Online colleges to receive financial aid

I wonder if this, “Online Colleges Receive a Boost From Congress” will affect this, “Demographic shift hits for-profit school?” It would seem that some measure of accountability could be maintained by keeping federally financed aid programs within the non-profit academic sphere. I am not sure how for-profit online companies can be held accountable when they have share holders who apply the pressures of increased profits.

Online Colleges Receive a Boost From Congress
It took just a few paragraphs in a budget bill for Congress to open a new frontier in education: Colleges will no longer be required to deliver at least half their courses on a campus instead of online to qualify for federal student aid.

That change is expected to be of enormous value to the commercial education industry. Although both for-profit colleges and traditional ones have expanded their Internet and online offerings in recent years, only a few dozen universities are fully Internet-based, and most of them are for-profit ones.

The provision is just one sign of how an industry that once had a dubious reputation has gained new influence, with well-connected friends in the government and many Congressional Republicans sympathetic to their entrepreneurial ethic. Continue reading Online colleges to receive financial aid

Odyssey starts tomorrow!

Tomorrow is a big day. It’s the first day of classes at Oregon State University. I’m doing triple duty tomorrow. I have class (Feminist Philosophies), work for my assistantship, and teach my first class of Odyssey. I’m a little nervous. I feel very excited. I feel like I did in college just before I would have a big trombone solo in the jazz band. I’m jazzed about this experience. My class takes place in Rogers Hall, Room 440. Who knew that someday I would be teaching a class to first-year students at a Pac 10 University? What a wild ride!

Here’s a link to my classroom: I still need to check it out before my class starts. I’m definitely coming down to the wire with my logistics. I’m still editing my syllabus today and my Blackboard Teaching website is almost ready. I have one class of 20 students and I’m feeling overloaded. I can’t imagine how professors who have 2-3 classes handle the teaching load.

My schedule for the fall term looks like this:

  • 20 hours a week for my assistantship with Enrollment Management / OSU Student Affairs
  • 1.5 hours a week teaching Odyssey
  • 3 hours a week prepping for Odyssey
  • 9 hours a week in 3 classes: 1 philosophy, 1 cssa, and 1 counseling class
  • 9 hours a week for my practicum experience with OSU Student Conduct
  • 18 hours a week studying for my classes

I’m exhausted just thinking about this list :-)

Wish me luck. Once school starts, I’ll be busy until I find a full-time job. That means I’ll be a little occupied until June (if everything goes as planned).

Resources for secondary analysis / extant data

Qualitative research: standards, challenges, and guidelines

Asking New Questions of Existing Qualitative Data: Annotated
Bibliography Regarding Secondary Analysis of Qualitative Data

Re-using qualitative data

Murray Research Archive : For Students – Ways Researchers Use Archived Data

The Shared Fate of Two Innovations in Qualitative Methodology: The Relationship of Qualitative Software and Secondary Analysis of Archived Qualitative Data

Secondary Analysis of Qualitative Data

On the Potentials and Problems of Secondary Analysis. An Introduction to the FQS Special Issue on Secondary Analysis of Qualitative Data

Using Someone Else’s Data: Problems, Pragmatics and Provisions

Literature about storing, digitalizing and secondary analysis of qualitative data

Qualitative Research in Adult, Career, and Career-Technical Education

Using Secondary Data for Needs Assessment

Assessment project

The following are excerpts and downloadables from my assessment project (OSU web page usability: An assessment of the OSU primary homepages) for my Asssessment class. The project scope and title changed a few times, but I learned a great deal about online surveys, multicultural competence, and data analysis.

I am including my final thoughts and reflections.

From my initial proposal for the assessment project for my Assessment class, OSU web page cultural usability: An assessment of the experience of the first-year Native American student web user

Strengths and limitations

There are several strengths to this assessment. The major benefit is focus. The scale is manageable. The caveat to a scale of this size is the potential for limited data. I plan on creating an easy to use questionnaire that should help expedite my return rate. The salience of the topic could make this assessment extremely pertinent to Native American students at OSU. The students who participate have the opportunity to make a lot of change happen. This could be thought of as a pilot which could be used to assess web pages at multiple levels within multiple populations

There are significant limitations to this assessment. The first issue is a general lack of knowledge of the population by the assessor. I will do my best to provide culturally appropriate questions but I feel very limited in this regard. This issue, in my opinion, provides for the potential for a negative experience for the student respondents. We were given the mandate of creating a culturally impactful project without the foundational aspects of cultural education.

