Tuesday, November 13, 2007

National Distance Learning Week - How We Serve our Unseen Students

Did you know that students taking only distance education (DE) courses may not be required to come to campus? Some DE courses do require limited face-to-face meetings for orientations or tests, but others do not. For our students who rarely, if ever, have come to campus it is the University’s goal to provide as many student services to them as possible through alternative means. This is where departmental support comes in.

Bursar Kathy Woods said, “The TWU Bursar’s office is committed to providing accurate, easily accessible and comprehensive tuition, fee, and payment information for our Distance Learning (DL) students. We strive to assure our DL students that they will receive the best service and value for their educational dollars. Virtual technology is a magnificent and useful tool in today’s demanding world. While DL students typically do not utilize on-campus services, it is imperative that the remote service we provide is an acceptable equivalent to that received by our face-to-face students. It is vitally important that we embrace and acknowledge our Distance Learners, to make them feel as much a part of the TWU community as our traditional students.”

Thankfully, most of the departments at TWU have made that same commitment of service to our distance learners, another of them being the TWU Library.

“TWU Libraries continue to increase the number of full text online resources for students with full text databases, ebooks and ejournals to support the online degree programs. Students email research questions to the Ask A Librarian service and the Interlibrary Loan service delivers documents to students via email,” said Stephany Compton, Distance Learning Librarian.

Over the past few years, the list of services available to distance learners has grown and will hopefully continue to do so. Here is a simplified list of the departments and services they provide that help our off-campus distance learners.

  • Admissions – myTWU and an online application
  • Registrar’s Office – Online registration and an alternative process for drops and adds
  • Student Life – Alternative process for withdrawals
  • Bursar’s Office – Online payment
  • Financial Aid – Online application and partnership with Lifelong Learning for emergency loans
  • Bookstore – Online ordering for textbooks and commencement materials
  • Library – electronic books, articles, databases and a distance learning librarian
  • Counseling Center – Online pamphlets and articles
  • Career Services – Online articles and email critique services
  • The Lasso – Online edition
  • Commuter Services – Plan events and provide communications to help our distance learners feel like a part of the community
  • Instructional Support Services – Blackboard Support, student technology trainings, live chat for the Help Desk, Help Desk Blog and the Ask TWU knowledgebase
  • Office of Lifelong Learning – Communication through distance learner blog, live chat and website for general distance education inquiries.
It has been said that “Teamwork doesn't tolerate the inconvenience of distance,” (author unknown). This statement is definitely true of our departments who serve our students who may or may not come to campus. It takes every department and every person to help our students succeed no matter where the departments or students are located. So far, TWU seems to be doing this very well as seen by our continued growth in overall enrollment and in distance education. We will continue to strive for the best. Thank you to everyone who helps make distance education a success at TWU.