The “Virtual Face” of Distance Learning at Public Colleges and Universities: What Do Websites Reveal about Administrative Student Support Services?

February 22, 2013

This study investigated how higher education institutions support their distance learning initiatives through their institutional websites – their “virtual face.” The population was 40 institutions, of which 10 each were doctoral/research, master, baccalaureate, and community college, located in 40 different states.  Using a researcher-developed instrument that included input from distance learning professionals, websites were analyzed based on the location of administrative student support services for distance students from the institution’s distance learning office home page.  The descriptive study answered three research questions: (1) How are higher education institutions establishing a “virtual face” for their distance learning initiatives? (2) How well do distance learning offices support distance students?, and (3) What does the “virtual face” of distance learning offices say about the commitment to distance learning students by higher education institutions? Findings indicate that many institutions have centralized distance learning offices and have made a concerted effort to serve their distance students. These efforts can be improved further by providing access to all necessary administrative student support services online from the distance learning office home page. Missing services and information for most of the analyzed sites included distance student retention, success, and satisfaction, as well as assessments for potential students to gauge their distance learning readiness.

Online Journal of Distance learning Administration

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