SUNY Canton Receives Prestigious Award for Online Student Engagement Program


SUNY Canton has been recognized for improving the online student experience.

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.

Dean of Students Courtney Bish and R.J. Thayer hold an award for online student engagement

Over the past two years, the college has expanded the availability of college resources and activities virtually. 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,” said Mott.

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?” Bish said. “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 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.”

About SUNY Canton

Discover SUNY Canton, where innovation meets opportunity. The college’s career-focused educational programs emphasize hands-on and applied learning opportunities in digital design, engineering technology, health, information technology, management, public service, and veterinary technology. Faculty members bring real-world experience and exceptional academic expertise to the classroom. As a leader in online education, SUNY Canton offers unmatched flexibility with hundreds of courses and 23 comprehensive degree programs offered completely online. The SUNY Canton Kangaroos compete at the NCAA Division III level and will be transitioning to the SUNYAC in Fall 2024. In addition to its 15 traditional teams, SUNY Canton offers coed varsity esports and cheerleading.