As a consumer of educational services, you are entitled to value for your money. Online schools recognize this. They are concerned about giving appropriate value for the money they collect. So what, exactly should you receive in exchange for your hard-earned dollars?
Universities and professors are asking the same question. As MaryEllen Weimer recounts in Faculty Focus, a few years back educator Mano Singham asked his students, “What do you expect from an instructor who is giving 100% to the course?”
The students replied with the following list:
- Give students their papers back in a timely way
- Give students lots of criticism and feedback on their work
- Have passion for the material
- Listen and respond to student concerns
- Care not only about academics but also about students as people
- Realize that students have a life outside of class and not make unreasonable demands on them
- Not stick only to the class readings for discussion
- Take all questions seriously and not fake answers
- Provide inspiration to students so that they will want to change their minds
The Los Angeles Valley College has also published a list of reasonable expectations for students to have of their instructors. In addition to the foregoing, the instructor is expected to:
- provide a prepared syllabus for the class
- respond within 24 hours to student questions
- give the same quality information as would be provided in a traditional class
- state the instructor’s expectations for student assignments, what is required for assignment, and how each assignment will be graded
- hold virtual office hours
The University of Illinois’ list of requirements for proper instructor protocol state that their online facilitators will have clinical as well as academic experience. Facilitators are required to keep up to date on current workplace practices and uses of the material they are teaching. The facilitators are expected to be open, concerned about their students, flexible in their dealings, and sincere in their communications. They must be able to communicate in writing, and they must have credentials appropriate for the subject matter.
The University of Wisconsin at La Crosse adds that the instructor should provide assistance and guidance to his students, and Elearn Magazine states that the use of proper netiquette is essential for the distance learning environment.
In general, if you have any difficulties with an online instructor, contact him or her first, to make sure that there is not simply a misunderstanding. If you can’t work out your issues with the instructor, try contacting the dean of the department. Document whatever problems you are having, then be polite, be specific, and stay on point. Be reasonable, but be firm. This is your money and your time on the line. Keep searching moving up the chain of command to the head of the university if you must, until you obtain satisfaction. Whichever distance learning university or college you decide to attend, you can probably rest assured that the institution is as concerned as you are that you are receiving the quality education, training, assistance, and professional conduct that you are entitled to expect.