The second issue to this assessment is the fact that it exists in the context of a homework assignment. How many individuals will utilize the data they have gathered to affect meaningful change? I personally will guarantee that my findings will be used to further a dialogue on the cultural usability of OSU web pages.

From the final paper for my assessment project:

Reflection regarding the assessment process
Throughout this process, I was concerned with the overall well-being of my participants. I made every effort to not marginalize or tokenize anyone who was involved with this process. My relationship with the Native American Longhouse and representatives from the Indian Education Office were strained due to an early miscommunication. I would work to build a strong bridge before I tried to cross a river.

I’m not sure if I succeeded entirely, but I do know that I have made connections which will continue to flourish long after this assessment project is a distant memory of my spring term.

I still have a lot to learn about assessment. I usually learn best when I’m “getting my hands dirty.” My lack of statistical wizardry has really reared its ugly head for this project. I may need a research methods course if I am show continued growth in this area. I would increase my overall analysis and I’d especially include cross-tabulation. is probably the nicest online survey tool that I was able to test. It allowed me the freedom to modify html, generate PDF’s, and upload custom images. I would highly recommend it for anyone who has to conduct an online survey. I merely touched the surface of its functionality. I did branch one question. If respondents said that they had not used any of the five pages then they were directed to a Thank You for participating page.

This process challenged me but in the end I feel enriched and I cannot wait until my next assessment project.

Final Presentation PowerPoint

Enrollment Management tech

Final paper for my Disability Issues class:

Functional Area

Enrollment Management – Topic: Online portals and accessibility

What is Enrollment Management (EM)?

Enrollment Management departments actively identify, counsel, recruit, and
enroll qualified students; and offer services that promote student retention
and success. Enrollment Management emerged as a new field in Student Affairs
in the 1980s.

Enrollment Management Organizational Example
At Oregon State University, EM consists of 6 units: Admissions, Student Orientation
and Retention Programs (SOAR), Registrar, Financial Aid and Scholarships,
SMILE, and Precollege Programs.

Strategic Enrollment Management concepts

  • Establishing clear goals for the number and types of students needed to
    fulfill the institutional mission.
  • Promoting academic success by improving student access, transition, persistence,
    and graduation.
  • Determining, achieving, and maintaining optimum enrollment.
  • Enabling the delivery of effective academic programs.
  • Generating added net revenue for the institution.
  • Enabling effective financial planning.
  • Increasing process and organizational efficiency.
  • Improving service levels to all stakeholders (e.g., prospective and current
    students, other institutional departments, other institutions, coordinating
  • Creating a data-rich environment to inform decisions and
    evaluate strategies. [We add analysis-rich too as many institutions
    are data-rich with the student information systems in place,
    yet a parallel investment has not often been made on analyzing
    the still “invisible” relationships].
  • Creating and continuously strengthening linkages with functions and activities
    across the campus.

(From “Strategic Enrollment Management: Core Strategies and Best Practices,” by
Bob Bontrager, 2004, College and University Journal, 79(4), 9 – 15.)

Enrollment Management and Online Portals
As new technologies emerge; Enrollment Management departments strive
to expand online services for their students. Through the use of online portals,
EM departments continue to strategically utilize technology to increase student
persistence and retention. Online portals are also useful in increasing student
satisfaction, institutional efficiency, and online service deliverables (Harr,

What is an online portal?
An online portal is defined as “an abridged and customized
version of the institutional Web presence… a "pocket-sized" version
of the campus Web. Portal technology adds "customization" and "community" to
the campus Web presence. Customization allows each user to define a unique
and personal view of the campus Web. Community tools, such as chat, forums,
survey, and so on, build relationships among campus constituencies” (
UPortal by JA-SIG)

