Professor considers remote learners’ needs

Megan Mojica
Staff Writer

Valerie Beltran, professor of teacher education, discussed her research on “Meeting the Needs of Students Enrolled in Online Classes” Tuesday in the Quay Davis Board room before an audience of about 20. 

Beltran taught her first online class in 2010, when only one out of four sections was offered online. By 2013, three of the four sections were offered online, and by 2014, all four sections were online. 

“That change sparked my interest and my question,” Beltran said.”My thriving question in every facet I teach is how can we as professors provide engaging online instruction? So that’s where this particular study came out of.”

The study was a “mixed methods” study that took a look at which services La Verne students used and liked the most when taking an online course. 

Beltran provided attendees with handouts to estimate how students ranked services based on how useful they were. Their estimates reflected the study’s results. 

The most popular service was technology support, followed by library services, academic success center tutoring, academic workshops held by the Campus Activities Board, and last place with the first generation mentoring program.

“We find a lot of students aren’t familiar with that offering,” Beltran said, and asked, “What does it mean?” 

Her study also asked students how these services can be more accessible to them. 

“This was eye opening,” Beltran said. “Like, wow! Those percentages are really high in several areas.” 

Participants recommended improving accessibility to services by expanding evening and weekend hours, plus offering more online services, more technology support by having staff at computer labs, supplying online tutorials at the beginning of class to explain the tools that will be used and improving advising. 

“We’re not doing it just to publish. But how can what we find impact our lives?” Beltran said. 

Beltran took the results and implemented change into her own teaching by creating overview videos explaining tools she would be using, requiring students to complete a scavenger hunt to navigate her online tools, adding the University’s services into her syllabus and having a representative from the library come into her classes to discuss their tools. 

“Our goal is how can we support students, and what can we do as a University to make it as accessible as possible,” Beltran said. 

A Q&A followed Beltran’s lecture.

Professor of Political Science Jason Neidleman noted that library and tech support are there when a student needs it, but the other services typically require an appointment. 

If the other services were available whenever students needed them, perhaps more would take advantage of them, Neidleman said.

This sparked a conversation surrounding A.I. and whether that could be a useful tool.  

“I need a human to certify that what I was told by the A.I. was true,” Niedleman said.

Beltran said she plans to conduct a follow-up study, which will include graduate students. 

Attendees said they found her research helpful. 

“I think the research opens up a lot of good questions for us as an institution about why students are satisfied with certain services over others,” said Sarah Rodman-Alvarez, director of the Randall Lewis center for well-being and research.

“(It’s) a very important discussion that our campus and faculty and administration need to have,” added Grace Zhao, associate professor and department chair of music.

Megan Mojica can be reached at megan.mojica@laverne.edu.

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