Developing a Resource Center to Empower Online Students and Increase Support

Concurrent Session 8

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

To help students from acceptance to graduation, the University of Bridgeport designed program-specific resource centers to present extensive on-campus support that is tailored to the online experience. Using Canvas LMS, we manage and update this streamlined resource to improve the student experience without exceeding the bandwidth of our three-person team.


Tara J. Maroney has worked as a journalist, researcher, public relations manager and most recently, as assistant director of student advising and communications at the University of Bridgeport (UB). In this role she oversees all aspects of student support for the university’s online students and is actively involved in the strategic planning for the Global Learning Initiatives department. Maroney also serves on the University’s web tactical team and is one of four people responsible for web content at the institution. In addition, she is an adjunct professor in UB’s College of Public and International Affairs teaching Magazine and Feature Writing. She is also a freelance writer. She is also very active in the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA) in the northeast region. She has served in many leadership positions within NACADA including Communications Co-chair for Region 1 where she launched a new blog, redesigned the newsletter and developed a communications plan to expand communication with members. She also served as co-chair for the 2016 Connecticut drive-in one-day conference. In both of these roles she was instrumental in enhancing professional development for the field of academic advising in the region. Starting in June, she will begin a two-year term as Registration Co-chair for the region 1 conference held each year in March. Maroney has been a regular presenter at regional conferences, speaking on topics of academic advising, time management and communications. She is a member of the Connecticut Distance Learning Commission, Online Learning Consortium and previously a member of NAGAP, the Association for Graduate Enrollment Management. Maroney earned a Master of Science in Public Relations from Boston University with distinction. She also received a dual degree from the University of Connecticut with a bachelor of science in business administration (concentration in marketing) and a bachelor of arts in journalism and sociology.
Lauren Humphrey is an online advisor at the University of Bridgeport (UB) in Connecticut. She earned her B.A. in English and M.Ed. in English Education from the University of Florida. After graduating, she began her education career in the high school classroom as a senior English teacher at Dr. Phillips High School in Orlando, Florida. She went on to teach English as a foreign language in France and Italy before returning to her hometown of Daytona Beach, FL to begin her in work in higher education at the University of Central Florida’s regional campus. Lauren joined the University of Bridgeport’s efforts to grow and support online learning as an academic advisor in 2015 after two years with the university’s graduate admissions office. Lauren provides customized program support and advises a growing caseload of online learners from acceptance into their programs through to graduation. A collaborator at heart, Lauren enjoys brainstorming sessions, cooperative problem-solving, and building productive partnerships across campus. UB is a small private, co-educational, non-sectarian, institution offering career-oriented undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees and programs. In addition to her work maintaining strong learner support systems, Lauren is actively involved in professional development within her field. Lauren has taken on leadership roles within the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA). She serves the organization on the Connecticut State Conference Committee and as Volunteer Chair on the Regional Conference Committee. She recently copresented two sessions at the 2016 state‐level conference addressing inter‐ and intra‐departmental collaboration for student support success. Lauren is a NACADA 2016 Northeast Region 1 Scholarship winner and a contributor to the summer edition of the regional newsletter, Advising Matters. Lauren currently resides in southwestern Connecticut with her husband Dave, dog Stella, and cat Annie.

Extended Abstract

In 2015, the University of Bridgeport identified a need for online students to have access to academic and administrative support similar to their brick and mortar counterparts. With the addition of a new department, Global Learning Initiatives, tasked with growing and improving online learning, the role of academic advising in retention was at the forefront of the discussion.

Using Canvas, our Learning Management System, we designed an online student resource center that allows us to meet the needs of our students throughout the student lifecycle, in one centralized and easy to manage location. This collaboration improves the student advising experience across various disciplines including health sciences, business and education, without adding to the overall workload of or department.

In this session we will discuss:

  • Resources online students need and what they look for
  • How our LMS allows us to gain more access and insight into our existing students
  • How our online student outreach has evolved into an online community
  • The application of academic advising theory in our practice

We will provide an online tour of our Student Resource Center as well as provide details on the information students have found most useful.