Reimagine Online Student Support Post-Pandemic: Explore Possible Tools to Guide the Process
As institutions rapidly moved online student support services from in-person to online, innovation and challenges occurred. Questions arose as to whether the online students support services were meeting the students needs and which services to continue to offer online post-pandemic. This workshop explores tools to evaluate and make these decisions.
Engaging students with the institution through student services is valuable when considering quality of distance education students’ experience. Through the student services, students can access the equivalent support services that allow them to be successful academically and reduce the feeling of isolation. More importantly for a distance-learning student is accessibility of services without driving to campus. Home and work can be more than 30 miles away. The support services should improve the experience for the entire life cycle of the students starting with the recruitment process, admissions, enrollment, and as a student. Some institutions are also looking for ways to create online experiences that can replace the experiences of students on campus.
The scorecard was designed to provide guidance to institutions in evaluating support to students that are unable to come to the campus. The elements of the scorecard were developed by a group of individuals with a variety of expertise from both the public college and university system. The group consisted of distance learning and student services leaders from across Florida. This allowed the group to examine the issue of student services from multiple angles. The result is the scorecard and guidebook which will be shared at the presentation. The scorecard has 11 categories of support services and 50 indicators. Each of the indicators is worth 2 points. The 11 different categories include: admissions, financial aid, veteran services, career counseling, orientation, post-enrollment services, library, students with disability services, technology support and graduate students.
2 points: Exemplary Level of Serve is the availability of the service in an off-campus format: on-campus, virtually, extended workday hours and weekends.
1 Point: Service is Available as one or more options beyond on-campus or on-paper.
0 points: Limited of No Service is available in any mode
To complement the scorecard is a guidebook. Within the guidebook are broad descriptions of the activities expected within each of the categories. Following the descriptions are the quality indicators within that category. The quality indicators serve as descriptors of the activities for off-campus students which should be occurring at an institution to replicate the services students on-campus receive. Each of the quality indicators in the rubric has a description of what would be considered full implementation of that quality indicator for 100% off-campus programs and classes. Full implementation allows the student to participate anytime and anywhere without the need to visit the campus. Partial implementation indicates the student can access many services without visiting the campus, but some services might require a visit to campus, or because access is limited to typical work hours. No service would indicate the student must come to campus for that service. Following the indicators and levels of implementation at the institution is a list of suggested practices. This section serves as guidance to the institution related to services or activities the institution can provide to support off-campus students. The suggested items provide guidance for items that are scored within the scorecard. Examples have been gathered through research.
Another tool has also been developed to assist institutions in the evaluation of the services they are providing online called the Online Student Support Quality Survey. The survey has 35 questions that ask the students about the modality they are accessing the service and the responsiveness in receiving answers for their questions. That section is followed by questions that ask the students to rate their experience based upon a 5-point Likert scale from very poor to very good. Because of the pandemic an additional question was added to the survey to determine how students would like their services to be provided in the future. Those results will be shared with the group.
• Distance learning program administrators.
• Higher education student services personnel.
• Other institutional staff who directly support students: librarians, counselors, advisors, ADA administrators, career coaches, veteran’s advocates etc.
• Work at one of the various types of higher education institutions: community college, public university, private college or university, faith-based college or university and for-profit institution.
• Participants will use the scorecard to determine the level of services for online students at their institution.
• Participants will be able to use the scorecard to identify gaps in services provided for online students
• Participants will be knowledgeable about the guidebook and the Online Student Support Quality Survey for students to evaluate the quality of service.
• Participants will interact with others in the session to gather ideas for how to improve student services at their institution.
● Brief description of why and how the scorecard was developed
● The activities of the workshop will walk the group through the life cycle of the student
○ Each phase of the life cycle will contain a case study for groups to evaluate and score
○ The participants will apply the skills they developed to connect current practices at their institution to the scorecard.
○ Groups will have an opportunity to share best strategies for providing support for the online students.
With the conclusion of the group activity, the leaders will discuss the guidebook and the survey that complements the scorecard and the interactive website that institutions can use to evaluate their services.
The identification of quality online education programs satisfies a great need in our field and has been requested by many online education administrators as a tool for program improvement. The assessment of quality online education has never been more important as fierce competition from for-profit programs as well as many non-profit programs continues to increase and students all over the world are clicking to find a respectable degree program.