Community colleges are comprehensive higher education environments committed to providing a full array of educational programs. Support services should offer students the resources and services needed to succeed. Among these students is a growing number who learn by distributed learning which, by definition, includes those who take advantage of distance learning methodologies, some in remote locations, some without ever coming to campus. As technology improves, colleges are moving basic services into an online environment, including registration, bill paying, library/learning resource services and faculty communication with students. Critical issues in meeting these support services needs include:
- ensuring inclusion for the diverse college population of differently-abled students and faculty and the wide variety of levels of and types of learners;
- meeting the 24/7 nature of today’s study and work environments;
- accommodating disparate technology competency levels of on-campus and remote learners;
- adequately funding the technology infrastructure for the institution and the distance learner/remote user, as well as the distance learning faculty and staff;
- training faculty and staff and the distance learner/remote user in the “how” of successfully accessing, using and – if needed - receiving assistance with online student support services; and,
- meeting state and regional accrediting guidelines for serving distance and remote users and well as providing a variety of remote user support services and materials.
Colleges should strive to incorporate the critical elements of student services and library/learning resource center programs into their distance learning/remote learning programs. These critical elements include planning, budgeting, and staffing for student success and to meet national, state, and local and institutional goals and outcomes and standards and guidelines. Institutions should consider the ramifications of designing, maintaining and evaluating comprehensive distance learning programs and the services and resources to support them.
Student Services is a vital part of college life designed with the individual needs of each student, providing assistance for both academic and non-academic issues. Distance learning students/remote users should have equal access to student services. These include: enrollment services (e.g., assessment, advising, admissions, registration, orientation/college success, records); financial services/economic assistance (e.g., financial aid, scholarship and grant information and assistance, veterans’ services); student development (e.g., career exploration, career decisions, employment, internships, service learning curriculum partnerships, counseling for career, academic concerns and personal issues, equity and diversity, differently-abled student services, testing,, tutoring and health); and student life (e.g., student government, clubs, housing, arts, bookstore, athletics, bookstores, child development/child care services, transportation).
While some student services and resources may be offered by outsourced or commercial products, colleges should invest in designing a full-service model that offers traditional in-person services in online formats, both synchronous and asynchronous, to offer distance and remote learners a robust college life.
Library/Learning Resources Center Services
In community college libraries, students now access many forms of resources and services through a variety of technologies. Through these technologies, online resources are acquired, organized and delivered by library/learning resource environments and students have access to: fiction and non-fiction circulating and reference e-books; databases of citations and fulltext copies of online journals, magazine articles, and newspapers; and faculty e-reserve materials. Librarians also identify and evaluate Web resources that support curriculum and design and deliver gateways to access these Web resources. In addition, librarians offer a variety of services to support classroom instruction including online chat, telephone and email reference; information literacy instruction for the research process through Web-delivered services including interactive tutorials; streaming video of coursework and web-delivered curriculum support media.
Just as distance learner classroom assignments should duplicate on-campus assignments in their intent and learning objectives, library resources and services should duplicate on-campus access to resources and services to ensure equality. Information literacy experiences should also duplicate those experiences in on-campus programs and students should have access to and contact with a information professional to ensure they think critically about the research process and information and access, select, evaluate and use resources and design services and activities appropriate to the curriculum.
Colleges should provide access to organized online library resources and a service plan for distance learners and remote users. Both workforce and credit higher education curriculum are now inextricably tied to the equitable online access of materials that support not only the curriculum content and delivery, but also the accreditation standards and guidelines required of many programs today.
Not all student and library/learning resource center services and resources translate as appropriate for the distance learner/remote user, however, most services and resources are and should be made available to offer the broadest opportunity for student success and growth. Colleges should explore new paradigms, identify benchmarks, seek partnerships, invest in technology and design technology infrastructure, and train and develop faculty and staff to provide virtual and/or digital support , to meet existing and growing, diverse needs.
Approved by the AACC Board of Directors
November 12, 2004