International Perspectives on Supporting and Engaging Online Learners: Volume 39

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Table of contents

(17 chapters)

Prelims

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Part I: In Practice

Abstract

This chapter unpacks the unique characteristics of online students, research that exists pertaining to support of online students in American higher education, and reviews the subsequent chapters in this volume. The chapters in this book focus on research, theoretical foundations for supporting the success of online student. Authors present case studies in various context including a large state university system, a large and increasingly growing public master’s degree, two private institutions, and a Scottish institution. Various theoretical constructs are provided to help inform practices for supporting online students including “communities of practice” (Wenger, 2000) or “communities of inquiry” (Garrison, 2007) and the Dynamic Student Development Metatheodel (DSDM). The final chapters of this book unpack the experiences of specific populations including post-baccalaureate, students, and doctoral students, understanding that each subset of students encounters different challenges throughout their online experiences. Finally, this book closes with a focus on a very important topic for all professionals: accessibility discussing the importance of inclusion, participation, and engagement for students with disabilities no matter the modality of learning. The last chapter compares two models of support (medical and social) and offers recommended changes for implementation of best practices to enhance literacy supports in online learning environments.

Abstract

As institutions forge forward with creating online learning experiences for college and university students, student affairs professionals should seek to create an experience that anticipates and supports their needs from expression of interest in the program to graduation. The term “student affairs” encompasses administrative and management functions created to meet the needs of students including extracurricular activities as well as academic and emotional support. Student affairs departments may be involved in residence life, advising, leadership development, career services, advocacy and support services, and more. All students, including online students, excel both academically and emotionally when they feel valued, welcomed, and supported. The following chapter provides recommendations on ways campuses can transform the existing ecosystem of support services and engagement opportunities to be inclusive of online learners. A systematic review of the current ecosystem of support has been made to analyze the ways in which access is provided remotely to online learners and to ensure that the language and engagement opportunities shared with students are inclusive of online learners. In addition to this expanding of current support systems, it is recommended that campuses should consider specific initiatives they can create and implement for their online population including online orientation, success coaching, library support services, and the use of predictive analytics for student success.

Abstract

The purpose of this chapter is to share the structure and strategies that institutions can use to transform the experience of students learning at a distance. Details on how one of the largest educational systems in the United States, the State University of New York (SUNY), reshaped the student online learning experience via the “Open SUNY” model will be described. Specific strategies for infusing existing models of support with new ways of thinking will be explained.

In particular, this chapter will explore the infrastructure of the Open SUNY model of collaboration, the use of the Open SUNY Institutional Readiness approach for preparing colleges to deliver quality online programming, and the unique Open SUNY+ Signature Element program for assessing the quality of online programming and support structures.

This chapter will also highlight the efforts of one campus, SUNY Canton, to leverage Open SUNY and take its signature element on student engagement to the next level. A case study on Canton will show how the campus incorporated online students in all aspects of campus life to reduce student isolation. Specific online student engagement strategies will be provided.

Abstract

In this chapter, we examine the program- and university-level infrastructure to support learners in a large online Master of Science in Computer Science program. The program is novel due to its cost and size: total tuition for the entire degree is around $7,000, and to date, it has enrolled over 25,000 total students with 11,000 enrolled in spring 2021. Prior research has largely focused on the program’s administration of individual classes, but in this work, we examine the administration of the program at higher levels: at the program level, including its academic advisers, career counselors, and alumni relations, and at the university level where it integrates with on-campus infrastructure for academic integrity, student advocacy, and disability accommodations. We close by offering three guidelines for implementing similar programs at other schools, taking into consideration the full range of experience in building the program.

Part II: Innovative Approaches

Abstract

In this chapter, we consider some of the key ideas that impact on the creation of online learning environments. By exploring some aspects of theory, namely connectivism and its relation to wider ideas of community-building, heutagogy, and motivation, we articulate some of the factors that have influenced the authors’ practice in creating online learning. We illustrate these influences by outlining examples of three courses which we have been party to creating, so that interlinked theory and practice are in evidence. By looking at a teacher education program, a childhood practice program, and a short access course, we provide examples of some of the ways in which we have scaffolded the development of learning communities, encouraged students to have autonomy over the direction of their learning, and engaged students to maintain their motivation for learning. At times, these three dimensions are interpenetrating, and in two of our case studies, longevity and ongoing improvements have enabled the authors to have confidence in the quality and value of these courses, while the third focuses on a newly created course.

Abstract

Developing student engagement in the online classroom and within co-curricular digital spaces is about relationship building more than technology or class structure. Where the learning management system is used effectively, online learning can equal or exceed the engagement levels of face-to-face classrooms particularly with Millennial and Generation Z students. Beyond technology is the need to create a higher value aspect of learning by developing models closely aligned with “communities of practice” (Wenger, 2000) or “communities of inquiry” (Garrison, 2007). This chapter will examine how to engage Millennial and Generation Z traditional undergraduate students through distance learning approaches in ways that support student learning and development.

Abstract

Online learning can present challenges and barriers for students, especially when it comes to self-motivation and discipline. Non-traditional learners and those who may be underprepared are often the students most likely to seek virtual learning options. As a result, methods of supporting online learners must be intentional and robust to stay attentive to students’ needs. The American Women’s College (TAWC) at Bay Path University designed its Social Online Universal Learning (SOUL) model to promote degree completion through a constellation of evidence-based practices that cultivate student engagement in a personalized online learning environment. SOUL employs an innovative adaptive technology approach with Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles to promote accessibility and affordability. Foundational to these frameworks is a commitment to leveraging technology to gather data that drives action-oriented analytics, triggering interventions by faculty and staff and generating predictive models to inform wrap-around support. SOUL’s high-tech, high-touch attributes give students agency over their unique learning paths and provide instructors and administrators the meaningful insights needed to target efforts in a personalized yet scalable way, to promote and positively impact student success. Lessons learned in the process of developing data-driven “high-tech, high-touch” practices are presented.

