Online student services for distance learners
Marsh, Stephanie Rebecca
MetadataShow full item record
The purpose of this study was to identify and describe the student services that exemplary distance learning programs offer and the structure and process of these programs. The study addressed research questions concerning services, methods of service provision, and the role of campus-based student affairs units. The study was qualitative in nature and utilized a multiple case study approach. A group of experts identified programs exemplary in serving students, and participants from five distance programs were interviewed. In addition, the program websites were analyzed utilizing a checklist designed from the Western Cooperative for Educational Telecommunication’s (WCET) Guidelines for Online Services, which provides recommendations for 14 service components: Information for Prospective Students, Admissions, Financial Aid, Registration, Orientation Services, Academic Advising, Technical Support, Career Services, Library Services, Services for Students with Disabilities, Personal Counseling, Instructional Support and Tutoring, Bookstore, and Services to Promote a Sense of Community. The findings are presented in categories that generally parallel the research questions. For the most part, these programs provide the services recommended by WCET and utilize a variety of methods to provide them, such as websites, e-mail, chat, and call centers. Student affairs units collaborate with distance learning staff on a limited basis except for administrative services such as admissions, registration, and financial aid. While the original intent was to design a procedural or instrumental model for others wishing to enhance or initiate services for distance learners, the programs represented differed too much in terms of structure and process. However, several issues emerged to consider: (a) organizational structure, (b) funding, (c) policies, (d) decision-making, (e) program growth, and (f) overlap of distance and resident education.