7. Supporting online students
“I think the safe environment is really vital because we all. I know that I would worry if I posted some random thing that I began thinking. I would worry about how that might be perceived. Is it going to sound stupid? Is it going to sound unacademic? Is it going to sound… I think you get what I’m trying to say. There’s a certain fear of asking the question. Especially if you don’t feel that you’re in your safe space because you don’t want to feel like you’re making a fool of yourself” (Student quoted in Farrell et al., 2019, p. 17)
So far, in this book, we have examined the importance of establishing social presence, explored how to create interactive online classrooms, and considered how to use effective collaborative activities. We have focused primarily on the challenges faced by online educators. But students new to online learning will also face many obstacles. It is very important that online educators know how to support these students in achieving their goals. In this chapter, we will look at strategies that can be used to support online students.
What does the literature say?
Effective and holistic student support plays an important role in online student engagement and successful study completion. The literature indicates that online students are more vulnerable to attrition and have typically lower course completion (Woodley & Simpson, 2014). First year is the most vulnerable period, when students are most likely to withdraw (Jones, 2008). Therefore an important element in the structures of student support is a strategic approach to the orientation of new students (Brunton, Brown, Costello, Farrell, & Mahon 2017; Brunton, Brown, Costello, & Farrell, 2018; Brunton, Brown, Costello, & Farrell, 2019).
An engaged student is typically a successful student. Online student engagement is a complex phenomenon which is influenced by socio-cultural, structural, and psychosocial factors (Kahu, 2013). Student engagement is influenced by psychosocial factors such as peer community, an engaging online teacher, and confidence and by structural factors such as lifeload and course design (Farrell & Brunton, 2020). Further, feeling that they belong to a community has an impact on the learning experiences of online students (Buck, 2016; O’ Shea et al., 2015). Establishing social presence and strong levels of course interaction support the development of a sense of community and belonging in students (Buck, 2016; Veletsianos & Navarrete, 2012).
In DCU Connected’s online courses, the following approach to supporting online student engagement is taken, as outlined in Farrell & Brunton (2020):
|Strategic approach to transition||