Distance Learning

Best Practices and Resources for Bauer Students and Faculty

Course Development

Bauer College Online Distance Learning Handbook
by C.T. Bauer College’s Instructional Designer David Del Pino Kloques

Online distance education provides opportunities to make education more accessible to a wider range of students. Along with that opportunity come challenges to engage students with the university and college that may affect not only the students’ performance but also the entire formative experience of being at a university. The goal is to avoid students’ feelings of isolation and disconnectedness as a result of a traditional online approach where investments and efforts were focused on digitalizing course offerings without planning the students' experience for success as defined by retention, on-time completion, job placement upon graduation, and commitment to the school as an alum. The following recommendations are designed to address those challenges.

Considerations for the design of the online distance students’ experience:
  1. If unattended, an online program or course leaves students disconnected from:
    1. Faculty
    2. Peers
    3. Resources
    4. Removed from the university culture
    5. Removed from typical connections
Consideration to provide an up-to-date and state-of-the-art student experience:
  1. At the course level
    1. Provide a connection with faculty
    2. Provide a connection to peers through formation of cohorts
    3. Promote and enable group dynamics and peer communication
  2. At the program level
    1. Provide information about academic requirements
    2. Provide a designated person to answer questions about the programs
    3. Provide academic advice to confirm fit with specific programs
    4. Provide personalized help during application and enrollment processes
  3. At the university level deliver a sense of belonging. The sense of belonging contributes to students’ progress and success rates
    1. Provide inclusion to the university culture
    2. Develop affinity for the university and the campus colors, mascot and brand
    3. Develop a feeling of connectedness and develop relationships to faculty, peers, alumni and academic personnel
    4. Provide students general and performance support systems
Online Distance Education general pitfalls to avoid:
  1. At the time of applying to the program
    1. Lack of contact
    2. Lack of feedback
      1. qualifications
      2. missing application information
    3. Unresponsiveness from department (or program) of study about qualifications
  2. Once admitted
    1. Unresponsiveness from coaches or advisors
    2. Lack of learner evaluation for success or learner readiness
    3. Disconnection from academic and student support services
    4. Detachment from campus life
  3. At the course level
    1. Poor course design
    2. Lack of class interactions
    3. Unresponsive instructors
Prevention of Online Distance Education general pitfalls:

Online distance students are normally self-directed non-traditional leaners, but by acknowledging the need for designing the students’ experience we can provide a university experience and deliver meaningful guidance and support for success. It is important to supplement the self-directed pathways and help them to track their progress and design interventions when needed.

  1. In general, the relationship with online distance learning students needs to be individual, intentional, and continuous.
    1. Advising staff need to be proactive in encouraging success
    2. Faculty should develop early relationships with online students
    3. Faculty and advising staff need to maintain communication with the students
    4. Advising staff and faculty need to create and maintain relationships throughout the students’ academic career.

Academic advisors, faculty and mentors should be proactive for the online distance education students as part of the Bauer experience by providing support in every aspect of the students’ academic career, creating a connection during the Bauer years, where no students is left unattended.

  1. Academic advisors engage students focused on academic matters through remote advising services and robust online information, online forms, and decision trees
  2. Faculty engage with students as the experts in the field of study (knowledge and competencies).
  3. Mentors liaise with students on non-academic issues

The student’s experience at the university level:

  1. Foster a campus-wide culture of both academic advising and mentoring so that students are supported in their educational journey;
  2. Integrate technology systems and processes so that they support a unified method of tracking and monitoring students’ progress;
  3. Invest in mobile technologies to meet students where they are, and build connection and engagement opportunities with their online learners;
  4. Provide comprehensive student support services, both academic and non-academic;
  5. Comply with ADA, provide online students services through accessibility services;
  6. Provide comprehensive library resources and services;
  7. Provide counseling, tutoring, and writing support;
  8. Provide support for faculty teaching online and resources designated for online teaching and learning, including technology and course design.

The students’ experience at the College level:

  1. Provide incentives for faculty to teach and engage online distance education students
  2. Provide incentives for faculty to acquire proficiency in the use of technology, digital communications, and instructional design.
  3. Create a community of practice for faculty to engage in professional development about online distance learning,
  4. Provide an online distance teaching support system with opportunities for professional development and professional advancement.
  5. Use student surveys for online course design and faculty development related to quality course assurances.
  6. Faculty incentives for online distance education research and publications.

The online distance education environment is the place for productive partnership between online faculty and instructional designers, this partnership can directly affect the quality of the students’ experience at the university and in developing online personas by building rapport with peer students and the faculty.

  1. Implement a successful online class:
    1. The instructional designer supports the faculty in sustaining the structure and the communications within the course.
    2. The faculty facilitates the online course and fosters relevant, applicable learning and establish their role as the guide in the online distance learning experience.
    3. The faculty develop synchronous models of delivery in addition to the current asynchronous models so that online students may participate online with a live face-to-face class.

The online course design should enable students to focus their efforts on learning or applying what will be assessed:

  1. Connect students to university support and policies
  2. Connect students to course-level policies by communicating:
    1. The purpose and description of the course
    2. Setting the communication expectations
    3. The policies on late work and grading
    4. The learning expectations, by sharing how the learning objectives, content, activities and assessments are aligned.
    5. The feedback mechanisms
    6. The active, experiential or service learning
    7. A clear structure for collaborative work
    8. How formative assessment will be done
    9. How the exchange of information and communication is expected for each other, contents, each other, and community members
    10. How faculty will keep students engaged in the course
    11. Explicitly how to liaise and build a relationship with the faculty

Engage in continuous course improvement to enhance the students’ experience through:

  1. Mid-course reviews
  2. End-of-course student evaluations
  3. Student grades
  4. Student retention
  5. Students’ application of content
  6. Course peer reviews
  7. Experts advise (Instructional Designer)

Explore AI technology to develop a customized approach to learning material, with a mastery model for certain components of the course. Utilize periodic online review of essential skills through the students’ academic career so they are prepared on day one of their job with up-to-date technology skills with the latest software expected by employers, written and oral communication skills, and critical thinking and data analytics.