Not Your Average Online Advising and Student Support Model

Concurrent Session 2
Streamed Session Equity and Inclusion

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Brief Abstract

This presentation will provide an overview of the realignment of three departments to better support underserved online students at a private, non-profit university in Chicago, IL experiencing high growth in online programs.  The new model led to increased student persistence and satisfaction.


Dr. Bouchey is Associate Professor and Dean of Online Education at National Louis University where she is responsible for standards of quality and service for online programming across the institution. Dr. Bouchey has had the opportunity to lead all aspects of an online campus and programming in her career and spends time each week in deep dialog with an engaged personal learning network discussing the evolving nature of online education. Dr. Bouchey holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University at Albany, an M.B.A. in Entrepreneurship from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and a Doctorate in Education from Northeastern University. She is a co-founder of the CORAL Research collaborative focused on online leadership and scholarship; her personal research interests include the nature and future of organizational structures of online units in institutions of higher education, as well as inventive and high-impact pedagogical practice in online teaching. Dr. Bouchey writes and is widely quoted in the academic and popular press; her articles and curriculum vitae can be accessed here:

Additional Authors

Reece is the Manager of Learning Support, who helps develop academic student support initiatives that align with the institution mission and strategic goals. He analyzes day to day performance of the department’s effectiveness and makes strategic recommendations. He also manages the online mathematics faculty to align course templates, provide additional support for skill remediation, and create academic support resources for students.

Extended Abstract

In the 2017-18 academic year, our university committed to the growth of online programming.  As a private, non-profit university in Chicago, IL focused on college affordability, student access, and social justice, our student profile trends to women and students of color--a particularly vulnerable student demographic in higher education, and more notably in online programs as well.  After a term of substantially increased enrollment, online student persistence had started on a downward trend. In response, the institution launched a project to realign online student support through a unique, cross-functional partnership between Academic Affairs, Advising, and Student Support in the Winter of 2017 to address student persistence and to improve student satisfaction with their online experience. 

The strategic collaboration between Academic Affairs, Advising, and the Student Support departments included an environmental scan of online student support strategy, as well as research into the retention of at-risk students in online programs.  Once complete, the work team compared best-practice to the culture and values of our institution, as well as to the budget for the project. The result was the creation of the Online Advising Playbook designed to detect at-risk student behavior in online coursework and associated actions by faculty and staff to mitigate those behaviors, accompanied by a sophisticated set of data and reports to drive action aimed at increasing student performance in online courses. 

The Online Advising Playbook includes guiding principles, job descriptions, key performance indicators, advising checklist, advising triggers and communication protocols, embedded learning support, communication protocol scripts and templates, meeting agenda guidelines, quarterly reflection rubric and the advising assessment plan. After a full year of the use of the Playbook, our institution realized the following outcomes: 1-4% increase in undergraduate persistence since initiative launched (program-by-program differences) and over 4% persistence increase in graduate students.  

In this presentation, we will discuss the key facets of the Online Advising Playbook and its ultimate impact on student outcomes (an increase in student persistence and satisfaction).  Case examples will be used to highlight the efficacy of the protocols. As a means of continuous improvement, the audience will be asked to share similar cases and the methods used to mitigate student at-risk behavior for inclusion in our 2019-20 Online Advising Playbook.  As a commitment to collegiality and addressing U.S. higher education student success and graduation rates, audience members are welcome to a copy of the Online Advising Playbook to model at their institutions. Audience members will leave equipped with a model that has proven, positive impact on student persistence and satisfaction.   Lastly, a call-to-action will be made for more proactive advising and student support to address gaps in persistence for today’s student.

Audience members will: 

  1. Explore the process behind implementing the Online Advising Playbook, 

  2. Examine how student persistence and attainment is strengthened through active collaboration between Faculty, Advising, and Learning Support units,  

  3. Brainstorm on possible implementation of all or parts of the Online Advising Playbook at their institutions in an effort to increase persistence.