Abstract

As higher education institutions see the increased enrollment of online students, the services they provide must adapt to meet their needs. This chapter presents an in-depth case study of the steps that one private American university took, following Kezar’s model (2005), to improve online student engagement. The first phase involved buy-in from leadership and creating a valid justification for the collaboration efforts. The second phase involved taking the first steps to create a culture of collaboration across the institution. The third phase involved the development of programs that continued collaboration efforts through various campuses and departments to create tangible products promoting student success. The institution focused more on the process of collaboration than the results in an effort to create a foundation that could outlast staff changes and restructuring of departments. Early results indicate a potential for other universities to examine their processes used for collaboration between colleges and departments.

Abstract

Online courses and self-directed and asynchronous learning may not be the best for everyone. Individuals possess a number of different learning styles and life circumstances when they enter higher education. Technology is but one answer to addressing these diverse needs and providing choices to students. Technology should be employed in a way that does not replace this system of choice but enhances it and provides individuals with other opportunities for achieving educational goals. The ideal for higher education lies somewhere in-between the purely digital and purely traditional modes of educational delivery. Lost in this capitulation of higher education to the enrollments of distance education is student success. This chapter will explore challenges to distance education student retention and persistence, disseminate the theoretical construct of the Dynamic Student Development Metatheodel, and apply specific student success strategies to distance education. These strategies include intrusive advising and asynchronous advising techniques. This chapter will conclude with how these advising techniques and strategies can facilitate increased student persistence through engagement with academic advisors using asynchronous approaches that move beyond the traditional temporal, didactic strategies employed by most higher education institutions.

Abstract

As online academic programs and online student populations continue to grow, it is important to consider the population of graduate-level students and what support they need from the university in order to be engaged and successful. This chapter will provide a review of the theory and research to show that there is a need for academic support for graduate-level students while also discussing how institutions have worked to create meaningful connections for students. Drawing on Astin’s theory of student involvement, this chapter will discuss three ways that the University Academic Success Programs department at Arizona State University has worked to address that need and provide academic support to online graduate students: online graduate writing centers, online dissertation writing camps, and employment of online graduate students. Using interview examples from former student tutors, this chapter will show how these opportunities helped online graduate students feel valued, supported, and connected to the institution. This chapter will conclude by addressing limitations, areas for program growth and future research, and recommendations for practitioners to apply in their own institutions.

Abstract

The academic needs of postgraduate online distance students are often very diverse. Typically, the students will be over 35 years old and studying part-time, while juggling other commitments, such as family or employment. Therefore, providing academic support which is targeted and meets their needs is paramount for enhancing the student experience and ensuring that they have the best possible chance of succeeding at postgraduate level. The academic support can be positioned into three transitional stages: into, throughout, and exiting their studies. Typically, during the first stage (entering the university), the main concern for the student is around academic expectations and getting started. During the second stage (while studying), there will be a variety of academic needs, ranging from assignments to literacy skills. In the third stage (exiting the university), this will typically be related to employability or going onto further study. This chapter presents an academic transitions roadmap (ATR) that can be used by institutions, in order to provide targeted academic support that is aligned with the three stages. By implementing the ATR, there is the potential for enabling students to become more confident while on their academic journey, and ultimately, this contributes to enhancing the student experience.

Abstract

What contributes to US professional doctoral student success in the online space is the subject of this chapter. The online doctoral student occupies two underserved categories of higher education students: doctoral students and online students, both of which have historically low graduation rates (Bawa, 2016; Stone, 2017). A number of US online doctoral programs have significantly higher graduation rates than normal, demonstrating that it is possible to create highly successful online doctoral programs. In this chapter, we apply the R. E. Clark and Estes (2008) conceptual framework of human performance to understanding the factors contributing to doctoral student success in online programs. We look at three stakeholder groups, faculty, staff, and students, and review the factors and solutions that could allow each group to contribute to doctoral student success. This review of the literature is informed by examples drawn from two online professional doctoral programs for which the authors either designed and taught courses, and chaired dissertations, or were enrolled in as a student.

Abstract

In this chapter, the authors examine the challenges presented by supporting higher education students with disabilities in an online learning environment and put forth a discussion and recommendations for delivering literacy supports to geographically disparate students in fully online courses by embracing the social model of disability and universal design principals as opposed to the typical medical model of disability that it pervasive in educational systems. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, educational institutions are required to promote auxiliary aids and services. Broadly defined, these aids are meant to enhance communication, inclusion, and participation of people with disabilities. The discussion of the resources put forth in this chapter begins with an exploration of the evolving consensus on the nature of disability and the standard (medical) model for providing accommodations and supports for students with disabilities, which was developed before the rise of online and blended learning environments. Next, the authors explore the problems inherent in the use of the medical model and highlight how the social model and universal design for learning can be utilized to empower learners and enhance their learning experiences in online and blended learning environments. The discussion returns to the importance of inclusion, participation, and engagement for students with disabilities no matter the modality of learning. This chapter concludes with a comparison of two models of support and recommended changes for implementation of best practices to enhance literacy supports in online learning environments.

Name Index

Pages 203-208
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Subject Index

Pages 209-216
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Cover of International Perspectives on Supporting and Engaging Online Learners
DOI
10.1108/S2055-3641202139
Publication date
2021-09-16
Book series
Innovations in Higher Education Teaching and Learning
Editors
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
ISBN
978-1-80043-485-1
eISBN
978-1-80043-484-4
Book series ISSN
2055-3641