All Students Phase 1

Phase 1 - Prior to enrollment online students need information about:

  • Demands of online learning
  • Admissions
  • Online program
  • Placement testing
  • Contact information
  • Financial Aid
  • Scholarships
  • Orientation to college
  • Fit or readiness for online learning
  • Learning Style Assessment

What else do online students need to know beside what is listed above?

*the difference between blended and fully online courses
*Orientation to the college may encompass many things - hopefully it includes some basic information about types of degrees/programs offered. It may be helpful to outline the information to be covered at certain phases during an "orientation" component.
*What services are available to them what they need to avail themselves of :tutoring, counseling, library, student services, housing, cafeteria, transportation options.
*faculty advising

  • career services
  • opportunities for informal communication
  • Transfer Credit Policy and how those credits will apply towards degree
  • Computer requirements so student's have ample time to obtain the necessary software for success
  • Policies: drop/add/withdrawal/absentee, etc.
  • Course Transferability into a Master's program
  • residency requirements
  • how to view/pay their bill/payment options/full cost of courses (including fees & textbooks)/financial aid
  • student rights/code of conduct
  • How long the degree program is—2 years? 4 years?
  • Honors groups they may be eligible for
  • Prerequisite classes
  • Who to follow-up with for additional questions/concerns
  • Technology requirements (equipment needed & software)
  • A self-quiz on learning style and determining whether their learning style will fit in the requirements of an online course
  • How students with disabilities could access accommodations and services
  • Tutoring options
  • Prerequisite courses and transfer of courses from another institution
  • Technical Support availability: phone, email, IM, blogging
  • FAQ's or guest account to access sample page
  • Computer extras - Reduced prices for computer equipment or software through school (computer store).
  • Mentoring - A virtual/email buddy (upperclassman), sort of like an experienced roommate in the same major.
  • Bookstore - How to buy books, etc. for courses. I think this is a phase 1 activity rather than a phase 2 activity.
  • Institution's computer usage code ("the rules")
  • A learning style assessment like http://www.metamath.com/multiple/multiple_choice_questions.html . This would helps students decide if taking an online course is something they are willing to do, assuming they have options. If they must take an online course, this assessment would allow them to determine what skill set they need to refine based on their personal learning style, what support services they may need to put in place, and what accommodations they would need to access.

Who will assume responsibility for delivering these services?

  • Student Affairs
  • Academic Affairs
  • Admissions Counselor
  • Financial Aid Officers
  • Career Counselors
  • Recruiter
  • All college faculty and staff
  • IT or some sort of Media department at college
  • Academic department/college
  • Institution's IT/Computer Store
  • Center for Academic Advisement
  • Disability Services

A Center for Academic Advisement could assume responsibility for putting a learning assessment on line. The Office of Disability Services should also have the responsibility of delivering this service. Many students seek information prior to enrollment to ensure that reasonable accommodations and services will be made accessable, provided he/she registers in Disabilities Services.

Since these services are to be made available to all students before enrollment, the responsibility must ultimately roll up to the institution itself. Pre-enrollment student candidates may yet know nothing about how the institution is structured or staffed, and in order to be effective, a services effort needs to appear unified to an external visitor, especially for his or her first exposure. The institution might designate a structure to spearhead this, which itself might apportion responsibilities to various smaller entities, but it must appear unified to be successful and that implies a singular responsible party.

What is the best delivery method for these services?

  • public website is best though specific issues relevant to students should be addressed through service requiring passwords and logins
  • all online if possible, with on-site support as well for local students to access
  • Have all of the information online for convenience, but also someone available by phone/email during normal business hours to answer direct questions about the program
  • demonstration/preview course
  • virtual office hours: IM or chatroom
  • technology tutorials/online workshops self-assessments
  • Incoming/outgoing phone calls—especially for specific questions not answered on web sites
  • Official letters for things like acceptance to the school
  • Note: all information (although it may be online, etc.) should be printable via comprehensive documents, etc.
  • Text-messaging (If student has it) - this can't be applied for all things, but for friendly reminders, etc. it would be appropriate
  • a online learners webpage with various learning modules that cover all of the topics mentioned above in addition to frequently asked questions regarding online learning.
  • On-Line Orientation or training course…How to take an online class
  • If the course or program is online then the goal should be all that all services are deliverable online with phone as a back up plan only
  • I honestly believe its a campus-specific methodology. I strongly believe that it depends upon the resources of the institution. The larger the institution, the more economies of scale exist. More staff and resources are available to staff call centers, IM chat rooms, etc. There are limits to the quality and quantity of services a college may provide.
  • I believe the idea about all information being in printable form is especially important. There may be legal ramifications for what, say, an academic advisor communicates to a student during an office appointment compared to a chat/IM session or a virtual domain (Second Life).
  • Appropriate Department Websites should provide appropriate links.
  • Delivery methods for generalized pre-enrollment services would probably be a mix of non-proprietary Web tools. Some of the most effective tools for later phases, such as a secured BlackBoard implementation, might be available only to people who have already enrolled, and so would be of little use to prospective students. These tools might include a variety of currently-popular applications such as Facebook, traditional web links, instant messaging, or even Skype video-calls. Above all the tools need to be available enough, and easy enough to use, so that their own learning curve does not become more cumbersome than the value of the service being offered.