Online Portals and Accessibility

The creators of most online portal applications state that they provide accessible
online solutions. SCT, the creators of the Luminis online portal state that
they are “committed to making the SCT Luminis product family increasingly
accessible for people with disabilities and more user-friendly for everyone.
Accessibility doctrine requires that all people, including those with disabilities,
have equal access to information technology through the implementation of a
universal design standard” (Sungard SCT, 2005). According to Blackboard,
another online portal vendor, “Blackboard is committed to the accessibility
of our e-Education platform. We are working with leaders in the accessibility
field to contemplate industry standards and federal guidelines for accessibility” (Accessibility).
In addition, WebCT, a worldwide leader in e-learning systems states that “WebCT’s
e-learning systems are World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Priority 1 compliant
and adhere to Section 508 of the Americans with Disabilities Act” (WebCT

Frequent accessibility issues with online portals

  • Frames – oftentimes, developers use frames as a convenient
    means to separate data sets. Frames are usually
    a virtual roadblock for users with visual impairments due to
    incompatibility with screen reader technology.
  • Alt tags – Alt tags are used to describe images. If an image is used
    to provide a user with content then the tag needs to correctly identify the
    image. If an image is used as a design element then the tag needs to be coded
    as alt=””. This will allow screen readers to pass over an image
    without wasting a user’s time.
  • CSS/XHTML – The use of structured markup is usually
    lacking on an online portal. Structured markup will ensure
    that when images and formatting are removed, the content
    of a site will still be accessible for all users.
  • Skip navigation links – If navigational menus are
    duplicated on all pages of a website than a developer should
    always provide the user with a means to skip the duplicated
    menu. This will create a heightened usability factor for your
  • New windows – When an online portal opens a new window, a user’s
    navigation ability can be severely decreased. The
    back button becomes useless and the ability to navigate to
    the previous page becomes impossible.
  • JavaScript – To achieve certain functionality, online portal developers
    have relied extensively on JavaScript. Unfortunately, this takes away the
    choice of browser options for most users. SCT’s
    Luminis becomes ineffective if JavaScript is turned

Note: SCT’s Luminis is currently in use by over 200
colleges and universities. Luminis contains frames, has improperly coded alt
tags, does not utilize CSS/XHTML markup, is missing skip navigation links,
opens new windows, and does not work if you turn off JavaScript. According
to SCT, “Future testing may include expanding client contact with schools
who are concerned about accessibility and feedback from users who face accessibility
challenges of all kinds” (Sungard SCT, 2005).

ADA and Section 508 Requirements

ADA : The interpretability
of the ADA can be both a benefit and a detriment to users with disabilities.
Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (Title II) requires
a public college to take appropriate steps to ensure that communications with
persons with disabilities "are as effective as communications with others" [28
C.F.R. § 35.160(a)]. OCR has repeatedly held that the terms "communication" in
this context means the transfer of information, including (but not limited
to) the verbal presentation of a lecturer, the printed text of a book, and
the resources of the Internet (California State University, Long Beach – Docket
Number 09-99-2041, 1999). Most colleges and universities attempt to comply
with the ADA but most fail to provide absolute accessibility with online services.
It can be posited that the lack of disability studies curriculum in computer
science, information systems, and education programs has led to a general lack
of support and understanding for online accessibility.

Section 508: Section 508 is part of the Rehabilitation Act
of 1973. It is intended to end discrimination against people who have disabilities
within the context of technological access. Section 508 officially became U.S.
law in 2001 (Zeldman, 2003).

Section 508 Internet component:
1194.22 Web-based intranet and internet information and applications.

(a) A text equivalent for every non-text element shall be
provided (e.g., via "alt", "longdesc", or in element content).

(b) Equivalent alternatives for any multimedia presentation
shall be synchronized with the presentation.

(c) Web pages shall be designed so that all information conveyed
with color is also available without color, for example from context or markup.

(d) Documents shall be organized so they are readable without
requiring an associated style sheet.

(e) Redundant text links shall be provided for each active
region of a server-side image map.

(f) Client-side image maps shall be provided instead of server-side
image maps except where the regions cannot be defined with an available geometric

(g) Row and column headers shall be identified for data tables.

