Translating Online Team Characteristics to Transforming the Student ExperienceAlicia B. Harvey-Smith | President and CEO, Pittsburgh Technical College
Quality instruction and excellent staff support are cornerstones of a transformative online student learning experience. Online teams that foster strong and supportive work relationships in a caring work environment effortlessly transfer these attributes to building more effective learning environments and experiences for students.
Enhancing the overall work experience through the creation of authentic cultures of care is a great way to engender employee satisfaction and to increase productivity. Committed online faculty and staff form the basis of an excellent online learning experience and establishing an environment where online staff enjoy their work and feel they are making a difference is critical to achieving these outcomes.
Research illustrates that teams that find satisfaction working together are able to convey these feelings when interacting with others. In other words, no amount of training can equate to the impact of team well-being and its impact on improving the overall learning environment. It serves as a key driver for organizational success capable of inspiring and transforming the student experience.
Developing a quality online team with the aptitude and competence to work in the online space is vital to enabling them to deliver their best work in reinforcing student learning.
Quality Online Learning and Instruction
Significant advances in technology have improved the online learning experience for students. Effective online instruction and support serve as pre-requisites to the creation of a quality online experience. An exceptional virtual educational experience allows for a learning environment comparable to a face-to-face class experience. Online instruction allows flexibility in delivering instruction asynchronously from remote locations with the same rigor and time requirements as traditional courses.
Lone Star College-Online is committed to excellence in online education and enhances the experience through intrusive academic support, which includes access to live tutors 24/7 through a virtual tutoring center. Homework support, test preparation, and one-on-one instruction are available on demand through a combination of text and multimedia sent to a computer or mobile device. On-demand advising services by phone, email, live chat, video meetings and a technical support service desk are also available 24/7 to connect students with resources to aiding online success.
Context: What is Lone Star College-Online?
Lone Star College-Online (LSC-Online) serves over 40,000 students in over 3,800 online and hybrid sections. They work to transform the student learning experience by supporting online students and faculty by managing the delivery of online and hybrid courses.
Online courses use both synchronous and asynchronous activities, combining online and campus-based instruction. Working closely with academic departments, LSC-Online provides affordable and quality online certificate and degree programs, allowing students to complete requirements online for over 23 certificates and 16 associate degrees in academic and workforce programs, as well as for transfer to four-year universities.
Instructional technologists develop and administer the technology necessary to deliver education online, while Instructional Designers assist instructors in building engaging and accessible online sections.
Lone Star College-Online provides instructional services on demand through live chat, via an online appointment, or face-to-face at six campuses and eight academic centers. In fall 2017, support was provided to more than 1,500 faculty teaching fully online and hybrid courses.
Instructional design support, faculty training, and the administration of online teaching certification programs for all faculty teaching online and hybrid courses are provided through on-demand training and resources from LSC’s Virtual Teaching Assistance Center (VTAC).
Characteristics of an Exceptional Online Team
The Lone Star College-Online leadership team identified three additional transformative qualities they believed defined exceptional online teams: highly engaged, universally designed and guided by servant leadership.
Without adequate engagement, the online experience can become little more than a glorified correspondence course. The overall engagement of online staff, faculty and students is critical to motivating all parties and positively influencing the learning environment. Online faculty and support staff who are engaging enhance the online experience and better enable student goal achievement. Ongoing student contact and meaningful dialog as part of a wraparound service strategy is also helpful in supporting the wide range of students taking online classes and creates a more successful student experience.
The best Online Teams understand and extend the universal design concept to support the learning environment for all students. Online courses designed to appeal to the varying learning styles of students will yield higher success rates than those that do not. A collaborative instructional team that includes faculty, designers and technologist engaged to take on new challenges and find non-traditional and innovative approaches to learning is essential. This team must understand that not all approaches will work, and having the ability to integrate multiple strategies will improve the quality of education and the success of a larger array of students.
Servant leadership is an important concept to understand and apply when working successfully in online education. Providing a quality learning experience anytime, anywhere is embedded in this learner-centered approach.
The online support services team is required to be adaptable, flexible and offer just-in-time training. These teams also provide comprehensive improvement plans, provide internal support to faculty, staff and students internally and external support to partners in business, the military, and secondary education as a part of the online community. Online Teams that foster these attributes within a caring and supportive academic environment will improve the learning environments and experiences for students.
Using a continuous improvement plan, online teams should commit to providing resources that are flexible and scalable. This also includes providing opportunities for professional development and nurturing these and other characteristics that enable effective teaching and learning. These characteristics uniquely combine to define a high-performing team and translates into transforming the online student learning experience.
Author Perspective: Administrator