Located in Massachusetts, Quinsigamond Community College (QCC) offers credit and noncredit courses to meet student needs. 62 percent of students are enrolled part-time students and 40 percent of students work more than 30 hours a week.

In a recent webinar, QCC shared its need for a more efficient service to help faculty support their students. Amy Beaudry, Professor of English and Academic Technology Facilitator, Pat Schmohl, Dean of Distance Learning, and Lyssa Walls, Biology Instructor and Online Liaison, discussed the evolution of online communication processes using the Starfish by Hobsons platform. QCC has improved their processes by integrating Starfish into its communication model.

Online Liaison Service for Students

The online liaison service needed to solve a continuous challenge for online faculty. How could they re-engage students who were not logging into their class, only logged-in sporadically, or were missing major assignments? In the fall of 2012, they found a solution and hired an online liaison to reach out to those students.

Lyssa Walls is the online liaison and she contacts students by e-mail, phone call, or text message after faculty members raise a concern “flag” notification within Starfish. Walls explained that students are happy to discuss any roadblocks to success. As a follow-up, Walls adds comments into Starfish to notify faculty members about her interactions with the students, or if she was unable to reach them.

Walls’ dedication to helping students does not go unnoticed. After receiving assistance, one student told her, “I thank you for all that you have done to help me in the process.  Honestly, if you never contacted me offering help, I would have never been here trying to fix the issues in the course. I probably wouldn’t have even completed the course, to be honest. I had no motivation at all or patience left. Once again thank you so much for taking the time out of your day to help me!”

Online Liaison Service for Faculty:

QCC encourages interaction between the students and faculty members by requiring online faculty to use a Starfish flag to communicate with students about attendance, or assignments. If the student does not respond, the next step is raising the online liaison concern flag in Starfish. This notifies Walls that they haven’t heard back from the student, and she can try to get in touch with them. Using Starfish has allowed QCC to consolidate its thread of notes and keep track of each case. When a student successfully contacts the online faculty member the online liaison is informed of this communication update in the platform.

One faculty member said, “Teaching both online and blended, it is key to catch the students right at the beginning of the semester when they begin to exhibit poor choices and habits. Having somebody else contact the student (along with me) adds another voice into the mix. I think it sends a message to the student that QCC cares.”

Between fall 2012 and spring 2016, QCC increased 25 online faculty members to 100 online faculty members and 499 students to more than 2,000 students. This initial project grew from being supported by a Strategic Planning Grant for five semesters to being included in the overall budget.

Where will QCC go from here? Listen here to learn what plans they have in place for the future, and how you can replicate the online liaison service on your campus. 

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