(h) Markup shall be used to associate data cells and header
cells for data tables that have two or more logical levels of row or column

(i) Frames shall be titled with text that facilitates frame
identification and navigation.

(j) Pages shall be designed to avoid causing the screen to
flicker with a frequency greater than 2 Hz and lower than 55 Hz.

(k) A text-only page, with equivalent information or functionality,
shall be provided to make a web site comply with the provisions of this part,
when compliance cannot be accomplished in any other way. The content of the
text- only page shall be updated whenever the primary page changes.

(l) When pages utilize scripting languages to display content,
or to create interface elements, the information provided by the script shall
be identified with functional text that can be read by assistive technology.

(m) When a web page requires that an applet, plug-in or other
application be present on the client system to interpret page content, the
page must provide a link to a plug-in or applet that complies with §1194.21(a)
through (l).

(n) When electronic forms are designed to be completed on-line,
the form shall allow people using assistive technology to access the information,
field elements, and functionality required for completion and submission of
the form, including all directions and cues.

(o) A method shall be provided that permits users to skip
repetitive navigation links.

(p) When a timed response is required, the user shall be
alerted and given sufficient time to indicate more time is required.

(Web-based intranet and internet information and applications, 2002)


Software for website accessibility assessment

Software Tool

Evaluation Category

IBM – aDesigner

Accessibility and Vision tests

IBM – Home Page Reader v3.02


User Test(assistive technology)

Dolphin Access – Supernova Pro v5.1


User Test(assistive technology)


User Test

(From Oregon State University Technology Access Program)

Why should online portals conform to web standards?

Coding using standards (particularly CSS for positioning, and strict HTML)
makes accessibility an easier goal to achieve , as standards have been created
with accessibility in mind. Being able to address accessibility issues means
being able to serve web content to a larger audience, increasing web site efficiency,
especially for users with disabilities.

Additional resources/readings

A List Apart: Source for web standards information

Assistive Technology Act of 1998

Information Technology Technical Assistance and Training Center (ITTATC):
National Assessment of State E&IT Accessibility Initiatives

International Center for Disability Resources on the Internet

Making Web Sites Work for People With Disabilities

National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR)

Opera: a web browser with several accessibility features

Oregon State University online accessibility documentation

Section 508 Information

Spazowham Design – “we build sites from raw, organic table-free
XHTML and CSS, 100% validated, compliant to W3C standards and Section 508,
and ready to run in any browser on any device.”

Texas Tech University Enrollment Management Plan 2002- 2006

WebAIM: Accessibility in Mind – Free online accessibility tools

WebAIM: Accessibility in Mind – Section 508 Web Accessibility Checklist

Web-Based Information and Prospective Students with Disabilities:
A Study of Liberal Arts Colleges


Blackboard Inc., (n.d.). Accessibility. Retrieved Apr. 22, 2005 , from Accessibility
FAQ’s Web site:

Bontrager, Bob . (2004). Strategic Enrollment Management: Core Strategies
and Best Practices. College and University Journal, 79(4), 9 – 15 .

California state university, long beach – docket number 09-99-2041. (1999).
Retrieved Apr. 24, 2005 , from

Harr, G. L. (2002). Connections: a comprehensive student portal. concept
paper and proposal…

Sungard SCT. (2005). SCT luminis product family and accessibility [Brochure].
Malvern , PA

Uportal by ja-sig. (n.d.). Retrieved Apr. 23, 2005 , from

WebCT, (n.d.). WebCT accessibility. Retrieved Apr. 21, 2005 , from WebCT
Accessibility> Home Web site:

Web-based intranet and internet information and applications. (2002). Retrieved
Apr. 21, 2005 , from Section 508: Section 508 Standards Web site:

Zeldman, J. (2003). Designing with web standards. Berkeley , CA
: New Riders.

Technology Workshops: A few thoughts

It’s going as well as can be expected when you are trying to teach your peers. The respect levels ebb and flow.

The attendance has been very steady. 10+ people each time. The hardest thing is trying to extract the technical info from my own cortext and then articulate it to users with varying skill levels.

