Do Your Online Students Enjoy the Same Services as Traditional Students?

by Melanie Jackson

Engaging students through student services is valuable when considering the quality of distance education.

Overview

The OLC Quality Scorecard for Online Student Support was developed to help institutions take an introspective look at the services being offered to students across the institution. It follows the life-cycle of the student from before admission, until graduation. It has been proven to start useful conversations, leading to improved services for all students, not only those who are fully online.


The OLC Quality Scorecard for Online Student Support

Engaging students through student services is valuable when considering the quality of distance education. Through student services, students should be able to access the equivalent support services that allow them to be successful academically and reduce the feeling of isolation.

Virtual Handshake Through Computer Screen

As post-secondary institutions explore ways to differentiate their brands and address how to support students in other states, the services required for students may need to be delivered in alternative ways. More students also are beginning their academic career 100% online. Therefore, institutions are developing an interest in how to create an online experience that can extend the campus experiences to the online students, and by building connections with the institution through online services, students begin to feel as if they belong to the larger student population.

Background

The origin for the Online Student Support Scorecard was in the 2025 Online Education Strategic Plan developed by the State University System of Florida through the support of the Innovation and Online Committee at the Florida Board of Governors. That plan identified three areas of emphasis to increase online courses and degrees in the state. As the online presence grew, the state was interested in address three areas: (a) quality, (b) affordability, and (c) access. To improve the quality of distance learning, two of the tactics were included to promote high quality student support services. Other quality tactics addressed the quality of course development and availability of professional development.

Implementation

The first tactic for student support was to develop a scorecard to measure the presence and quality of online student support services. The second tactic was to provide best strategies in providing support for online students. With the Online Education Plan as the springboard, the universities and colleges in Florida combined resources to develop the scorecard. Within the group were experts from student support service units across Florida brainstormed what was important for online students to access and how to define access. The scorecard has now become part of the OLC suite of scorecards and this is one of the ways that the OLC community can be involved in its future.

Summary

The Scorecard is useful in several different ways. It not only allows the institution to self-evaluate the availability and the quality of the services provide to the online students, but also to utilize the Scorecard data provided to improve services in various ways. The State University System of Florida, for example, used the overall results to explore possibilities to combine statewide services. The Scorecard is also helpful for regional accrediting reviews, as a demonstration of the institution’s self-evaluation and documentation of improvement over time.


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Jackson has been an educator in Kentucky and Florida for almost 29 years, including 9 ½ years teaching computer science in high school, 13 years of senior level experience in higher education administration, and 24 years teaching in higher education at the community college and university level.