Beyond InstructIon: Scaling Support for a Large OnlIne Master’s Program

Streamed Session

Brief Abstract

In this session, we will explore some of the ancillary services that complement online learning initiatives, such as academic advising, disability accommodations, and career development. We will briefly present our procedures, and explore with attendees what structures exist at other universities.


David Joyner is the Associate Director for Student Experience in Georgia Tech's College of Computing, overseeing the administration of the college's online Master of Science in Computer Science program as well as its new online undergraduate offerings. He has developed and teaches CS6460: Educational Technology, CS6750: Human-Computer Interaction, and CS1301: Introduction to Computing, all online.

Extended Abstract

Much of the research and discussion surrounding online learning emphasizes learning itself. However, learning does not take place in a vacuum: in any teaching organization, there is a complex system of departments and policies to support the actual learning process. Although these structures are often not directly involved in the teaching process, they nonetheless form a critical part of the student experience and are deeply connected to student success in online learning initiatives. Crucially, in traditional in-person settings, many of these are built on a history of in-person meetings and sessions which may not translate naturally to an online environment.

In this discovery session, we will briefly, in 1-2 minutes per topic, present how we—a large online graduate program—handle each of these demands. We will then lead a discussion among attendees about how these same needs are addressed in other programs and institutional contexts. The demands themselves are:

  • Academic advising.
  • Student career services and development.
  • Alumni relations.
  • Student employment (such as teaching assistants).
  • Disability accommodations.
  • Student advocacy (such as in the face of personal emergencies or health crises).
  • Academic integrity and conflict resolution.

After discussing these, we will present our guidelines for new at-scale online learning efforts:

  • Explore the implications of novel demographics.
  • Build from on-campus and replace as needed.
  • Use scale as an asset, not an obstacle.

This session is based on the book chapter Beyond InstructIon: Scaling Support for a Large OnlIne Master’s Program, from International Perspectives on Supporting and Engaging Online Learners.