One of the great “joys” of my position in the Virtual Campus is to coordinate with each state to make sure that we are authorized to offer our programs to their students. (Yes, read some sarcasm into that.) The good news is we are making great strides towards our goal of providing our programs across the entire nation. I wanted to share one of the great conversations that I had during this process.
Currently, there are several states that only have a handful of students enrolled in our programs. One of those states, which I’ll hold back on naming, has very stringent and expensive requirements to authorize in their state. It was made very clear by the official with whom I spoke that they have those requirements to protect their citizens from predatory institutions that do not have their best interests in mind. In spite of the fact that it is not in our financial best interest to continue offering programs in their state, I did get to explain to the official how we do “online education.”
I took great pride in explaining how and why we cap the enrollments in all of our courses, how we are diametrically opposed to the correspondence course model (deploy it and forget it), how our instructors are required to interact with their courses multiple times each week, how we have staff specifically assigned to advise and assist our fully online students, and most importantly, how our mission as a Christian institution is integrated at every level of our interaction with the student.
To say the least, that state official was blown away by the level of commitment we have to our online students and by how much thought and focus we have given to providing quality online programs. Plus, he introduced me to a new buzz word that I now throw around regularly to describe our online programs: high touch.
High touch is a technology term that generally means that the user, consumer, or customer interacts with a human being as opposed to transacting through technology. Sure, we’re online which means email, discussion boards, blogs, wikis, or even instant messages relay our conversations, but at Wayland, there is a person on the other end of that classroom, an expert in the field and a Christian professor who wants to see their students succeed.
As you prepare and launch your summer courses, remember our mission and put your students’ success at the top of your priority list. One of the best ways to help your students succeed in their online courses is to engage them regularly by providing valuable and regular feedback. Incorporate content and assignments in your courses that encourages them to interact with one another. If you tweak your courses each term, as I do, think about each component of your class and self-evaluate how you can best help your online students feel connected to you, their fellow students, and the university.
I would also ask you to remember to respond to your students as quickly as possible, even if it means telling them that you don’t have time to answer their question right away but you’ll get back to them soon.
God bless you and know that we are here to support you!
Wayland’s Mission Statement:
Wayland Baptist University exists to educate students in an academically challenging, learning-focused and distinctively Christian environment for professional success and service to God and humankind.