Hello! My name is Cathy Gunn and I'm honored
to participate in the Virtual Guest Lecturer Series for the Illinois OnLine
Introduction to Cathy Gunn
for this lecture is the Faculty Role in IVC's Student Support Centers,
but let me introduce myself as Cathy, the teacher, first! I
haven't always been in higher education, but I have been a teacher
forever [it seems]. My first year of teaching was in a Department
of Defense School in Goeppingen, Germany, during the early 1970's,
where my husband, Harry, was stationed during the Vietnam War. From there I taught in Jacksonville and Waverly,
IL, first in special education and then in a 3rd grade classroom.
started in integrating technology into my classroom in the early 1980's,
when I had one Apple IIe computer on a rolling cart. The rest, as they as, 'is history. Because I used one computer successfully as
a learning tool for demonstrating the writing process, I hit upon an important
strategy that has led me to the Illinois Virtual Campus. I intuitively asked myself '...And how does this computer application
(the word processor) help the learner learn in a different way?' I became a consultant for the Illinois State
Board of Education and conducted workshops for 9 counties of K-12 schools
and asked the question, 'How can technology help teachers teach better?'
we moved to the University of Oregon, where I got my doctorate in Curriculum & Instruction. I began asking the question, 'How can technology improve teaching
and learning?' I was a professor of educational technology at Northern Arizona
University for 8 years where I first asked the question 'How can university faculty integrate
technology successfully in their courses?' It then evolved to 'Where
does the Internet fit in curriculum and instruction?
1998, I read a position announcement in an online journal that mentioned
the Illinois Virtual Campus and what I saw as an exciting idea: the creation
of Student Support Centers for online students to be located in community
colleges in Illinois. Underlying
all of the previous questions has been the question, 'and what does
this mean for the learner?'Illinois
was heading in a direction that was important to me personally, and I wanted
to be involved in this important initiative. I knew that the Illinois Community College
system would go a long way towards making this student support center concept
3 weeks, I was living in Champaign and began preparing for this guest lecture! In
1 ½ years, we have taken an idea found on paper (the original HECA proposal)
to a living and viable virtual entity. Let
me describe the IVC:
The Illinois Virtual
Campus was established in September 1998 by a HECA (Higher Education Cooperation
Act) grant from the Illinois Board of Higher Education. It was funded for a second year September
1999. The IVC uses a broad definition
for distributed education similar to that of Gladieux and Swail (1998): 'an educational process that separates
in time or place, the student and instructor and includes courses offered
by computer transmission, television, electronic conferencing, videocassettes
or discs, or correspondence.'The
primary focus of the IVC is with online courses and programs, but a regional
flavor is evident in the online catalog (http://www.ivc.illinois.edu/ is no longer a working site) (with approximately 42% of the courses listed falling into categories other
than online delivery.)
Currently there are
over 1800 courses and 46 certificate or degree programs listed in the IVC
catalog. Thousands of students are taking online courses as well as interactive
TV or video courses that can be found in the IVC online catalog.With approximately 2/3 of IVC's providing
institutions responding, almost 15,000 students were reported enrolled in
fall 1999 courses listed in the IVC catalog.
Student Support Centers
The one thing that
sets the IVC apart from other virtual universities is the student support
center concept. Thirty-nine community
college districts and the East St. Louis Community College Center began
the 1999/2000 school year evaluating their ability to provide distributed
learning students with computer/Internet access, technical support, library
access, initial advising, and testing services. Twenty-three
community colleges submitted grant proposals vying for up to $15,000 each
for 10 special initiative grant projects. Project plans center around developing online
student readiness strategies or programs to ensure student success once
they are in an online course. Products
developed through this special initiative funding will be completed for
distribution to all Student Support Centers by fall 2000 and will be available
to students from the IVC website. In the future, centers may be found in
community centers, libraries, K-12 schools, places of business, and in prisons.
I am asking the question: 'What does the IVC and its Student Support
Centers mean for students and online
For students, we
intend for the Centers to support students as they ready themselves for
online learning, in your classes, and for support that will keep them in
your online classes.
me expand on the 5 basic services that students should be able to find locally,
within a short drive or a local phone call.
to computers and Internet
Any Illinois resident can access
a computer with web capabilities to take an online course, at little-to-no cost.
to technical support
Contact information is provided
at each center, giving an online student local resources for technical
support. This might consist of help in uploading a
homework assignment to the instructor, either by phone consultation
or in person at the college's computer lab. This
function is developing as centers determine the extent of student requests.
While it remains the responsibility of providing
institutions to support their online students' library needs, community
college libraries may serve students in their district with general
library support. For example,
a student might request help in how to search for research references.
Each center provides test-proctoring services
to residents of their district, some at no charge or at minimal cost.
are not asked to serve as advisors for participating institutions, but online
students may arrange to meet with an academic advisor or career counselor
for general advising help to get started.
on the IVC website showed where the Student Support Centers are
located throughout the state. Each center provides contact information for
a general contact, library, advising center, technical support, and for
as an example.
