education Resources, 2013 • 'Volunteer of the Year', School Board of Highlands County, 2013-2014 • 'Unsung Hero Award-Region 4', Association of Florida Colleges, 2010 • SFSC 'Outstanding Adjunct Faculty Member', 2003 • TeachNet Grant Award Winner, 2002 • Who’s Who Among American Teachers, 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2002 • APHS Outstanding Faculty Member 1999, 2000 • Florida FBLA Advisor Hall of Fame, Inducted April 1998 • Phi Beta Lambda, College Parliamentary Procedure Team, State Conference Competition 2nd Place, 1990 • Dean’s List, University of Kentucky, College of Education, 1989 and University of the Cumberlands 1990-1993

Extended Abstract

Institutions have been using the OLC Online Student Services Scorecard for several years now.  Research on early results indicated that larger, better funded, institutions were able to offer more complete student services as a matter of course.  Services such as counseling, student life and veterans’ services were just three areas that state funded colleges (two-year and four year institutions) scored lower on than universities.  Other services, such as the online library materials, are available at most small colleges in Florida through collaborative models.  

With most institutions being forced to move operations fully online in March 2020, these small institutions were also forced to offer online student services that they likely never had in the past.  We have often said that services for online students are services for all students.  This transition to online learning made all students online students. 

In this conversation, a brief introduction to  the OLC Online Student Services Scorecard will be provided. We will introduce you to several areas where smaller institutions scored relatively lower in a statewide study of Florida Institutions. You will have an opportunity to share how your institution was able to provide those services during the transition to fully online learning and to brainstorm ideas with others facing similar challenges.

The second part of the discussion will explore how to maintain online support services  beyond the Covid-19 Pandemic . Many of our institutions turned to the CARES Act or reserve funding to provide these much need online services. While it will be in the institutions’, and students’, best interests for those services to be continued, the sources that funded them are non-recurring.  Although it is unknown what the world will look like post-pandemic, we know there will be some amount of lasting change. We will move forward with new perspectives and ideas for operating businesses and obtaining an education. In the post-pandemic world, many believe instructors are going to be open to teaching online and students more likely to seek online education. Maintaining some level of online services may be the future of higher education institutions. Through open discussion, ideas for how to continue supporting the growing online population of student as higher education institutions continue to respond to a world changed by the Covid-19 pandemic.