Let's Talk About Human Online Support in Light of COVID

Concurrent Session 5

Brief Abstract

With the increasing focus of moving courses online, institutions must navigate faculty and student concerns in our new COVID environment. We posit the personal (human) touch in online courses is necessary, almost vital, to supporting faculty, while supporting and enhancing the student experience. We look forward to a great conversation.


Dr. Watkins is the Chief Academic Officer at Instructional Connections (IC), a provider of high quality instructional support services to colleges and universities offering online courses and degree programs. As Chief Academic Officer she serves as the liaison between IC and institutions of higher learning, conducting research and ensuring that the academic support needs of the institutions are met. Formerly, Dr. Watkins was the Director of Online Learning for the newly established University of Arkansas System, eVersity. Her chief responsibility -- leading the core team of Instructional Designers to develop the entire online course catalog of innovative online programs for the university. Previous to this she was the Manager of Academic Partnerships at the University of Texas at Arlington. She oversaw the logistics and implementation of distance education programs with contracted vendors at the Center for Distance Education. Additionally, Dr. Watkins also served as the past president of the International Leadership Council and board member for Golden Key International Honour Society. She holds an EdD in Distance Education from Regent University in Virginia Beach, VA. Dr. Watkins loves spending time with her family, especially her grandchildren whom she adores.

Extended Abstract

In this session/conversation, we'll discuss the "new normal" and the challenges that may have upended some faculty regarding their online course. This session will employ the use of prompt cards to facilitate a robust discussion among participants.  This "Conversation" will be structured in such a way as to draw out what issues are most salient in the online classroom in light of this ongoing COVID environment and how facutly and students are best supported and served. We want participants to lean in and listen to their colleagues and work through solutions. We will present a human solution and allow participants input on how the use of humans in online courses can provide empathy as well as instructional support to sutdents and faculty,  There is no reason that faculty need worry about fully providing a robust online course experience for their students. Lean into the support Instructional Connections provides with our coaching model. We provide Academic Coaches who work collaboratively with faculty to reinforce their academic goals and learning objectives for the course.

The coach focuses on enhancing student success and retention by acting as a touch point for students while increasing and promoting opportunities for collaboration, communication, and accountability, minimizing student isolation. Academic Coaches understand the need for fostering positive, meaningful affective and professional relationships with students. Students feel connected to the course and the program because they are connected to their Academic Coach. Each Academic Coach is a highly qualified, experienced practitioner in their field of study and has earned a graduate or doctoral degree. These individuals possess a strong educational, instructional, and leadership background, bringing value to the overall student learning experience. A harmonious relationship can exist between administration, faculty and the growth goals of the institution.

At the end of the conversation we hope to have facilitated a robust conversation where participatnts felt heard and solutions were formed for all stakeholders in online courses.