ION | Illinois Online Network

Making the Virtual Classroom a Reality

Supporting Students for Online Leaders

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This is an overview of approaches to holistically support online students through a high touch/high-tech approach. Participants will learn the scope of online student services and the important of developing effective remotely delivered services to improve student success and retention rates. The participants will learn best practices in early development of online programs, preparing students, ongoing support, and support after graduation or program completion. Course materials and objectives are aligned with the UPCEA Hallmarks of Excellence in Online Leadership.


Individuals seeking leadership roles in an online program, Student Affairs counselors, advisors, academic support staff as well as Academic Affairs faculty and staff and others charged with supporting online learners.


Module 1. Introductions, Goal Setting and Online Learning in Higher Education

Module 2: A National Study of Online Learning Leaders in Higher Education

Module 3: Building a Foundation for Success Through Student Services for Online Learners

Module 4: An Online Engagement Framework For Higher Education

Module 5: Relationships Between Minority Students Online Learning Experiences and Academic Performance

Module 6: What Do Unsuccessful Online Students Want Us To Know

Module 7: An Introduction to Universal Design

Module 8: Pulling It All Together


See Course Topics


Upon completion of this course, students will:

  1. Demonstrate their understanding of the scope of support needs of online students during different periods of enrollment by participating in a case studies wiki.
  2. Analyze online student retention research and use to make a case for improved online student services at their institution.
  3. Evaluate current online student services at his/her college.
  4. Search best practices from other colleges and apply to improve his/her college's services.
  5. Understand universal web design principles that result in accessible online student services and integrate this knowledge in their implementation plan for improving online student services.
  6. Design an online student service communication plan.
  7. Create a proposal/implementation plan to improve one online student service.


Upon completion of each module, students will:

Module 1

  • Describe the scope of online student learning.
  • Understand the importance of providing online student services.

Module 2

  • Recognize the characteristics of effective online leaders.

Module 3

  • Identify all elements of the COMFORT Model of student services.
  • Begin to integrate the ideas in Modules 1 and 2 and discuss how to initiate the COMFORT model in your classroom or your institution.

Module 4

  • Develop a working definition of engagement and engaged learning.
  • Create strategies for implementing engagement in online learning and student services.

Module 5

  • Understand the needs of diverse students as it relates to students services.

Module 6

  • Reflect on challenges and suggest solutions for overcoming possible institutional obstacles to improving online student services.

Module 7

  • Consider how Universal Design with other course topics.

Module 8

  • Reflect on the knowledge gained from this course to draft a proposal for improving or creating a student support service


8 weeks.




  • Read the instructor's introductions and assigned articles from the Web.
  • Engage in positive and meaningful dialog with classmates concerning the course subject matter.
  • Complete the assignments in each module and read and provide feedback to the assignments of other participants.


The course has a modular structure in which each unit is individually assessed, but successive units build on previous information. The course pedagogy is based on principles of collaborative and constructivist learning and and makes use of group participation. Content is in the form of active participation in asynchronous discussion and the wiki, direct email, postings of materials, Web resources, and instructor notes. Student participation in discussion forums to comment on the ideas and work of others is a major component of the course. Students will acquire more in-depth information on some topics through links to outside sources.


This is an intensive course requiring about 8-10 hours a week. The time commitment will vary depending the individual's input, needs, and personal study habits. Students are required to log on to the course a minimum of 3 times a week.

Credit Options

No graduate academic credit is available for this course. 8 CEUs will be earned by participants who successfully complete this course.


A fee is incurred for anyone enrolled in an Advanced Online Seminar, although there is a discount for ION members. (Only Diamond level ION partners are exempt.) The fee is determined by the number of contact hours and online discussion requirements for the course. To view the fee schedule for a specific section of this course, visit the Schedule and click on the link for that section (e.g. TM1051).

Taking a course for Graduate Credit through the University of Illinois at Springfield (UIS):
Most MVCR courses [not the Advanced Online Seminars] may be taken for graduate credit through UIS. You do not pay twice if you choose this route. You pay only the tuition and fees associated with UIS enrollment. If you choose to enroll through UIS, you need to follow the instructions. You do not register through this site.

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Taking Courses for Academic Credit

Most 8-week MVCR courses can also be taken for academic credit through the University of Illinois at Springfield.

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Suggested Tracks

Instruction Centric

  • Online Learning
  • Instructional Design
  • Student Assessment
  • Encouraging Comm.
  • Elective
  • Practicum

Technology Centric

  • Online Learning
  • Technology Tools
  • Instructional Design
  • Student Assessment
  • Elective (Multimedia or Sims, Labs, Games, and VR)
  • Practicum

Support Professional

  • Online Learning
  • Instructional Design
  • Student Assessment
  • Universal Design
  • Elective (Supporting Students, Copyright, Global eLearning, Blended/Hybrid, Librarians Collaborating, Multimedia Principles)
  • Practicum

COLA - track

  • Administration Seminar
  • Quality Assurance
  • Issues and Strategies in Faculty Training
  • Supporting Students Online

Choose one of the following three for your elective:

  • Administration of Online Programs
  • Copyright
  • Blended - Hybrid Learning Design and Instruction
  • Practicum for Administrators
What They're Saying
"The thing I liked most about this course was the interaction with the other students."     

MVCR Participant

Award winning courses

The MVCR program won the Award for Excellence in ALN Faculty Develop-ment (in conjunction with other ION programs) from the Sloan-consortium in 2002. One of our instructors won the WebCT Exemplary Online Course Award for an MVCR course as well.

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