The Illinois Virtual Campus provides a targeted online student service center to orient students to the online learning environment.
The IVC is not organized in a way to know how or how much students are using this online resource--this is a resource and service provided for all of Illinois' online providers of content (66 colleges/universities). We can look at WebTrend reports to know that this online student resource is consistently the 11th most accessed page of the IVC website, with approximately 800 users each month. The average stay on the Getting Started page is 2 minutes. A Student Orientation to Online Learning workshop is advertised from this resource and elsewhere on the IVC website, and since August 2001, we have had 600 participants enroll in this free, 2-week online workshop. The evaluations of that workshop indicate that participants found it useful to know what to expect before taking an online course. The students appreciated the fact that the workshop is instructor facilitated, and indicated that they find the resources in the IVC Online Student Resource Center valuable.
learning effectiveness: Students are welcomed to online learning through a very carefully thought out set of online resources. The IVC Online Student Service Center includes a number of categories, including Getting Started, Student Resources (Assessment & Testing; Diverse Populations; Financial Assistance; Health & Wellness; New Students; Purchasing Books Online; Returning Adult Students; Transfer Information), Academic Success Skills (Study Skills/Online Tutoring Sites; Library Skills/Online Research Sites; Writing/Communication Skills; Survival Skills; GPA Calculator), Career & Life Planning (including tutorials that walk students through planning process), and Technology Tools (including tutorials). For example, the Getting Started section of the IVC Student Service Center guides newcomers to online learning by a guided orientation. The orientation provides information on the technical tools needed, characteristics of successful online learners, student expectations, and links to resources such as a FAQ at Athabasca University that dispels the myth of online courses not being as good as traditional courses. Accompanying the orientation are 6 other categories of resources: Different Types of Online Courses, Online Learning Terminology, Electronic Communications, Selecting an Online Program, Essentials to Enroll, and Sample Online Courses. Illinois has provided 40 IVC Student Support Centers, one located in every community college district in the state. This provides a local place for any student, no matter what university they are attending online, to go to for face-to-face support or to contact for phone/email conferencing. But we wanted to create equitable support for students who choose not to contact someone at the IVC Student Support Centers. First we needed to wade through the plethora of online resources, find the best resources, and organize them by a framework that could be used by online students. We worked with a student services professional who created the categories, found resources that would best support online student needs, and who then created tutorials or descriptions on how to use the resources. How does this resource improve learning effectiveness? Students interested in taking an online course can walk through the resources at their own pace, with a gentle guide as an organizer, or they can go directly to a category of information as needed. Students who access the entire online IVC Student Service Center can find resources that will help them get started in thinking about going to college, prepare them to take an online course, or find specific resources that may help them to take an online course. Tutorials are available to walk them through the IVC catalog of courses and programs.
No real costs are associated with maintaining the site, although we paid a student services professional a stipend to organize the resources and periodically we pay a stipend to keep it updated.
An excellent resource on developing online student services can be found at: http://www.wiche.edu/telecom/resources/publications/guide/guide.htm