A new self-evaluation tool offers a way for institutions to determine if they’re offering a supportive and high-quality online learning program. It’s the OLC Quality Scorecard for Online Student Support, from the Online Learning Consortium, and it’s intended to help institutions improve support for online learners.
The OLC Quality Scorecard for Online Student Support was developed from a joint initiative with the State University System of Florida (SUSF) and the Florida College System (FCS). This latest addition helps colleges identify gaps in services and provides a pathway to improve support for online students.
“Several big ideas drove the development process of the student support scorecard,” says Victoria Brown, assistant provost for eLearning at Florida Atlantic University. “Among these was the desire to provide a comprehensive review of the entire academic life-cycle of a student at the institution, starting from the first indication of interest in attending, all the way through graduation. Other considerations included expanding access to the services that on-campus students receive, providing an online academic experience, and increasing engagement between online students and the institution.”
Any improvements an institution makes are likely to trickle down to face-to-face students as well.
“Improvements to support for online students can benefit all students,” says Josh Strigle, director of e-learning and learning support centers at the College of Central Florida. “That’s why the scorecard and associated materials have been designed to help improve the experience of every student.”
The scorecard facilitates an introspective look at 11 key areas of an institution:
- Financial aid
- Pre-enrollment advising
- Veterans services
- Career counseling
- Post-enrollment services
- Students with disabilities services
- Technology support
- Graduate student services (universities only)
“The most difficult part of providing excellent online student support institution-wide is achieving cooperation from the diverse service areas across the institution,” says Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D., OLC’s chief strategy officer. “Our new scorecard overcomes this challenge by acting as an internal conversation starter which helps an institution coalesce around a commitment to providing the same level of support to their online learner community as those who are on campus.”
A companion handbook offers information on standards and best practices used by other institutions and is available exclusively to OLC Institutional Members via login.
Online education is on the rise
The new scorecard comes at a time when online learning programs are expanding at institutions across the country. Ninety-nine percent of online education program administrators say demand has increased or stayed the same over the past few years, and nearly 40 percent of respondents say they plan to increase their online program budgets in the next year.
In a recent survey, nearly all four-year institutions that plan to launch more than 10 new online programs in the coming years already have more than 20 such programs.
Almost 60 percent of online students in another survey say they made it a point to choose online learning over on-campus traditional learning due to online learning’s convenience. Many students say they like flexible transfer policies that improved their time to degree completion.