I would say I feel like I am facilitating more than I am teaching. The workshops are so technical in nature and the motivation for most people is their portfolio. This does dishearten me from time to time. I would like people to see technology as a necessity for their future roles as SA professionals. Instead everyone has a very narrow view. I’ve tried to convey the importance of technology awareness but it seems lost in the “I need to know this stuff so I can make an awesome portfolio” shuffle.

I’ve received some decent feedback. People have given me cues as to what works and what does not.

CSSA Technology Workshops

Greetings CSSA’ers

The following technology workshops will be available for CSSA students during the spring term (2005)*:

(All workshops will be held on Thursdays in the Milne Computing Center, Room 130, from 4:00pm – 5:20pm.


April 7th: Adobe PhotoShop Basics

April 14th: Adobe PhotoShop — Print and Web Design

April 21st: Web Design I — Intro to Dreamweaver

April 28th: Web Design II — Advanced Dreamweaver

May 5th: Web Design III — Cascading Style Sheets, Accessibility, Usability, Web Statistics

May 12th: PowerPoint, Word, Outlook, and Adobe Acrobat — A grab bag of useful tips, tricks, and stuff they don’t put in books!

May 19th: Google — Advanced Search Techniques, Images, Translate Tool, Desktop Tool, Gmail, Maps, Local, Picasa, and whatever else Google invents by May 19th!

May 26th: Computer Hardware — Flash Drives, MP3 Players, Digital Cameras, How to burn a cd, etc.

If you have any questions/comments/requests, feel free to e-mail me at: eric.stoller at

* Technology workshops are for CSSA Graduate Students only. The Workshops cannot be taken for credit.

CSSA Program Competencies

CSSA Program Competencies
All students who complete a master’s degree in the College Student Services Administration program must show evidence of their competency in the following eight areas. (“Competency” is defined as being properly qualified and demonstrating proficient skills to successfully function in the student affairs field.) Evidence of these competencies will be demonstrated through a variety of experiences and in a variety of methods, culminating in a comprehensive capstone experience.

1) Knowledge of Higher Education and Student Affairs
Graduates should be able to demonstrate their understanding of the role of student affairs in higher education by being able to articulate current and past issues shaping the field and the implications these issues have on students’ lives. In meeting this competency, students should demonstrate their knowledge of…

  • a) The historical and philosophical underpinnings of student affairs;
  • b) The primary challenges and opportunities being presented to student
    affairs professionals;
  • c) Standards of good practice in student affairs and ethical responsibilities
    of the student affairs professional; and
  • d) Goals, trends, and key issues related to the future of the student
    affairs profession.

2) Student Development in Higher Education
Graduates should be able to demonstrate their understanding of student
populations and sub-cultures within varied higher education settings. In
meeting this competency, students should demonstrate their knowledge
of. . .

  • a) Transitional issues faced by students before and after their tenure
    in higher education settings;
  • b) The various and changing needs, goals, affinities of students within
    varied higher education settings (i.e. community college, private,
    public, etc);
  • c) The diversity of student populations including, but not limited to,
    age, socioeconomic status, gender, race and ethnicity, language, nationality,
    religion or spirituality, sexual orientation, ability, and preparedness;
  • d) Theories related to student development and potential practical applications.

3) Organization, Leadership, and Administration of Student Affairs
Graduates should be able to demonstrate their understanding of higher
education/ student affairs administration and those aspects related to the
design, delivery, and organization of student affairs in college and university
settings. In meeting this competency, students should demonstrate their experience
with/knowledge of. . .

  • a) Fiscal resources, budget development and management in supporting
    student affairs programs or services;
  • b) Human resource/personnel management, including hiring, supervising,
    and evaluating employee performance;
  • c) Organizational structure, dynamics, and leadership; and
  • d) Legal issues critical in guiding and influencing practice.

4) Assessment and Evaluation
Graduates should be able to demonstrate their understanding of and ability
to employ good practices that focus on the effectiveness of student affairs
programs and services. In meeting this competency, students should demonstrate
their experience with/ability to. . .

