The 5 C’s of Advising Students in Uncertain Times


Julie Delich, Vice President of Retention and Student Support Services, Wiley Education Services

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This year, OLC invited some of our Accelerate 2020 sponsors to share stories with our membership, as a way to contextualize their services and invite conversation with and within our membership. This blog post is one of those stories.

As many students continue to receive all or part of their education online, it’s important to reflect on effective ways to advise them and help them remain engaged in their courses.

While there is plenty of research about online learners’ demographics and behaviors, little information has been shared about how to academically advise online learners specifically. While numerous advising models exist, they emphasize face-to-face communications, which do not translate well for online students.

At Wiley Education Services, we have developed our own Online Learning Advising Model (OLAM). This unique approach provides the support online learners need and helps them throughout their education journey.

An important element of OLAM is the five Cs: Connect, Create, Challenge, Collaborate & Commit. These are the steps we take to provide the solutions necessary to keep learners on track until graduation. Just as importantly, however, these steps can be adopted and applied by both advisors and faculty members as they interact with their students.

It is also worth noting, that as we are in the third semester of teaching through a pandemic, we have seen the toll that living with uncertainty has taken. The five C’s below offer opportunities to both ground and empower learners and educators as they continue to navigate our current climate.


  • Send a message to check-in
  • Listen to the student’s concerns
  • Ask follow-up questions
  • Paraphrase and check for understanding

These gestures may seem simple, but you shouldn’t underestimate the impact they will have. Just reaching out to a student shows them they have someone to talk to. By asking follow-up questions and paraphrasing, students know that you are actively listening, and it makes them feel heard.


  • Focus on what is in the student’s control
  • Emphasize the strengths the student possesses
  • Ask about the student’s ideal outcome and what they would like to see happen next

When times are uncertain, it can feel like everything is out of our control. Talk to students about their futures and remind them to focus on their individual goals. By setting up a plan, students can feel that their success is in their control.


  • Examine the Truth
    Students can ask themselves:

    • “Is there evidence to support that this is as bad as it seems?”
    • “What are the facts?
  • Examine the Helpfulness
    Students can ask themselves:

    • “Is it helpful for me to focus on this right now?”
  • Examine an Alternative
    Students can ask themselves:

    • “Is there another way I can view this situation that is more accurate and more helpful?”

It’s important to encourage students to examine the truth. Especially during times of uncertainty, false information is everywhere. Guide students toward the facts and provide accurate sources and information. Challenge your learners to think differently.

Collaborate & Commit

    • Co-design a plan
    • Document clear next steps with timestamps for both you and your students
    • Make a verbal or written commitment to take the next steps.
    • Encourage the student to do the same

Develop a plan that works best for you and your students. Make sure the steps have time stamps so your students know that not only do they need to make this deadline, but you do as well.

Download the Advising in Times of Uncertainty Infographic

We understand that during this time, so many feel isolated and might be questioning their abilities to forge ahead with educational and career goals. By engaging in the five C’s, you will show your students they have your full support and you are willing to help them find solutions.

For more information on student support and online learning tips, check out Wiley Education Services’ resource page.

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