Quality Enhancement Plan
GOAL 7: The College will enhance its efforts to make available to students enrolled in online courses all appropriate and necessary student support services in an online delivery mode.
In addition to instruction - the delivery of courses on the web - the College wants online education to encompass the appropriate student support services. Doing so will enable students to complete an entire degree without ever having to come to campus. Students will be able to access the catalog and schedule of classes, be admitted to the College, enroll in their courses, pay their tuition, arrange to take proctored tests if required, buy their books, receive tutoring if they need it, apply for and manage financial aid, receive academic counseling, get technical support, have access to disability services if warranted, and take the requisite placement test(s) all online. As noted earlier in this narrative, these student services are to be phased in over the five-year span of the QEP. The objectives associated with this goal outline the process.
The order in which the various student support services are to be phased in represents the priorities determined by surveying CVCC's online students. The goal was to determine which support services were most beneficial and crucial to the online students and their preference of format and hours of delivery. With the help of the former CVCC Instructional Designer, a survey was created listing the following thirteen services: Academic Advisement, Academic Records Access, Admissions, Bookstore, Career Counseling, Disability Services, Exam and Test Proctoring, Financial Aid, Instructional Resources (Library), Placement Testing, Registration, Technical Support, Tuition and Fee Payment. The survey asked the students to rank them according to their importance: essential, important, desired. Students were also asked to state their preference of format (online, 800-number, or on-campus) and the available hours of delivery. Survey results indicate the respondents feel all services included in the survey are essential to important. Thus, the Rationale and Management subcommittee report recommends that all these services be offered in an online format, where feasible (and legal), to the online student. The objectives that follow reflect these survey priorities.
Objective 1: Year One: Ensure the following services are available online.
- Academic Records
- Exam and Test Proctoring
- Tuition and Fee Payment
- Technical Support
CVCC was the fifth college in the VCCS to implement PeopleSoft as the student information database management software. The conversion from the former software was accomplished during the fall 2002 semester, and the College conducted all the registration for the spring 2003 semester online through PeopleSoft. Instructors entered their final grades for the fall 2002 and spring 2003 semesters in PeopleSoft, and students accessed their final grades for spring 2003 online. CVCC is well on its way to meeting this particular objective since many academic records are available to students online through PeopleSoft including enrollment information (course schedule and schedule grid) and various kinds of academic progress information including degree progress, which lets students monitor their movement through a curriculum; a report detailing any transfer credit; unofficial transcript and an additional request for an official transcript; course/grade history; and the final exam schedule.
PeopleSoft allows students to complete their admissions form online, register for classes online, and, if they wish to use a credit card, pay their tuition online as well. Most online instructors who incorporate tests in their classes already test online. Online faculty who require proctored testing are accommodated through the College's Learning Resource Center (LRC). One of the LRC's main functions is to coordinate proctored testing between instructor and student and afford students a secure testing environment. Also in place is a mechanism by which CVCC can arrange a proctored test at an off-campus location.
Technical support for students taking online courses is currently available via telephone and email during regular office hours (8-5 M-F). Additionally, a designated IT staff member is on call each week and can respond to telephone pages to the IT Help Desk after hours.
CVCC has developed the Student Success Center to provide free tutoring to students in a variety of subjects. Early in the fall 2003 semester, the VCCS made available ten hours of online math tutoring through Smarthinking to all the students in the system. These ten hours are the total for the semester and are made available without charge. However, students can purchase additional hours at their own expense directly from Smarthinking. This is a pilot project that could be expanded to include tutoring in other disciplines.
The bookstore at CVCC is run by the college division of Barnes and Noble, and a link to the bookstore is available on the CVCC web site. Students who choose to pay via credit card can order their books online and have their textbooks shipped directly to them. The bookstore also permits students who order early enough to see a list of the textbooks required for the students' particular course sections and reserve these books to be picked up at the store.
Objective 2: Year Two: Ensure the following additional services are available online.
- Academic Advisement
- Financial Aid
- Learning Resources
- Disability Services
- Placement Testing
This objective furthers the accomplishment of its associated goal by adding additional student support services to the list of those available online. A measure of academic advisement is currently available online via email. All the counselors have email accounts and are accessible in this fashion. Additionally, the Counseling Center has a link from the CVCC home page to a set of pages offering students basic kinds of information about the College including links to the current schedule, the Catalog and Handbook, and the CVCC application.
The financial aid process is available online. The CVCC web site contains a link to a separate Financial Aid home page rich with information. The Financial Aid home page contains links to at least nine additional pages containing questions and answers, information on the different kinds of financial aid available, a link to the online Free Application for Federal Student Aid which all financial aid candidates must complete, information on scholarships and loans, a forms databank, and a request for information. Students who receive financial aid awards are provided details in a written letter from the CVCC Financial Aid office, but the amount of their award is also available online through PeopleSoft.
As explained earlier, the Learning Resource Center handles proctored tests both on and off campus. The LRC also has a link from the CVCC home page, and from this page students can access the LRC Internet Resources page. Here students can access links to comprehensive information about the writing process including grammar, punctuation, style and tone, research formats and guidelines, and types of essays.
Disability services represent an area that needs to be developed. Some staffing vacancies in the CVCC counseling area, frozen during the recent budget cuts, are being filled. The combination of the addition of these personnel and the timeline provided by this QEP should make this aspect of the objective achievable.
Placement testing is the remaining student support service that needs to be made available online. CVCC relies on Compass for placement testing students enrolling in English and math classes. ACT, the company behind the Compass test, recognizes that colleges and universities want to provide online placement testing. According to a spokesperson at ACT's national headquarters, the projected availability for the online version of the Compass test is fall 2003. Even if this project is delayed by ACT for a semester or even two, the College can still meet the objective by the time specified in this QEP.
Objective 3: Year Three: Ensure the following service is available online.
CVCC has measures already in place that address a large part of this objective. Students can currently receive a measure of career counseling online via email. More important, students can come to campus for access to a computerized system in the Counseling Center that allows them to take interest and ability self-assessments, explore for related careers, or learn about colleges for future transfer. Also, students are given a program guide with instructions about setting up their own Education & Career Opportunities System (ECOS) account and how to use the program. Once established, they can get back into ECOS to continue with their research from any computer with Internet access.