Distance Students And Services Focus Group Summary Summer 2007
The Distance Learning Students and Services Summer Focus Group gathered on July 3, 2007. A dozen distance students gathered to discuss their experience with their distance learning courses and services for distance students. Students were both graduate and undergraduate students. The students took an array of courses including Art History, Computer Applications, Education, Business Ed., Special Education and Media and Instructional Technology.
The first issue that the focus group tackled was advisement for distance students. None of the students in the focus group were advised in person; they were advised online, through email and by telephone. The students expressed an abundance of gratitude for the advisement received from business and education faculty over the phone and via email. All of the students who were not self-advised rated the advisement as good or excellent. A suggestion was made that students be advised as to how much time is required to spend online in their courses. Students who were self-advised recommended the continued availability of program sheets.
Out of the dozen students in the focus group, only one student suggested that the class registration needed improvement. All but one of the remaining students experienced the registration process as excellent. Students expressed that it would be helpful if the partial distance courses would have the meeting times and places listed on Banweb prior to registration. One student mentioned that: “Registration on the system needs to allow a category for things that do not fit the norm--then, at least, there would be an option to contact someone--I was continually blocked out for a class and I ended up on the phone and doing the paperwork anyway.”
students in the focus group utilized the electronic library resources.
those students were very satisfied with the availability of library
Students received technical orientations from the course instructor most often. Some of the students received their technical orientations to WebCT Vista through a live orientation. A couple of students were oriented through online information while only one student received her technical orientation to WebCT Vista through other class members. All of the students indicated that the technical orientations provided them with enough information to effectively utilize WebCT Vista by the second week of the course. One student mentioned that her professor provided a helpful online tutorial in addition to the instructor-led orientation.
problems accessing their course online courses or utilizing WebCT
majority of the students contacted the Distance Learning helpline by
phone. All of the students indicated that the Distance Learning
very successful in solving their WebCT problems. A few students also
another classmate or their instructor for technical support with their
Those students reported they were mostly successful in solving their
Vista problems. Overall, the distance students felt that they received
and courteous student support from
discussed their overall learning and interaction in distance courses in
comparison with traditional face to face courses. Most students felt
learned about the same in each type of course. A third of the group
that they felt like they learned more in their distance courses at
Due to the use of online course tools such as chat, the discussions board and email, more students than not felt that the level of interaction between themselves and the instructor and also themselves and other students was greater in a distance course than in a traditional on campus course. In regards to interaction with other students, one student said, “I chat so much with my other team members that I don't feel like I am missing any interaction.” Only one student reported that there was less interaction in a distance course and complained, “Honestly, I feel like I am bothering the instructors if there are individual emails. . . most of the correspondence is usually group related.” A third of the focus group said that the interaction in distance courses and traditional courses about the same. One student said that she interacts more with the students than the professor in distance courses. Additionally, another student commented on the camaraderie in distance courses: “…the discussions are all very helpful. It's comforting to hear that other people are having the same problems I have.” Students reported that the instructors in distance courses made themselves available via email and telephone calls if needed.
was asked if they thought that there are enough distance courses
offered at the
Most all of the distance students in the group accessed WebCT Vista from their computers at home most often. One student accessed WebCT Vista from both work and home equally. Another student accessed most often from her campus housing.
being frustrated with the current inability of to toggle back and forth
WebCT Vista and the campus portal. Additionally a student complained that “…not all instructors use webct, some
are on pipeline, so here we go again, with all these computer
to whittle that down to one--too much.” Another student stated that her
problem with distance courses is “…with instructors who aren't familiar
WebCT.” Other issues in regards to specific course surfaced such as
instructors have different ways of getting in and getting
classes will have different procedures--one class I can print the PPTs,
other I cannot because of the way the instructor posted.” Students
having general issues with the lack of speed and poorly perceived
Two of the distance students in the dozen members of the focus group were unsuccessful in getting their copy of the Microsoft Office software as part of the Microsoft Campus Agreement. They had the unfortunate experience of driving a distance to campus and being told their reserved software was not available. Subsequently, they were told that the software could not be sent to them which was an incredible disservice since they both loved so far away from campus.
In closing, the student focus group reported a need for more totally online courses. Specifically when asked how distance programs and services could be improved, a student replied: “More completely online courses. Not the ones where you have to meet for the first session, etc…larger variety of online courses.” One student was “…so upset after the first meeting when we had to meet 9 times for an online class.” It was also requested that more courses be offered online and also be offered online more than once a year.
Prepared on July 6, 2007 by Christy Talley