Last month the Office of Distance Education and eLearning hosted a forum that brought together those around campus who are supporting or who would like to support students through digital channels. This event was a time for networking between peers, information sharing of best practices (Writing Center presentation and Adviser panel discussion) and information gathering of the support needed to offer digital resources for students. Twenty staff and faculty members from across the university attended the event. The group represented faculty, student support groups, support staff, and advisers.
To kick off the session, participants were asked the following question: What supporting student’s online scenario keeps you up at night? Their answers varied and are listed below.
- Students don’t always interpret written instructions the way faculty intend
- Support for graduate students (Master’s Thesis support)
- Connecting students to the community through sporting event tickets, etc.
- Connecting and engaging with students
- Career development support
- Student understanding of OSU procedures and deadlines
- After hours support
- Keeping online students motivated
- Students handling of setbacks (e.g. exam failure, family problems, emotional hardships, suicidal thoughts)
- Data validity
Through conversations during the forum, participants demonstrated interests in finding out more about
- chat options available for support at the Writing Center;
- best practices for providing constructive feedback and methods for online students to be successful on written assignments, projects, etc;
- graduation rates;
- co-curricular options and support for students.
There were several observations about challenges of supporting students online that the group shared:
- Students like to work with the same person (advisor)
- Students like coming to visit campus and feeling part of the student body
- The misconceptions about the work around online learning is not as bad as it used to be; most students are now familiar with online courses
- Some student advisers have created a type of “Bingo Sheet” curriculum plan to help students map out their courses
- A u.osu.edu blog can be used to support students and share how they can be involved in the university experience
During the course of conversations, participants gained a greater understanding of the issues to consider and a better familiarity with online student needs such as an awareness of time zones, awareness of the schedules of working adults, special issues of military students, etc. As the forum concluded, attendees identified the following as potential next steps in the effort to support students online:
- Continue to offer this type of forum on a semester basis to encourage knowledge sharing and gathering
- Questions to explore:
- How are various departments leveraging chat features? Can our students do chat with IT help like we can? Are there other uses for chat?
- How can programs (and ODEE) make use of the data from the student online readiness tool to support students?
- How could sending a “Student Welcome Package” with Buckeye swag to the homes of new students help them during the “app gap” period?
Stay in touch with ODEE events to be notified of the next Supporting Students Online Forum and other professional learning opportunities by subscribing to the Workshops listserv and/or the Digital Digest. If you are not a fan of signing up for listservs, you can also see a list of upcoming ODEE events at http://go.osu.edu/workshops.