  • a) Design and implement thorough assessment efforts including the identification
    of new key questions, resources, and target populations;
  • b) Create instruments and/or protocols for assessing important questions;
  • c) Credibly convey key findings and recommendations to stakeholders and

5) Program Planning
Graduates should be able to demonstrate their understanding of and ability
to design and execute high quality programs (i.e. seminars, workshops,
trainings or other similar experiences that are meant to facilitate development
and learning that are thoughtful, engaging, and learner-centered). In meeting
this competency, students should demonstrate their experience with/ability
to. . .

  • a) Design original programs including the identification of resources,
    needs, and goals;
  • b) Market programs appropriately;
  • c) Facilitate the implementation of programs; and
  • d) Evaluate the effectiveness of programs in meeting desired goals and

6) Teaching/Presentation/Publication
Graduates should be able to demonstrate their ability to disseminate scholarly
work through public forums. In meeting this competency,
students should demonstrate their experience with/ability to. . .

  • a) Develop and share ideas and concepts to students, staff, or faculty
    groups outside of the CSSA classroom;
  • b) Incorporate original and innovative techniques that are appropriate
    and engaging in sharing these ideas; and
  • c) Reflect on the experience and make constructive changes and improvements.

7) Individual, Group, and Organizational Communication
Graduates should be able to demonstrate effective interpersonal communication
skills with students and colleagues and their ability to
develop and maintain effective partnerships with individuals from the campus
and local community. In meeting this competency, students should demonstrate
their experience with/ability to. . .

  • a) Positively manage, develop, and engage in working relationships with
    faculty, staff, and students across functional and institutional boundaries;
  • b) Initiate and participate in working alliances and teams with a wide
    range of people across cultural boundaries;
  • c) Take on key leadership roles though these partnerships and collaborations;
  • d) Serve as advocate, counselor, and/or advisor to students or student
    groups; and
  • e) Manage and/or mediate conflict, crisis, or problematic circumstances.

8) The Developing Professional
Graduates should be able to demonstrate their ability to carefully examine
and challenge their own personal and professional values, worldviews, assumptions
and biases. In meeting this competency, students should demonstrate their
experience with/ability to. . .

  • a) Seek out a comprehensive and well-rounded graduate and professional
  • b) Develop an understanding of the value of community involvement and
    participation beyond the OSU campus;
  • c) Reflect on graduate, professional, and personal development experiences
    toward greater self-understanding;
  • d) Examine and question their “fit” within profession by
    clearly articulating personal strengths and potential contributions to
    the field; and
  • e) Engage in thoughtful career planning and decision making exercises.

9) Multicultural awareness, knowledge and skills
Graduates of the CSSA Program should be able to demonstrate multicultural
awareness, knowledge and skills. In meeting this competency, students should
demonstrate their

  • a. Awareness of their own cultural heritage and how it affects their worldviews,
    values, and assumptions.
  • b. Knowledge of systems of privilege and oppression as well as knowledge
    of groups and individuals who are different from self.
  • c. Skills to challenge and support individuals in a manner that maximizes
    multiculturally sensitive and develop appropriate interventions, rooted
    in multicultural awareness and knowledge, that influence the organizational
  • d. Ability to identify areas of personal growth and develop a lifelong
    commitment to improving one’s own multicultural competence.

Online Development Theory

Online Development Theory


The purpose of this paper is to outline and showcase a theory of online development. The theory was constructed using a variety of student development theories. Psychosocial and Cognitive Development theories form the basis for a stage based model which incorporates challenge and support in an online context. Student affairs applications are given which utilize the model as way to understand a student’s experience as well as to increase the viability of online programs and services. Further study will be required to validate the theory and its subsequent model. Qualitative analysis and the development of stages will allow continual discussion, reflection, and synthesis.

I believe that student development theories exist to provide student affairs professionals with frameworks for the creation of programs and services. The majority of the theories which have been written for student development are written in a brick and mortar context. This is most likely due to a pre-Internet origination. The irony that is inherent in this lack of an online theory of student development is the realization that most student development theories can be modified to work in an online context. For example, a student’s interaction environment can be altered from on campus in the classroom to online on the campus web site. Another example can be altering of the traditional authority figure i.e. a professor to an information portal acting in place of a real, authoritative figure.

