Here’s an interesting article about online support for online graduate students – well worth a read for anyone teaching a grad class online.
The executive summary? Online programs don’t always allow for the “informal social and academic interaction” that can be helpful in building one’s professional identity as a researcher, balancing school and work responsibilities, and addressing the guidelines of the program itself. However, professionalization can also occur through mentoring, sharing information and resources, and accessing support services. Online graduate students in this study were interested in gaining information related to their future professional and scholarly identities, but were less interested in ongoing meta-discussion forums (either of the welome-to-the-program sort or of the scholarly/pedagogical type).
Overall, “students are looking for general support around usual student issues: relationships with faculty, career choices, access to financial and other student supports, academic resources and library information.” How does your online course or program meet these needs? Are you considering changing anything?