Components of Student Support in Blended and Online Learning

Components of Student Support in Blended and Online Learning

Tabitha Rangara-Omol (Monash University, Australia & Princess Noura University, Saudi Arabia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-6322-8.ch019
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For every student cohort that registers for an online program, some will persist through to graduation while a good number will drop out. Studies continue to investigate the phenomena of persistence and dropout without consensus to the solution. However, student support has been shown to impact positively on a student's decision to stay for the duration of the program. Students of online/blended learning formats lack the advantage of socio-physical motivation. Therefore, they require support that constantly reassures them of peers, teachers, and university presence throughout the duration of the program. At every stage in the life of the program, the student will require specific support which are herein referred to as components of student support. They include student support during recruitment, registration procedures, registration requirements, orientation, study skills training, technology, learning materials, counselling and mentorship, communication and interactions, feedback, regional centers, library, students' association, and representation.
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Student Support: Critical Stages

The student’s academic journey from registration through to graduation is referred to as the student walk/student life cycle/academic journey (Subotzky & Prinsloo, 2011; UNISA, 2010; Ryan, 2004). Some universities have critical points / stages at which support is provided, others scaffold the services transitionally within the academic program without stops, while others make a blend of the two approaches. Whichever, the approach, critical stages are acknowledged (Ryan, 2004). They include; the time when the student is thinking of possibilities for study, questions on the credibility and integrity of the institution, program information, self-evaluation, decision-making and career choices, enrolment and registration, payment and funding options, preparation for study, technical coaching and help, studying, motivation, re-registration, course progression, teaching and learning, contact sessions, technology student services, support and feedback strategies, graduation and alumni. Qakisa-Makoe (2005) and UNISA (2010) categorize the stages/phases of student support into three:

  • 1.

    Entry phase support also referred to as the pre-course phase;

  • 2.

    Teaching and learning support phase also referred to as the during-course phase and;

  • 3.

    Exit support phase also referred to as the post-course phase.

Within these phases, numerous activities that provide student support should be integrated (UNISA, 2010);

Key Terms in this Chapter

Student Support Components: Student support can be broken up into chunks and categorized based student needs and characteristics or institutional administrative functions. These chunks are referred to as components and together, they sum up student support. The components may be distinct or transitional. Examples of student support components include; library, communication, technology and feedback.

Online Learning: To bridge the separation between student and faculty, communications media is used to facilitate the learning experience. Online learning is the use of communications media intertwined with distance learning in any given program. At the onset of distance learning, the student solely interacted with printed material by correspondence through postal service. Today, various media (through technology advancements) can be combined even within one technology (multimedia) to transmit various forms of learning materials including print, audio-visuals, simulations and demonstrations. Through online learning, modern technologies have enabled the student not only to interact with the learning materials but also with the teacher, the institution and colleagues.

Student Support Drivers: These are concepts acknowledged to influence individual students’ academic journey. They have a direct relationship with student support components. For example, a student dropping out (driver) from a program, may be inhibited by the provision of guidance and counselling (component).

Student Journey: Also referred to as student walk, is the academic life of the student from registration at the beginning of the first year to graduation at the end of the program. The journey is composed of stages whose progression is dictated by the student’s performance at each stage facilitating a step up to the next level.

Blended Learning: Technologies have enabled on-campus student to interact with learning materials, teachers and peers through web 2.0 technologies like Moodle, blogs and e mails. This has given rise to the terms; blended learning, distributed learning and flexible learning. Blended learning are knowledge acquisition formats that are operational in both on-campus and off-campus programs. Both categories of students in such programs can engage in teaching and learning activities through the online learning management systems in combination to other media including print, video conferencing and face-to-face forums. Such combinations define blended learning.

Distance Learning: This is the process of acquiring knowledge, skills and attitudes through experience, practice, study, or by being taught within a distance education environment. The student and the teacher are often separated by time, distance and location. Distance learning is therefore, a structured learning experience that can formally take place in any place and at any time in the physical absence of an instructor.

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