Academic Advising for Online Students
Concurrent Session 6
Online students can feel removed from their institutions, and academic advisors often serve as the primary, or only, connection to their school outside of the classroom. “Academic Advising for Online Students” will cover the tools and techniques that academic advisors need to best serve online students of all ages and backgrounds.
In 2014, the University of Florida launched UF Online, with a mission to offer fully online undergraduate degree programs. UF Online serves to increase access to the state's flagship university at a reduced tuition rate, while providing the same quality education that our on-campus students receive. UF Online originally partnered with a third party to provide initial academic support but, after parting ways with that organization, academic advisors absorbed these responsibilities on top of their existing duties. This presented a new set of challenges for the University of Florida, and as a result, a new approach to academic advising was born.
Advisors, in many ways, serve as students’ primary point of contact to the university; this is particularly true for online students. A new advising strategy was implemented for UF Online students that included assigned advisors, dedicated to this population, with recommended advisor to student ratios of 250:1. By maintaining these low ratio, advisors are more accessible to, and better connected with, the online student population. Within the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences advising office, we have adapted our scheduling to meet the needs of our students, offering day, evening, and lunch-time appointments, as well as “phone-in” hours, and Skype appointments.
In addition to academic advising, many other services have been customized and made more accessible to our online students. We will share how several fees have been made “optional” for our distance online students, such as the Health Fee, Recreational Sports Fee, Transportation Fee, and Athletics Fee. However, for students wanting to take advantage of these on-campus resources, they can elect to opt-in to these fees at the residential student rate. By opting in, students can supplement their collegiate experience to encompass more of what UF has to offer. Regardless, all UF Online students can utilize academic resources such as our Tutoring Center, our Disability Resource Center, our Career Resource Center, and our library system, both on and off-campus. We also deliver a fully online orientation program, and are moving many of our other services and forms entirely online as well.
UF Online provides self-service reports to our online advisors that are not available to our residential advisors. These reports contain data regarding student enrollment by credit hours, registration trends across majors and courses, and demographic information. These reports help advisors identify which students may need more targeted outreach and academic support. They also help alert enrollment management concerns to administrators. We plan to highlight these reports in our presentation as a valuable reporting tool that greatly enhances the work our advisors and administrators perform.
This presentation will cover the lessons we have learned implementing a fully online program, and how to best advise our students. We'll discuss the strategies and technologies that we utilize, how to implement them, and how to adapt as our student profile changes. We will spend the remaining time fielding questions from the audience, and collaborating with everyone’s own best practices for advising online students.
We strive to achieve the following learning outcomes through our presentation:
-Describe how UF Online has evolved its structure to best accommodate students
-Discuss strategies that advisors can utilize to engage with distance students
-Explain programs that other institutions can implement long-term