SUNY Canton honored with online improvement award
Monday, November 25, 2019 - 10:17 am

SUNY Canton Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students Courtney B. Bish and Online Student Engagement Coordinator Richard J. Thayer accepted the 2019 SUNY award for Outstanding Student Affairs Programs at the Council of Chief Student Affairs Officers' fall conference in Rochester. SUNY Canton photo.

CANTON -- SUNY Canton has been recognized for improving the experience for online students.

The SUNY Council of Chief Student Affairs Officers (CCSAO) selected SUNY Canton to receive the 2019 Outstanding Student Affairs award for a new program that seeks to engage online students in all aspects of campus life.

Over the past two years, the college has expanded the availability of college resources and activities online. Students can now watch live-stream videos of guest speakers and events; compete in varsity esports; attend career, study abroad and professional clothing fairs; present research alongside their on-campus peers; and work with an online career counselor. They are also able to participate in real-time with their professors and classmates during lectures delivered through the college's flex class model.

SUNY Canton Associate Provost and Dean of Academic Support Services Molly A. Mott said the project was developed in collaboration with Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students Courtney B. Bish.

"Our goal was to elevate the entire experience of our online students and to explore ways to create community and connectedness in a virtual environment," Mott said.

In addition to supporting new opportunities to engage in campus life, a SUNY Performance Improvement Fund grant allowed the college to appoint an online student engagement coordinator, Richard J. Thayer. It also assisted the campus in acquiring the technology to automate business processes, provide flex class lectures and improve accessibility on Blackboard, the college's online learning system.

"Whatever we do on campus, our first question is, what does this mean to our students at a distance, and can it provide value for them?" said Bish. "Through this program, each department has been mobilized to think in terms of our fully online students."

Bish and Thayer accepted the CCSAO award at the organization's fall conference in Rochester.

"As one of only a few colleges in the nation working on a project of this scale, it's gratifying to be recognized by our peers with this prestigious award," Bish said. "We hope our SUNY counterparts can use this as a model to improve student success."

Mott and Bish have also presented the online engagement program at national educational meetings, including the Ruffalo Noel Levitz Conference and the 35th annual Distance Teaching and Learning Conference.

Their work will also be published in "Rethinking Student Affairs for Online Learners," a book about best practices for educational professionals, and the journal "Innovations in Higher Education Teaching and Learning."