In this paper I will attempt to incorporate theories from Chickering, Astin, Sanford, and Perry to create an online developmental theory which is stage based but is inclusive to all students regardless of age, socioeconomic status, and physical/cognitive ability. I will refer to online users as students or as universal users (UU) but both will contain the same interchangeable meaning. The UUs will be ranked in terms of their level of web sophistication and their position on an online involvement model. The online environment is defined as information portals, interactive web sites which include utilitarian and educational functions, blogs, online communities, and web based classes.

Student Development Theories

Chickering’s Theory of Identity Development and its seven vectors of development provide a psychosocial framework for the online identity of a UU (Evans, Forney, and Guide-DiBrito, 1998). The seven vectors are: developing competence, managing emotions, moving through autonomy toward interdependence, developing mature interpersonal relationships, establishing identity, developing purpose, and developing integrity (Evans et al.). Published in 1969, Chickering’s vectors were written for a brick and mortar reality. However, the vectors are extremely fluidic and I will attempt to map each vector to the traits of the developing UU.

Developing Competence

Although Chickering’s vectors are not stage based, it is important to note that developing competence is a primary vector for the UU. According to Chickering and Reisser (1993), competence is divided into three distinct areas: “intellectual competence, physical and manual skills, and interpersonal competence” (as cited in Evans et al., 1998, p. 38). A UU needs to develop competency within an online context in order to have an identity. Intellectual competency can range from basic knowledge of computers and internet services to enhanced browsing skills which include searching and multi-tasking. Physical and manual skills are core skills for the online student. In a classroom or campus-based environment these skills would include being able to navigate the physical world regardless of physical ability. At times, this can be very difficult for students due to a disability. Fortunately, the online environment, if appropriately constructed, provides ample navigation aids and cues for all users. The third area of competency is interpersonal competency. Interpersonal skills are extremely important for a UU. According to Evans et al., interpersonal skills are useful for “communication, leadership, and working effectively with others” (p. 38). Online communities like thefacebook, friendster, and xanga necessitate the need for interpersonal competency by providing a communal atmosphere where students can fail or flourish with their peers.

Managing Emotions

Online emotional management can be defined as the internal emotions of the UU and the way that they express those emotions in an online context. Students can become highly emotional when faced with a web site that is not user-friendly or when someone “flames” them in an online community.

Moving Through Autonomy Toward Interdependence

Autonomy and Interdependence are extremely important for UUs. According to Evans et al., students develop “self-direction, problem-solving ability, and mobility” within this vector (1998, p. 39). At first it would seem that autonomy would be of higher importance than interdependence but the balance of being self-reliant and connected to the community factor into a fully formed online identity is crucial for the online student.

Developing Mature Interpersonal Relationships

The key to this vector is the appreciation of differences. The only commonality which defines all UUs is that they are online.

Establishing Identity

As stated by Evans et al. (1998), establishing identity is constructed on the previous vectors. In the online environment, individuals can have multiple identities i.e. a quiet, infrequent poster in an online class versus an aggressive persona in an online community. This is similar to the possibilities which exist within a brick and mortar context but it is considerably easier to create multiple online identities.

Developing Purpose and Developing Integrity

The final vectors are fairly similar. According to Evans et al. (1998), purpose involves intentionality, choice, and decision. Integrity focuses purpose by overlaying it with a sense of values. Although not meant to be linear, these vectors are difficult to parlay into an online context. A UU would have to be extremely developed to reach these final vectors.


The five postulates of Alexander Astin’s Theory of Student Involvement provide a basis for any theory which involves involvement. According to Astin, “student involvement refers to the amount of physical and psychological energy that the student devotes to the academic experience” (1984, p. 297). Online experiences are a fundamental component to the overall academic success of college students.


In 1967, Nevitt Sanford “characterized learning as a process of challenge and response” (as cited in Terenzini, 1999, p. 34). Sanford (1967) posited that the developing individual “grows” and learns when a challenging situation is presented (p. 44). Several authors have modified Sanford’s concept from the framework of challenge/response to a more balanced model of challenge and support. According to Chickering, “Environments that provide a combination of challenge and support tailored to students’ level of development are recommended to assist students in adapting appropriately to the challenges they encounter” (as cited in Zhao and Kuh, 2004, p. 117). It is highly controversial to suggest that websites can be seen as both challenging and supporting but it does seem that if appropriately constructed, students would benefit.


