Supporting Distance Students

This week we were asked to reflect on using the tools we have been using in this class and how we would use these tools for distance education. I was excited to see this blog prompt because I do work with distance students, and I have been doing some thinking around how I can use technology to offer better support to these students. Dayley and Hoffman identified that the student supports available for online students are not as strong for those participating  in face-to-face courses. In their words:

Although student services for online students saw significant progress in the last few years, there is still room for improvement, with the ultimate goal of providing as many opportunities as possible or distance students as those on a physical campus.

At the University of Regina there is certainly room for improvement in terms of supports and services for online student. In theory we offer the same supports to distance students as we do to face-to-face courses. For example, we have phone meetings with students to offer learning skills support and do academic advising and writing over email. In addition, we have some of our Student Success Workshops available online, and have a comprehensive online Orientation for new students. However, as Dayley and Hoffman assert, students who are away from the physical campus notice differences between “customary tangible experiences” and online offerings in things like library, counselling, and tutoring services. We notice that a far lower percentage of distance students use our services than those attending courses on the main campus. Part of that can likely be attributed to the fact that the services we offer to distance students don’t have the same personal feel.

I believe that we can make the gap between online and physical student services smaller by using better tools, many of which I was introduced to in ECI 833  Please check out this GoAnimate video I made  highlighting some of the ways that  I think the  Student Success Centre can better serve distance students by utilizing technology.

As I mentioned in the video, these are just some of the ways that the Student Success Centre could use technology to better support students. One thing I feel that is missing, and was pointed out by Dayley and Hoffman, is the opportunity for off-campus students to engage socially. Erin and Launel brought up the need for elementary level students to participate in face-to-face activities for socialization purposes. In addition, Andy talked about a need for a physical community for learners to engage in. I feel like the same things are needed for university students, and that students who take all of their classes online miss out on a critical part of university.

Do you have any ideas on how we could use technology to help university students engage in activities and feel like they are part of the University of Regina community?

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4 thoughts on “Supporting Distance Students

  1. etherrienblog says:

    Very interesting post! I took a few online courses in my undergrad, and this is my third online course for my grad degree, all through the University of Regina. That being said, I never used the tools you mention in your blog when I was taking these courses, even when I had questions and difficulties. Perhaps it is because of the lacking social aspect, like you said, or maybe it is because I wasn’t aware they existed. Either way, I probably would be more likely to get that support in person because of the face-to-face contact. However, I think perhaps students coming in now may be different because they are already so aware of the online world and are very comfortable with it, whereas I was not. I think our society is shifting to where the online resources will be used as much as the face-to-face ones – at least one can hope!

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    • Naomi Deren says:

      Thanks Elizabeth – you bring up a good point. We don’t have a great way of promoting our services to online students and we really need to think about how we can do a better job of that! Another thing I hadn’t thought of is maybe students are not comfortable using the online supports. Good things to think about, thanks!

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  2. launelheinen says:

    Wow the student support center has changed in the last ten years.

    *Do you have any ideas on how we could use technology to help university students engage in activities and feel like they are part of the University of Regina community?- Maybe making You Tube video’s of events (or presenters) so they feel like they are ‘here’?

    Love your GoAnimate video. You will have to tell me how you added your voice in more than 20 second clips! Tried it this week. Epic fail.

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    • Naomi Deren says:

      Hey Launel good idea with the YouTube videos. I think it would work well especially for the lecture-style events.

      As for Go Animate, I did use 20 second clips at a time. I just recorded a new clip for each scene. It took me a while to get the hang of, but it forced me to use more scenes which I think is a good thing.

      Liked by 1 person

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