A Comprehensive Plan for Preparing Online Students

Author Information
Mary Jane Clerkin
Berkeley College
Institution(s) or Organization(s) Where EP Occurred: 
Berkeley College
Effective Practice Abstract/Summary
Abstract/Summary of Effective Practice: 

To prepare its students for their online course experience, Berkeley College has included an orientation site for its online degree students, a required online preparatory courses that prepares online students to understand the particulars of online learning and navigate the course management system, an online library orientation, a special one-stop shopping center online degree site with messages from advisors and students services, an online tutoring site that is always available to help students with course material and writing assistance, and ongoing faculty and technical support.

Description of the Effective Practice
Description of the Effective Practice: 

How this practice supports student satisfaction: Despite the technical expertise of our students who travel the Information Superhighway with ease, they often face taking online courses with some trepidation. Berkeley College, therefore, devised a variety of ways to prepare their online students to assure competence, confidence, and a successful online course experience. Among these include: - An online orientation site for its online degree students. - A required online preparatory course that prepares them to understand the particulars of online learning and navigate the course management system. - An online library orientation. - A special one-stop shopping center online degree site with weekly messages from advisors and student services. - An online tutoring site that is always available to help students with course material and writing assistance. - Ongoing faculty and technical support. Berkeley has devised a variety of methods to prepare its online students. For example, Berkeley Collge online degree students, who, in many cases, are out of state or international students are provided with a media-rich online orientation that includes welcome video greetings from the President of the college and the Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs. Students are introduced to the Deans and Advisors, Chairs of the different academic departments, Directors of Student Services, the Director of the online library. Necessary policies and procedures and forms are provided online. Online degree students are welcomed, informed, and advised -- even before they begin their online course of study. To make sure that all online students are fully cognizant of what it means to take an online course, of the pedagogical methods used, and how to navigate Blackboard, all new online students are required to take NC103: Road to Success in Online Learning, before they take their first online course. This short preparatory course asks students to decide if an online course is the right option for them by providing a short set of questions for their consideration. Online students, for example, need to be able to work independently and have good time-management skills. The course also provides an overview of the pedagogical methods used in an online class. Finally the course guides them as they navigate through all the functions of the course management system; thereby allowing them to learn the course management system by using the course management system. Online students are also introduced to an online tutorial site, which will provide them with ongoing tutoring in all subject areas whenever they might need it. Students simply log on and request tutoring in any subject area. Both faculty tutors and peer tutors are available. In addition, writing assistance is also available. Students have only to log on and request help in writing their essays, papers, and reports. Should students need any special tutoring, communication between online faculty and the Director of the Tutoring Center will combine efforts to help the student. What is more, the tutorial site offers excellent web resources and academic support sites. Study skills, test-taking techniques, and time management sites are provided. Special links for math, algebra, accounting help, etc., are also provided. Online students are also directed to the services of an excellent Help Desk staff, which provides technical assistance seven days a week. No matter what their learning style or preference for obtaining information--voice, e-mail, or posted material---students can easily receive ongoing information and assistance. Students may go to the Berkeley College home page and to the distance learning site. Here they can read about the benefits of distance learning, read some FAQs about the program, and view the course schedule. They can also familiarize themselves with the online introduction, and other documentation. Students can also click on the Help Desk icon, which appears on every Blackboard page, to receive live help from a technician schooled in Blackboard operations. Students can also click on the Help Desk Problem Log and type in their request or problem and have the Help Desk relay the necessary information or suggestions. In addition, online degree students are introduced to a special online degree site, which is a one-stop shopping center where they can access up-to-the-minute information on a regular basis. A “Thought of the Week” message, maintained by Berkeley’s personal counselor, personalizes the course. Here students can log on anytime, anywhere and find out what is new at Berkeley College in online learning. Deans, advisors, faculty, student services, and library personell post messages to keep online students current and up to date on a regular basis. Finally, as they take their online classes, online professors who are dedicated to making online education successful for their students guide online students. Berkeley’s online professors are not only academically qualified, but many have taught successfully onsite for Berkeley College for many years. In fact, many online professors are actually department chairs. Professors communicate with their online students frequently and are available at all time if students have questions, problems, or concerns. Berkeley has a comprehensive overall plan for preparing its online students so that students will become competent online learners who experience a successful online experience. Berkeley College makes sure that online students are offered every possible preparation as they begin their road to success in online learning.

Supporting Information for this Effective Practice
Evidence of Effectiveness: 

Results of a 2003 student survey, which sought to determine how well students felt NC103: Road to Success in Online Learning prepared them for their online courses, produced these results: 56.8% of the students felt that it covered everything they needed to know about taking an online course. 28.5% felt that it covered most of what they needed to know about taking an online course. Therefore, the majority of Berkeley's online students were satisfied with the course. Results of a 2003 student survey, which sought to determine student satisfaction with the Online Degree Orientation, produced these results: 42.9% felt that it was very helpful. 52.4% found it to be helpful. Again, the majority of Berkeley's online degree students were satisfied with the orientation. Results of a 2003 student survey, which sought to determine the effectiveness of Berkeley's Help Desk, produced these results: 39.6% found the technical support to be Very Effective. 44.7% found technical support to be Effective. Again, the majority of Berkeley's online students were satisfied with Berkeley's technical support.

Estimate the probable costs associated with this practice: 

The comprehensive plan for preparing online students did not require any additional funding.

References, supporting documents: 

Courses and sites may be made available for guest access. Please contact Dr. Mary Jane Clerkin at mjc@berkeleycollege.edu

Other Comments: 

Berkeley's comprehensive plan for its online students provides them with help and assistance throughout their online course experience so that they may become competent, confident, and successful online students.

Contact(s) for this Effective Practice
Effective Practice Contact: 
Dr. Mary Jane Clerkin, Coordinator of Online Faculty Support
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