Salt Lake Community College’s eLearning and Instructional Support Office provides support and resources to students who take online classes, and to the instructors who teach them. Online courses are offered as an alternative for students who can’t fit face-to-face courses into their schedule.
Heidi Manwell, the administrative assistant for eLearning at SLCC wants students to understand the program better so that they can have a good experience.
“I’m a single mom. I work full time. I go to school full time,” says Manwell. “This semester I thought ‘Ok, I’m going to take all my classes online and see how I do,’ and it has not been easier. It’s just that it gives me the opportunity to do my schoolwork after I put my kids to bed.”
According to Manwell, online classes can be a great option for students who have a busy schedule, but online classes are not always the best option.
“First of all, online classes are not for everyone,” says Manwell. “There are definitely people – like with me and math this semester – I should not have taken math online because math is not my thing. I think that it is important that there is some sort of assessment for students prior to registering for online classes to see if it is a good fit for them.”
Online classes require more self-discipline than face-to-face classes because students don’t have a set time to work on their class work.
“I still have to put in the same amount of time and I still have the same amount of homework, if not more, because I don’t have class time to do my work,” says Manwell. “But I think that having quality online courses with consistent standards and trained faculty members who are certified to teach online is going to benefit me as a student.”
The eLearning Taskforce
The eLearning Taskforce is currently working to create a five-year eLearning plan and has created work groups that are addressing several key issues. Possible solutions that the work groups are discussing include an online orientation to help prepare students for online classes. This will help students to make a better decision on what type of class is the best fit for them, whether it is completely online, a hybrid course that has some online and some face-to-face instruction or a fully face-to-face course where a student must be in class.
To improve course consistency, the group has discussed using a course template that provides a basic structure while they input the content to ensure that all online courses have a similar basic flow of information and the same basic navigation.
The group is also working on making the information about their services more available to instructors who may be struggling with creating an online course and who do not know about all the services available to them to help them create courses for online instruction.
Support for Instructors
“Every single course at the institution is assigned an instructional technologist,” says Manwell. “If you don’t know who that is, call the support desk. We’ll tell you who you’re assigned to. We want to work with you. We want to be a team with you so the students have the best experience they can have.”
The eLearning and Instructional Support Office provides support for instructors who teach online. The eLearning office is home to instructional designers, project managers and instructional technologists who can consult with instructors to create online courses that are engaging and fulfill the requirements for the course, while allowing the instructor to control the course content.
“We are here to help faculty design and develop their online courses,” says Robert Lindsay, the assistant director of Instructional Design and Media Services. “My staff is made up of five instructional designers. These are education people with master’s degrees in education who understand technology and learning and teaching and how to make courses as engaging as possible online. I also have a staff of support reps who are also here to help faculty troubleshoot Canvas and help them build their courses in Canvas as well.”
Instructors may not be aware of the resources available through the eLearning center. SLCC is moving toward using a single Learning Management System (LMS) for all of its online courses, but the college does not currently have any policy that requires instructors to use a particular format or platform for online courses. Canvas is the main LMS used on campus, but some instructors use other platforms such as Assessment and Learning in Knowledge Spaces (ALEKS), which is often used to teach online math courses.
“Call. Use this resource. Come in, drop in to TB 213. Go to the front desk and say ‘I’m a little confused on this,’” says Manwell. “Obviously, if there are questions on the course itself, they are going to need to see their instructor, but if they have questions regarding Canvas, come in and use this resource that we have.”
The eLearning office is open from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. on Fridays. They are also open on Saturdays from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. Students can contact the help desk through online chat, by email firstname.lastname@example.org, or by telephone at 801-957-4406. They can even stop by the eLearning office at the Taylorsville Redwood Campus in TB 213.