Access to Online Support Services

Author Information
Author(s): 
Sachs David
Author(s): 
Pace University
Institution(s) or Organization(s) Where EP Occurred: 
Pace University
Effective Practice Abstract/Summary
Abstract/Summary of Effective Practice: 

Pace University supports students with providing technical assistance, pertinent information and tutoring services.

Description of the Effective Practice
Description of the Effective Practice: 

How this practice supports access:
In 1999, Pace University was awarded with a three-year FIPSE Learning Anytime Anywhere Program (LAAP) Grant to support an online Associate in Science (AS) Telecommunications degree in partnership with the National Coalition on Telecommunications Education and Learning (NACTEL). This funding has enabled Pace to provide effective access to student support services in several key areas:

Technical Support and Online Student Seminar:
Students are provided with technical support as part of their program involvement. The Online Student Seminar localizes required technical support for students in one course early in their program studies; the seminar provides students the opportunity to self-assess their skills related to the productivity, (word processing et al.), course management system software, and plug-ins used in the program. The seminar also includes computer-based instructional software that provides step-by-step processes with numerous examples of frequently encountered situations.

An online Student Information Center provides students with a wide array of pertinent information, including personal and company information, Math Assessment exam and results, prior learning records, course registration, add/drop, and transcript.

Math Tutoring Services: Since the AS Telecommunications degree program requires competence in fundamental math skills, the NACTEL program also provides online math tutoring services via a third-party vendor, SMARTHINKING.

Supporting Information for this Effective Practice
Evidence of Effectiveness: 

Pace utilizes their support services to increase or maintain access to support services for the existing and new learner populations, reduce technology barriers, and reduce readiness barriers. An independent evaluator (IOTA Solutions) administers reliable and valid evaluative measures via the Internet to track the effectiveness of the NACTEL Program, address and eliminate obstacles to student learning, and anticipate changing needs of students. This online feedback system automatically tabulates results, highlights potential problems, and provides continuous feedback to key stakeholders (program administrators, faculty) anytime and anywhere they need this information to make ongoing improvements.

Evaluative measures associated with the student satisfaction and access pillars are administered to new students twice each term and to returning students once each term (in addition to the individual course surveys given by instructors). Table 1 illustrates Pace University's success in effectively addressing these pillars. Three of the evaluative measures are described below:

  1. Application process / Web Site Measure: Delivered to new applicants to the NACTEL Program. Explores student satisfaction with the application process and the effectiveness of the Pace web site (http://support.csis.pace.edu/nactel) in delivering information about the program.
  2. Registration process / Course Satisfaction Measure New Student version: Delivered to all new students who have registered for courses. Explores students' attitudes towards the registration process, various aspects of the website, and students' expectations toward online learning prior to the start of classes.
  3. Returning Student version: Delivered to all returning students who have registered for courses. Explores students' attitudes towards the registration process, satisfaction with course experience, and attitudes towards online education. Survey results can be compared across New and Returning Student versions to explore the relationship between expectations and experiences. Self-report performance items explore how attitudes and demographics relate to various levels of performance.

Table 1: Items and responses from the Online Support Services surveys

Application Process / Web Site Measure Response Trend
Effectiveness in which your questions regarding the application process were answered: 91% "good" or "very good"

Website's effectiveness in providing useful information about the online learning process:

94% "good" or "very good"

Website's effectiveness in defining the scope of the degree and certificate programs in terms of time commitment on a class-by-class and overall basis: 81% "good" or "very good"
Website's effectiveness in describing the technical requirements needed to participate in the program: 89% "good" or "very good"
Overall satisfaction with online application process: 88% "satisfied" or "very satisfied"
Registration Process / Course Satisfaction Response Trend
Quality of the student advisement received:

85% "good" or "very good"

Access to student support services is good 68% "agree" or "strongly agree"(26% did not use)
Access to library resources is adequate in an online education program: 49% "agree" or "strongly agree" (48% did not use)
I receive adequate support from my instructors: 90% "agree" or "strongly agree"
Overall satisfaction with online registration process: 92% "satisfied" or "very satisfied"

Overall satisfaction with program:

96% "satisfied" or "very satisfied"

[Note: Responses to Online Support Services items include those that were collected after the implementation of the current NACTEL Program website]

Conclusions: Comparison of results between the New and Returning Student measures indicate that: (1) new students expect more interactions than what the returning students have experienced; and (2) new students expect to be bothered more by the lack of interaction than the returning students. These results illustrate students' changing perceptions and indicate students are able to adjust to the limited interaction.

Student comments also provided encouraging results. Students indicated they would have been unable to pass their courses without the math tutoring services provided and that the convenience of online learning is an important advantage over traditional forms of learning.

Estimate the probable costs associated with this practice: 

Moderate, made possible through grant funding

References, supporting documents: 

Sachs, D. and Hale, N.,"Pace University's Focus on Student Satisfaction With Student Services in Online Education", Online Education, Volume 3: Proceedings of the 2001 Summer Workshop on Asynchronous Learning Networks. Needham, MA: Sloan Center for Online Education, 2002.

Other Comments: 

Related Key Practice Areas: Academic and Administrative Services -- Orientation to Online Learning, Tutoring Services; Technical Infrastructure, Technical Support

Contact(s) for this Effective Practice
Effective Practice Contact: 
Dr. David Sachs, Assistant Dean, Pace University, School of Computer Science & Information Systems
Email this contact: 
dsachs@pace.edu