Online Student Services: Innovating Through COVID and Beyond

Concurrent Session 6
Leadership

Brief Abstract

Online student support is a cross-institutional endeavor requiring complex conversations.  During the pandemic, these services became even more mission critical. We all gained valuable experiences that we can share with each other.  This will be a time to share what worked and what didn't as we all seek to maintain a high level of service, moving beyond emergency online teaching.  The presenters will also provide you with a tool, in the form of a self-evaluation scorecard, if you would like to more formally examine the services you provide to students.  

Presenters

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.
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.

Extended Abstract

Institutions have been using the OLC Online Student Services Scorecard for several years now.  Research on early results indicated that few institutions provided all services effectively.  With most institutions being forced to move operations fully online in March 2020, we 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. 

 We will introduce you to several creative initiatives that our institutions developed to provide services during the pandemic. The primary focus of the session is to give you 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.

We will also 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.

There will also be a brief introduction to the OLC Online Student Services Scorecard for institutions interested in formally evaluating their services.