I've mentioned before that one of the things we're working on at ELI is developing various tools to help ELI students connect to each other, and to us, in ways that might help them become more likely to persist and succeed in their online courses. We know that students on campus do better when they feel connected to their institution, and this is usually accomplished by holding student activities (from clubs to free coffee and snacks during final exam week) that bring students together and show them that their college cares about them.
All this is harder to accomplish at a distance, but it's the wave of the future in supporting distance learning students nonetheless. I'll soon be sending our students a survey asking them for feedback on what kinds of additional support services they would most want (and use). As I've mentioned before, we're planning on starting a blog for students, at the outstanding suggestion of the ELI counselors, I'm going to let students name it. We'll ask for student input on what should be discussed in the blog, and we hope to have some students as guest bloggers in addition to inviting ELI staff and faculty to post.
But we also want to explore what other sorts of student activities and supports students might like. Some online programs provide an "online commons" or "virtual student union" where students can go (virtually), hang out, chat with staff or other students, etc. And there are many other possibilities as well, such as clubs for online students, which might meet only on BB or might mix in-person and virtual meetings. I'm looking forward to seeing what students have to say and to trying some of these things out. Stay tuned!
(And meanwhile, please take the new poll on the left.)