What does this mean to you?
know about support services for online learners at their local community
college, they can be assured that the online experience with your course
has a safety net. If you know about
these services and can refer students to resources within a close geographical
proximity to their home or place of work, you can concentrate on what you
do best--facilitating learning.
How might your student use an
IVC Student Support Center?
assume that you have an online student who lives geographically at the farthest
point in Illinois from your traditional campus. The
student has a computer with modem and an Internet Service Provider. During
the first week of class, a critical time to be corresponding with her instructor
and accessing the course website, her computer crashes and the student is
unable to access the course. She
can call the IVC Student Support Center technical contact at her local community
college and make arrangements to use a computer lab on campus to access
your course. Computers are set aside
specifically for IVC students at all 40 centers.
How will the student know whom to
you will have directed students to the IVC website with its map of 40 centers
and contact information in the course introduction. The
IVC has created a graphic with the IVC Logo and the words 'Student
Support Centers.' You can get a graphic from our website
in several different sizes and include it as a link from your course homepage. If
the student has no access to the web to locate the phone numbers, and they
call you for information you will be able to link from your course
page directly to the center contact information. You can pass the information on to the student
to get them back into the course pronto, without losing too much time.
How might a student use technical
support from a Support Center?
not asked community colleges to provide complete technical support for any
student who asks for it. But having taught online courses myself, I understand how frustrating
it is to not have enough technical knowledge to answer even the simplest
question. I would guess you all
are very similar to me, in that we got to this place of online learning
because we are risk takers, or innovators, and definitely because we're
good teachers! I bet it wasn't because we are technical experts. Did
you learn what you know about the world of online learning because you are
self-taught? If so, you probably have gaps in your technical
knowledge base! For me, if I haven't
encountered the technical problem myself, I probably won't understand
the conditions enough to get past basic troubleshooting (e.g., is it plugged
in?)! And if it happened to me anytime
before yesterday, I've moved on and won't likely be able to remember
the solution anyway!
expert at a Student Support Center can be the first point of contact in
troubleshooting. Sometimes a quick
phone call can solve a problem. A technical expert can often tell when a problem
is a hardware/software issue or related to the ISP.
I can remember how much handholding I needed to send my first email attachment
or to post my first discussion item on a web board. If
someone else can provide that first support when a student is stressed by
getting an assignment to you, you can spend your time with content instead
What can we expect from a Support Center
librarians are used to students asking for help in getting started on research. Online
resources are just one of many library resources available to a student. Student Support Centers can help students
find resources, both print and electronic. They
can provide a point of contact for interlibrary loan. It is the providing university or college
who has the responsibility for providing their students with adequate library
resources, but the Student Support Centers can help students with access
to those resources.
Center advisors advise students about your programs?
not. But they are available to get
a student started. Center advisors
can direct a student to the right office or phone number at another institution. They
can help a student begin thinking about career choices. They will know about the evolving online resources the IVC is developing
or sponsoring to help students become good online learners. These resources will be linked from the IVC
website. You might find some of
the resources as complements to your courses.
example, you might require your student to go through a self-assessment
survey as part of a course routine. Or you may find it helpful to direct students to a specific online
resource when you notice that they are floundering in an online discussion. This
resource section should continue to develop, and your contributions to new
resources or refinement of existing resources will strengthen the effectiveness
of the IVC and online learning.
you can count on IVC's Student Support Centers to support the testing
needs of your student. No matter
where your students live in Illinois, they are probably within a close driving
distance of a community college center. Each center will provide testing services,
including test proctoring with minimal or no charge. The IVC website lists a Testing Service Contact, who can assist
your students. You can find their
fax number on the IVC site, students can make arrangements for taking their
tests, and proctored tests can be included in your course syllabus.
What about your online students who
are not residents of Illinois?
since the IVC is funded by the IBHE in support of Illinois students, it
is unlikely that online students who live outside Illinois boundaries will
have the same access to face-to-face support. We hope to create as many online resources
as possible that can mirror face-to-face activities, but I know that some
services can never be replicated online.
How can you participate in the future
development of Student Support Centers?
The centers have
evolved through pilot testing by a group of 15 community colleges, with
further testing by 40 community college districts this past year. We want to gain access to students in the
future who might be using the centers. Typically,
a student asking for help from someone at the community college isn't
identified as an 'IVC student.' Community
colleges serve their residents in multiple ways, whether the user is a student
or not. One way to find out more
about the usefulness of the centers is to ask the students, and the only
way the IVC can do that is to go through online course instructors. We
hope to use surveys in the future that will help us describe online students
and the support services they need and use to be successful online students. My hope is that you will help us do this by linking your students
to the IVC and to targeted survey instruments as they are developed and
administered. In the meantime, we
also invite feedback and suggestions from you as you and your students make
use of the IVC and its Student Support Centers.
this lecture by presenting a series of evolving questions that have guided
my path from my first classroom to the IVC. There is one last question that I ask every
day and with every decision that I make as director of the IVC. That is: 'How will this decision affect the student?' You have a role to play in the IVC, because
when I ask this question, it is obvious to me that you truly are the closest
we can get to those students that we are trying to serve.
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