Massive, open, online student affairs

On 2/6/2013 our University Life division had the NASPA president about to talk to us about the future of higher education which he believes includes MOOCs, technology, the economics of educational support, changing demographics, and shifting they was that we support our students. One of the questions that he posed to us is how MOOCs can apply to the work that we do. How does this concept of the massive, open, and online classroom apply to student affairs services? I think there are obvious applications in the areas of staff training for our technological systems (imagine going through an online class for how to use conduct software that goes at your own pace rather than learning the ins and outs with everyone in your department). I think there are other, less obvious applications that could be very successful. One of which is taking student handbooks and turning them into some kind of online class for students. Before they can accept admission to the institution or before they can register for classes, they have to demonstrate knowledge of the policies that they agree to uphold as a new student at their university. And what is the potential application for orientation? If we can shift some of the presentations that students sit through to being an online course that student engage in how can we use our time with incoming students effectively during orientation?

I think Leadership training programs are a great example, this concept has been around for years that students can take courses (for credit or co-curricular workshops) in leadership studies and earn a certificate. What happens if that is paired with an online course session and the focus becomes the student’s application of the knowledge that they’ve acquired and their reflection of that application?

Another example is developing content for Housing Selection. We’ve got information sessions on housing selection to ensure that residents are aware of the processes and know what deadlines are coming up so that they feel they have the information to be successful in selecting a room for next year. Shifting that to being online content with knowledge assessments throughout the process would potentially free up time in the moment to help handle out of the ordinary requests and questions that pop up instead of focusing time on delivering a message multiple, we can deliver the message once in the form of an online course and then provide student support along the way.

A lot of times when we hear about new advances in technology that make our old models/methods of delivery seem out of date, we reel back in defense of these outdated models/methods instead of embracing the new technology that could structurally enhance our day to day lives and our work for students. These aren’t actually models for replacing human interaction because that need will never go away. But we can use these models to engage our students differently around many of the services and activities with which we provide them.

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