How to these resources contribute on online success?

Students could make informed decisions. Students could arrange for resources before they become frustrated, alienated, and lost. Students could refine their skills in order to be more prepared for online learning. Students would feel empowered that they had taken measures to ensure their educational success.

With a more coordinated presentation of online information, perhaps we wouldn't lose or frustrate our perspective students.

These resources must be ADA compliant to improve success of students with disabilities who want to take online courses.

If a new online student has the resources available to help them prior to enrolling, it will most likely ensure success after they enroll in a distance education course. It is vitally important for students to be engaged and motivated in DE, and this is done by communication and services that offer the online student a seamless entry into distance education. Better preparation will improve success rates.

If a student is going to enroll in an online program, they need to gain familiarity with how to access information online. It also puts responsibility on the student to take initiative- which is needed in an online setting. It benefits the counselor/advisor in the sense that the static information is available for the student to access independently- freeing the counselor to focus on specific student issues

A helpful, intuitive source of online information communicates the institution's dedication to online programs and students, which builds rapport from the first day. Students are less likely to falter at frustrating dead ends if there is an online source of accurate, easily navigated information about common roadblocks. Access to faculty and staff via email/phone/IM/chat provides individual support to students with less common concerns. Explicit policies, procedures, and expectations make it easier for students determine whether the program is a good fit before they enroll, and help them avoid pitfalls like late payments, inadequate hardware, unexpected fees, or gaps in online course offerings.

Any student needs to know what is available to them before they enroll. This is often what will make a difference on their choosing the institution. It is especially important for online learners to understand how to use the programs that will function as the medium for their learning, as well as how to take care of the other matters students have to take care of, like paying the bill, attaining PIN numbers and library access.

I agree with the comments above and would like to add that flexibility is key. Thus, the more styles of contact a college can offer as well as how the different services are delivered will enhance the chances of success in ultimately attracting and enrolling the student. People relate to mediums differently, thus information should be available in different ways - with personal contact provided. DE prides itself on being accommodating to the toughest of work schedules and family situations, thus the mediums offered should be no different, hopefully catering to various learning styles. Moreover, I strongly agree with the thoughts above in regards to offering as much of the information, etc. online for that is the environment the student will be expected to learn and communicate in when it comes to taking classes and "operating" as a DE student.

Students need to know ahead of time if they can do all aspects of the process on line. (i.e. registration to course completion course) To clarify, on our campus you need to come and take the Placement Test and some courses require that you take the mid-term and final on site.

The one thing I would add is that if the institution is trying to make online user friendly then it has to be easy to access for all types of students. Since online is dominately written communication material has to be clear up front and easy to navigate which means that mutiple learning modes would need to be addressed to create opportunities for students of all types to create success for themselves. Clear resources and communication generated confidence for the online student who feels that 'they can do it' so persistence is greater.

When I thought about answering this question I thought about cultures. I don't think it would be (too much of) a stretch to suggest that there might be one (or more) online student cultures, computer technology providing the medium through which students communicate. I obvious work in a traditionally white institution. For many "minority" students, coming to Happy Valley can be a culture shock. Where do I get my hair cut? Where can I buy the food I'm used to eating? As it's important for the institution to feel as though they belong to the larger campus community by having familiar things available to them in order to belong, it's equally important to the members of the online culture to have all the things available to them that they need to feel they belong to the institution. This sense of belonging, I believe, is key to the individual student's success.

The comment above made me think about an area of student services that isn't covered in the model we're learning about: alumni services. Someone else further along in the course may have already mentioned it but I haven't gotten that far yet. It seems to me that the sooner the college's alumni office makes online students "a part from the start," the more online students may begin to think of themselves as part of something new and exciting.

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