BUILDING A FOUNDATION FOR SUCCESS THROUGH STUDENT SERVICES FOR ONLINE LEARNERS
Keywords:Online student, student services, support services, student-centric, academic services, holistic, team-based, online support models
AbstractRetaining students in distance education programs requires institutions to field a strategically aligned, cross-unit team able to provide streamlined and effective services to online learners throughout the student’s academic lifespan (applicant to alumni). If any team member drops the ball during interaction with the online student, the online student becomes frustrated or distracted, and the student’s retention is jeopardized. In a highly competitive marketplace in which students have a “universe of opportunities” for how and where they obtain their education and advance their careers, attracting and retaining students is crucial to traditional institutions like Duquesne University’s ability to remain competitive in the online education marketplace space. Driven by its mission and Spiritan tradition of “serving God by serving students,” Duquesne University is fully committed to student success for all students. Having recently committed to formalizing its online education offerings at the graduate level through the creation of an Online Campus entity to bring strategic planning, oversight, resources, and support to students, the Online Campus Director initiated an examination of the services necessary for online students to be successful learners. As Duquesne found out, retaining online students goes beyond offering “equivalent” services to online learners; it requires a holistic and networked approach that leverages existing technologies and an institutional commitment to its online learners, or what the authors have designed as the C.O.M.F.O.R.T. model.
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