Unit 1: Best Practices Guidelines for Resources and Services
Identifying Learning Support Resources and Services
Let's for a minute pretend that you have decided to return to school to finish that degree you started 10 years ago. You saw an ad that completely sold you on the idea...Watch this video Now that online learning is so common you decide to find a college that offers online courses that you need to complete your degree. You search online, find College ABC and enroll in Life Skills 101 for Spring semester. Wow, the exhilaration of it all- they accept your credit card, you get an email receipt and then you wait.......the semester is fast approaching, and you have no idea what to do, who to call, where to log in, how to get into your email, yikes, what have you done?
Finally you get a letter telling you to log in to the course management system using your student ID and be sure you have your textbooks and shots. Shots? What on earth are they talking about.....wow....information overload in reverse.....you feel like you know nothing. You try searching the college website, and get nowhere. Finally you get an email from your course instructor with specific instructions about how to log in, and where to get your books. Well, you think, this is a start. What else don't you know? The semester continues this way, with one phone call after another trying to find services and figuring out how to borrow a simple library book.....this is not what you had in mind. The hassles get in the way of the learning, and your instructor is simply no help at all.
Hopefully none of us will experience our first online course like that, but let's use this example to reflect on how we can make sure that this doesn't happen to our students.
In order to help our online student, lets think through the steps involved in signing up for a course to be taught on campus as a student attending college ABC and then we can compare the needs to a student who lives 250 miles away. Where do you go, who do you talk to, what do you need to know in order to get registered, pay and attend class well prepared. Use the worksheet to make a list of these items. Worksheet 1. You should print out the worksheet to fill it in. You may also want to keep a copy for your future course development activities.
Open this link to the Plattsburgh State website and view it as a new online learning student might. Your job is to buy text books for SOC 101, find an e-reserve article for SOC 101, get tutoring help for a paper you have to write, use inter-library loan to order a book for your class and locate a scholarly journal article. Describe the processes you undertook and your thoughts as you tried to accomplish these goals on this site using Worksheet 2. Again, print out the worksheet and fill it in. You may want to keep a copy for future reference.
Now that we have an idea of what we need to do when we are on campus and what we don't want to experience as a new online student, in our next activity we will look a model designed to ensure that online courses provide support services and resources to students.
York College's recently published a set of guidelines called E-Learning Best Practices: a guide for faculty. This came out of a four-year collaboration by the E-Learning Advisory Board and includes a copy of the campus Distance Learning Agreement. The Associate Dean of Library and Information Services is the key contact person for this initiative with support from the Center for Teaching Excellence and the Instructional Technology department.
The document is divided into four key areas:
- Instructional Design
- Course Instruction
- Learner Support and Resources
- Course Evaluation
"This document contains extensive advice on tried and true online teaching practices, but it is important to keep in mind that that they are not absolutes. Good teachers use their knowledge and experience to make appropriate judgments about what practices most effectively serve their learning objectives. Lists of best practices are no substitute for instructor awareness for and responsiveness to student learning" (E-Learning Best Practices, 2010). Consider the following quote: "Students in online courses will have awareness of and access to all those services that can assist them in the learning process." (York College, p. 16)This standard is broad in scope and refers to disability services, ADA compliance, library services, research assistance, technical assistance and tutoring and writing support services.
For this activity spend some time reviewing the E-Learning Guidelines below and then complete the self assessment worksheet detailing you could integrate access to these services into your course.
Follow this link to the E-Learning Guidelines document and review Section III, pages 16-18.
For each section in the document read through the Evidence of Success to ensure that you understand how best to integrate support services. If you are not sure how to do this, consult the Means of Improvement column for further clarification. Once you have reviewed the document, go to the Self Evaluation worksheet and write out your thoughts on how you think you could ensure access to the resources including initial thoughts about readings, e-reserves , or e-books you may want to link to in your course. In the next unit we will focus on locating these resources and ways to bring all of this information together for the online students.
In this unit we have put ourselves in the place of our online students. This is always a useful design tool in order to make decisions that will benefit our students. Clear directions and contact information can save countless hours for our students, time which is much better spent studying.