Rethinking advising for online students

by AACRAO

Online degree programs bring unique challenges for faculty, staff and students. In a recent article in College & University, Rich Simpson, Registrar for the Online and Professional Studies Division at California Baptist University, calls on colleges and universities to do more to support online students’ success by rethinking advising.  

According to Simpson, “combining fundamental academic advising methods with technological resources and a culture of transparency can provide the kind of service expected from online retail services while still maintaining a relationship characteristic of traditional higher education settings. Studies have shown a strong correlation between students’ perceived quality of advising and how they feel about the institution they are attending.”  

Simpson highlighted how California Baptist University’s Online and Professional Studies Division—which was created in 2010 and primarily serves non-traditional students taking courses in a distance-learning environment—approached advising as a one-stop model with four main components:

  •  Centralized communication from the advisor maintains a clear message that is both individualized and relevant.
  •  Problem solving that involves assisting students with issues and complaints is the advisor's primary responsibility.
  •  Relationship management ensures that personalized guidance is provided so that students are satisfied and successful.
  •  Administrative processing and tracking are also the responsibility of advisors, ensuring that tasks are completed on time and accurately.

“Faculty deliver the course content and are a resource throughout a student’s education,” Simpson wrote. “By contrast, advisors manage and oversee students’ educational progress and provide a variety of services focused on student success…The design delivers effective, high-quality advising that is both personal and timely.”

This edition of C&U also includes a feature by Jacquelyn D. Elliott and Dr. Rodney Parks on “Latino Students and Degree Attainment.”  In addition, the issue continues a series on mentoring and includes articles on: disciplinary notations; youth-centricity in higher education; registrar office workspace; enrollment experience and design thinking; and faculty and recruitment.

For more information, or to submit a manuscript, please contact Managing Editor Heather Zimar at heatherz@aacrao.org.

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