By: Holly Sumner
In recent years, Southeast Missouri State University has put data-informed decision-making at the forefront. Towards this end, our online education unit launched a mixed-methods research study in Spring 2021 to collect data on student experience in our fully-online degree programs. In an initial survey, online students were asked to rank factors most critical to their success, evaluate the frequency and effectiveness of different teaching methods, and provide open-ended feedback on their overall experience. In a follow-up interview, a subset of survey respondents provided more detailed accounts of their experiences.
In keeping with our university’s overall demographics, Hispanic students comprised a small percentage of participants in our study. However, the takeaways from our research provide insights that can help online education units better serve traditionally-underrepresented populations in higher education, including Hispanic students.
In this session, we will address the two main principles gleaned from our study: responsiveness and flexibility. Our study suggests that creating a responsive learning environment is key to online student success, particularly for first-gen students and “non-trad” students (i.e. students with caregiving responsibilities, part-time or full-time employment, etc.). In addition to responsiveness, online students regard flexibility as paramount, even ranking this above affordability in terms of its importance to their overall experience. The first part of the session will trace the contours of these two principles, illustrating each with a series of student anecdotes.
While data collection and analysis is a good start, we must also consider how to translate our findings into practice. In the second part of this session, we will explore actionable ways for administrators, staff, and faculty to implement responsiveness and flexibility at their respective institutions. While we will focus on these two principles that emerged from our research, we will also step back and consider how to generally approach change management in response to data in order to benefit Hispanic students. In sum, participants will depart our session with a toolbox of strategies to promote responsiveness and flexibility and materials that can help guide data-informed decision-making at their respective institutions.
Note: This session can be conducted in English/Spanish depending on the preference of the organizers