HETS Encourages Development of Online Student Support Services

Monday 11th of April 2005
HETS Encourages Development of Online Student Support Services
SAN JUAN, PR – As part of its efforts to train faculty and administrators at member institutions to better serve the Hispanic student community, the Hispanic Educational Telecommunications System (HETS) hosted a two-day workshop on Best Practices in Online Student Support Services. This innovative workshop, facilitated by the Assistant Director of the Western Cooperative for Educational Telecommunications (WCET), Pat Shea, brought together more than 70 college administrators from HETS institutional members in Puerto Rico, New York, Florida, and New Jersey.
The workshop took place last March 17 and 18, 2005 in San Juan, Puerto Rico at the Central Office of the Inter American University of Puerto Rico and the University of the Sacred Heart. Workshop attendees included a diverse group of deans of academic affairs, deans of student affairs, distance education directors, librarians, academic advisors, counselors, IT administrators, admissions administrators, registrars, and financial aid officers.
The first day of the workshop focused on the exploration of existing institutional services and best practices. Here, participants got the chance to learn, not only about existing best practices, but also about techniques to measure performance in student services. During the second day, institutions got together, by service area and by institution, to discuss collaboration possibilities in online support services. Through performance indicators given by the workshop facilitator, participants were able to analyze their own institutional sites and envision ways of making them more attractive, interactive, and student-oriented.
As the main facilitator of the workshop stated, online student services should be designed specifically to serve student needs, while interacting with them as individuals. Web services have moved from an institutional information perspective towards considering customer needs and interests, and, then, clustering personalized and customizable services. Ideally, web services should be moving towards a completely interactive experience where students are guided through institutional processes, receive personal advising, and are engaged in proactive personalized communication.
Outstanding practices in Student Support Services among HETS member institutions include an integrated enrollment management system at the Ponce Campus of the Inter American University of Puerto Rico, an online academic advising model at the Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico, and online tutorials at Hostos Community College. Workshop participants realized that every member institution has its own weaknesses and strengths. HETS sees an open opportunity to help its members move forward, with the proper training and support, and to foster collaboration among them for the creation of shared support services.
Workshops such as this are an opportunity to keep training our constituencies in online learning. Through this type of events, HETS can get closer to its member institutions, get to know more about its needs and interests, and learn ways of helping them advance in the online student support services area&quo;, said Dr. Nitza Hernandez, HETS Executive Director. To participants, this workshop represented a way of learning how to develop better services and websites for their students.
One of HETS members’ collaborative projects, the Hispanic Online Learning Access (HOLA), has proven the power of getting institutions to work together in the creation of online support services. Six HETS member institutions from New York, Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico have jointly created a set of online learning objects designed to help students succeed in online education. These include tutorials in the areas of cooperative learning, learning styles, BlackBoard, Internet research, Word Processing, and development of information skills. This type of initiative surpasses institutional policy barriers that may arise from curricular joint initiatives. It also helps in developing products tailored to the needs of each institution’s students.
HETS efforts to promote the growth of online learning, teaching, and support initiatives in Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) will continue strengthening with the First Hispanic Virtual Congress on Blending Technology, Cultural Diversity, and Distance Learning in Higher Education, being organized for next October 2005. The goal of this Virtual Congress is to facilitate and generate an online discussion among faculty, students, researchers, and administrators who are willing to share information, ideas, and expertise about a wide range of issues on information technology and distance/online learning as they relate to Hispanic higher education and cultural diversity.
For more information about this and other HETS initiatives, contact HETS at 787-766-1912, extension 2221, or through ymontalv@inter.edu.
By Wilmarie Latorre