Comprehensive Online Student Support Services

Award Winner: 
2012 Sloan-C Effective Practice Award
Author Information
Author(s): 
Marwin Britto
Author(s): 
Susan Rush
Institution(s) or Organization(s) Where EP Occurred: 
Lone Star College System
Institution(s) or Organization(s) Where EP Occurred: 
Lone Star College-Online
Effective Practice Abstract/Summary
Abstract/Summary of Effective Practice: 

Despite increasing enrollments of online students in higher education in 2011 over previous years, recent survey data suggest that institutions are actually decreasing their online student support services (Instructional Technology Council, 2011). At Lone Star College-Online, we have taken the opposite approach. In early 2011, in an effort to effectively enhance and support the student experience online, Lone Star College-Online introduced a new Online Student Support Services unit. Although our initial goal was to offer comparable student support services to what face-to-face students receive, the demand for these online services quickly escalated to the point where we tripled our staff and now in 2012, we offer online services 7 days a week---on average, this is 15 hours more per week than is available to face-to-face students. Student satisfaction has been high, comments have been overwhelmingly positive, and early signs suggest our online services are positively contributing to student success and completion rates.

Description of the Effective Practice
Description of the Effective Practice: 

*Online Advising*

Fully online students (approximately 8,000+ students) have access to an Advisor Chat button once they log in to their student portal. Students have access to chat with an advisor 7 days a week: Monday – Thursday: 8:00 am – 10:00 pm Friday: 8:00 am – 3:00 pm Saturday: 9:00 am – 2:00 pm Sunday: 1:00 pm – 5:00 pm Other online advising modes include email, phone, and WebConferencing.

*Online New Student Orientation*

Beginning with Spring 2012 registration, first-time in college students go through a 2-step Orientation process:

Step 1: Online orientation that covers general information all students need when enrolling in college for the first time.

Step 2: Online Advising and Registration session to assist new, fully online students (using WebConferencing)

*Case Management Advising*

Beginning Fall 2011, LSC-Online began Case Management Advising for our first-time in college (FTIC), fully online students. We began proactively contacting these students and working with them to develop an academic plan that matches their career and educational goals. These sessions are typically delivered using web-conferencing system or by phone.

*Online Early Alert System*

Inactivity Early Alerts work through our third-party system that:

• E-mails students who have not logged into their Online course for 5/3 days (depending on the length of the class).

• Notify instructors of “inactive” students by emailing them a daily summary.

• Provide instructors with status updates when alerts are resolved.

• Allow instructors to manually flag students whose progress they are concerned about so an online advisor can contact them.

Beginning Fall 2012, a new feature will be offered to faculty which provides instructors the ability to easily manage and communicate with their students based on grades in their grade book. Early Alerts, emails, and kudos can be sent to students based on how they are doing in the course.

Supporting Information for this Effective Practice
Evidence of Effectiveness: 

**Student Usage** Our student usage numbers show that our students are using our Online Student Support Services extensively.

 

Total online advising communications from

August 1, 2011 – December 18, 2011:

Total online advising communications from

January 1, 2012 – May 13, 2012:

Chat 1,632

Chat 3,278

Email 1,619

Email 2,185

Phone 49

Phone 300

WebConf 19

WebConf 56

Total: 3,319

Total: 5,819

*Survey Results:* Upon completion of an online chat, fully online students are provided an Online Advising Survey link so we can gain their input on how we are doing.

 

• 90% of students were Very Satisfied/Satisfied with how well the advisor answered their question.

• 91% of students were Very Satisfied/Satisfied with the overall knowledge of their online advisor.

• 96% of students were Very Satisfied/Satisfied with the ease in process to chat with an online advisor.

*Student Comments:* The following are some student comments that we have received through our Online Advising Survey: • I love this feature! The advisor was very friendly and was able to assist me very quickly. • Thank you Lone Star for providing such efficient and knowledgeable advisors!!!!! • It was a great experience! First time using it. Really easy. Thank You! • I was very pleased with the online advising chat service. I work a full-time job and this feature made it super easy to find out the information I needed without having to call or go up to the school. • Wonderful service. A lot more effective than having to take a trip to the school and wait in line for an advisor. • Was absolutely wonderful. Before I could even give all my information, the advisor had already completed my request. Very good. • Excellent idea. Thank you for adding that to your Lone Star College services. • Thanks for having this available to me to assist in making decisions.

How does this practice relate to pillars?: 

**Access*:* When we began our online services, we provided access to chat with an advisor 5 days a week between the hours of 8:00 am – 6:00 pm. Beginning in the Spring 2012, we have expanded advising support to 7 days a week with the following hours: Monday – Thursday: 8:00 am – 10:00 pm Friday: 8:00 am – 3:00 pm Saturday: 9:00 am – 2:00 pm Sunday: 1:00 pm – 5:00 pm. Our Online Student Support Services now provides more advising support than our face to face students receive (i.e., an average of 15 hours more per week).

**Student Satisfaction*:* Upon completion of an online chat, fully online students are provided an Online Advising Survey link so we can gain their input on how we are doing.

• 90% of students were Very Satisfied/Satisfied with how well the advisor answered their question.

• 91% of students were Very Satisfied/Satisfied with the overall knowledge of their online advisor.

• 96% of students were Very Satisfied/Satisfied with the ease in process to chat with an online advisor.

**Student Comments*:* The following are some student comments that we have received through our Online Advising Survey: • I love this feature! The advisor was very friendly and was able to assist me very quickly. • Thank you Lone Star for providing such efficient and knowledgeable advisors! • It was a great experience! First time using it. Really easy. Thank You! • I was very pleased with the online advising chat service. I work a full-time job and this feature made it super easy to find out the information I needed without having to call or go up to the school. • Wonderful service. A lot more effective than having to take a trip to the school and wait in line for an advisor. • Was absolutely wonderful. Before I could even give all my information, the advisor had already completed my request. Very good. • Excellent idea. Thank you for adding that to your LSC services. • Thanks for having this available to me to assist in making decisions.

Equipment necessary to implement Effective Practice: 

Chat tool – We currently use Spark (http://www.igniterealtime.org/projects/spark/) and Open Fire http://www.igniterealtime.org/projects/openfire/

Tracking tool – We use a third party tool to track all communications with students

Server - to host chat tool • Third-party alert and advising tool – our system automates student tracking, early alerts, online appointment scheduling, and creates action plans for students.

Estimate the probable costs associated with this practice: 

Chat tool – depending on the tool used for online chat, the cost will vary. Open Fire and Spark have no licensing fees; however, you will need the technical support to provide set-up and maintenance of these tools.

Server cost – approximately $6,000 • Tracking tool – depending on the tool used for tracking, the cost would vary. Our licensing fee is approximately $65,000 per year (based on our FTE)

Advising staff – LSC-Online currently have 2 full-time and 8 part-time online advisors. Salary for advising staff is approximately $15,400/month

References, supporting documents: 

Instructional Technology Council. (2012). 2011 Distance Education Survey Results. Trends in eLearning: Tracking the Impact of eLearning at Community College. Retrieved from: http://www.itcnetwork.org/attachments/article/87/ITCAnnualSurveyMarch201...

Contact(s) for this Effective Practice
Effective Practice Contact: 
Marwin Britto
Email this contact: 
Marwin.Britto@lonestar.edu