It would seem reasonable to state that most UUs are dualistic. According to Wilson, dualists as defined by Perry, believe that there is always one right answer and one wrong answer for a situation. Most UUs are going to have difficulty when confronted with troubleshooting an online problem. I use Perry’s Theory of Intellectual and Ethical Development to showcase a flaw amongst most UUs (Evans et al., 1998). Most UUs will never move past dualism. Those few UUs who do move into multiplicity or relativism will be constantly utilized for their abilities.

Online Development Theory

There is something very ironic in trying to develop a theory which relates to the virtual world. The theorists from whom I draw extensive “material” from were able to conduct research on physical environments that have existed for over 200 years. The web is still in its infancy. My theory is based on a model which uses Astin as the core of a three dimensional, circular helix which is housed in a sleeve-like framework consisting of Chickering’s vectors and Perry’s Cognitive Positions (Figure 1). Circling this structure is a multi-directional challenge and support construct which incorporates challenge as its initial starting place (Evan’s et al., 1998; Wilson, 1996; Sanford, 1967). It is my belief that student or UU online development occurs within the helix and that development is linear going from top to bottom. However, there are multiple angles and paths to the top of the helix.

Figure 1:online development model

Online development is seen as students move up the helix while developing their cognitive abilities and establishing their proficiency with Chickering’s vectors. The unique aspects of online development theory are represented by the meshing of multiple theories into a model which utilizes challenge and support. While students are developing their identity and their cognitive abilities in an upward progression, challenge and support is taking place in a circular rotation while the UU rises to the top. The key tenets of the challenge and support structure are the creation of either a state of web disequilibrium or understanding. Disequilibrium is defined as anything which causes a student to become frustrated and out of touch with their online environment. Understanding is defined as alternative to disequilibrium with UUs having the ability to float between these two states. Support is given to students who are encountering disequilibrium and/or understanding in an effort to foster online engagement. In the near future, stages will be created which will identify positions for developmental research followed by a qualitative study designed to shed some light on the validity of the model.


Online development theory can be used in most student affairs disciplines. Since all students are part of the online environment, they all fall somewhere within the helix.

Application Examples:

  • Admissions counselors can direct students to blogs and online communities to foster the initial engagement with a university. Students would be challenged with new opportunities for growth via new opinions and ideas.
  • Career services counselors can measure a student’s online development to determine whether or not a student requires specific job skills.
  • Academic success center staffers could offer a weekly online challenge which would provide unique support information for student. The challenge would come in the form of an e-mail asking students to engage with an online service.
  • Disability services staffers can qualitatively measure accessibility issues for students with disabilities to ensure that challenge is matched with equal amounts of support.
  • First Year Success Courses instructors can utilize the model to gain understanding about their students and their online behaviors.
  • Educational technology personnel can utilize web statistics to measure student access including: amount of time spent per page, discussion activity levels, and popular pages/sites.

The application possibilities for online development and the helix model are numerous. I hope to continue my reflection and synthesis of the concepts that I have outlined. Technology is constantly changing and thus the online development theory will have to adapt accordingly.



Astin, A. (1984). Student involvement: a developmental theory for higher education. Journal of College Student Personnel, 25(4), 297-308.

Evans, N., Forney, D., & Guide-DiBrito, F. (1998). Student development in college: theory, research, and practice . San Francisco : Jossey-Bass.

Sanford, N. (1967). Self & society: social change and individual development. New York, NY: Atherton Press.

Terenzini, P. T. (1999). Research and practice in undergraduate education: And never the twain shall meet?. Journal of Higher Education, 38, 33-48.

Wilson, B. A. (1996). A descriptive study: The intellectual development of business administration students. The Delta Pi Epsilon Journal, 38, 209-221.

Zhao, C.-M., Kuh, G.D. (2004). Adding value: learning communities and student engagement. Research in Higher Education. 45(2), 115-138.