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22st Annual OLC International Conference
November 16-18, 2016 | Orlando, Florida | Walt Disney World Swan/Dolphin Resort

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April 20-22, 2016 | New Orleans, LA | Sheraton New Orleans Hotel

The Tour Guide: A New Model for Administering Online Student Services and Learner Support

Valerie C. Haven (University of Massachusetts & Ross Center for Disability Services, USA)
Session Information
October 16, 2015 - 9:30am
Student Services and Learner Support
Major Emphasis of Presentation: 
Practical Application
Institutional Level: 
Multiple Levels
Audience Level: 
Session Type: 
Information Session
Americas Seminar
Session Duration: 
45 Minutes
Concurrent Session 9

The "Tour Guide" is a new model for providing accessible student services and learner supports in online educational environments.

Extended Abstract

This presentation will showcase a new model for providing student services and learner support within online learning environments. As distance education continues to thrive there still remains a mismatch between the academic environment and the learner support systems within higher education. For example, very few educational institutions have a disability services office dedicated to the needs of disabled students in online learning environments. Student wellness and social programs are still tied to the brick and mortar institution.

Many learners with disabilities do not receive adequate support in online environments because of insufficient information provided by the campus disability services office to the teaching faculty at the right time. A significant number of learners also express feeling a lack of personal connection in online courses and if they are not skilled at forming connections with their co-learners they may experience increased stress which can impact their performance in class.

"The Tour Guide" is a new model of online learner support that combines individualized human outreach along with using Touch Casts. Touch Casts are interactive videos that can be crafted to provide resources for online learners who may be having personal difficulties while participating in distance-based courses. The tour guide is an academic team member who is able to monitor learners and respond to warning signs of problems as well as be a personal contact for the students.

Tour guides can also offer help desk support when needed. The tour guide role can be defined in consultation with the teaching staff of the department along with the Counseling department and disability services. The advantage of the tour guide is that learning difficulties can be addressed before a learner withdraws or fails the course. The tour guide model has the potential to increase learner retention.

Several examples of the tour guide model will be demonstrated along with discussing some practical uses for the Touch Casts along with recommendations for implementation.

Lead Presenter

Valerie Claire Haven is the Academic Technology Coordinator for the Ross Center for Disability Services at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. Ms. Haven provides training and technical support for students using assisstive technology. She also consults with faculty and staff on issues of accessibility and Universal Design.

Ms. Haven specializes in the access of distance education for diverse learners. She lectures and conducts training for faculty and staff on the effective use of learning management systems and other distance-based applications to enhance accessibility.