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Best Practices in Advising Students in Online Degree Programs

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Best Practices in Advising Students in
Online Degree Programs
Presenter: Carol Gravel
Graduate Advisor and Professor
Franklin Pierce University
Doctoral Candidate, Instructional Technology and Distance Education
Session Agenda
a) Share research on the growing number of students
seeking entire degrees online
b) Discuss trends in online degree programs at your
c) Discuss literature relating to advising this population of
d) Share examples of current programs and efforts to
support students seeking degrees online or students
taking online courses
e) Question & Answer
f) Gather contact information to continue the discussion
Quick “Survey”
• What types of advisors are here today?
– Faculty advisor?
– Staff advisor?
– Member of an advising center?
• Do you offer online degree programs (all classes
are online) at your institution ?
• Do you plan to offer online degree programs?
Research: Enrollment in Online
Degree Programs
• 2002 to 2007 the number of students enrolled in
at least one online course has increased 144%,
from 1.6 million to over 3.9 million. The majority,
approximately 80%, are studying at the
undergraduate level (Allen & Seaman, 2008).
• Enrollment in entire degree programs online
increased 264%, from 483,000 in 2002 to more
than 1.76 million in 2007 (Garrett, 2008).
Research: Enrollment in Online
Degree Programs
What’s Driving the Growth in
Online Education?
• Economics
• Experience
• Infrastructure
• Evidence
Source: 2009 WCET-National Campus Computing Survey-Managing Online Programs
Keith Green & Russell Pouin
Research: Profile of the Types of
Courses Students are Enrolled in
Course Credit and
Degree Transfer Students
Course Credit
and Degree
High School
Source: 2009 WCET-National Campus Computing Survey – Managing Online Programs
Keith Green & Russell Pouin
Research: Enrollment in Online
Degree Programs
Their characteristics are diverse
Very heterogeneous group.
– Adults (25 of older)
• Who are employed but want to expand their career
• Who are unemployed
• Who are stay at home parents and want to expand or
define their career
– Traditional age (17-24)
• Who live on campus and seek the flexibility of online
• Who can not afford to live on campus
• Who transferred from a 2 year or community college and
live on campus OR off campus
• Who are employed but not in their chosen profession
IMPORTANT: We can see that they may fall into several “special” populations:
Adults, Undecided, Transfer, etc.
What trends are you seeing at
you institution?
1. Enrollment in online courses?
2. Enrollment in online degree programs?
3. Profile of the online student?
Literature Relating to Advising
this Population of Students
• Several studies have shown that the dropout rate among online
students is higher than the dropout rate of traditional on campus
students (Liu, Gomez, Khan, & Yen, 2007; Herbert, 2006; Rust, 2005;
Bocchi, Eastman, & Swift, 2004; Diaz, 2002; Chyung, 2001; Terry,
2001; Carr, 2000).
• There has been extensive research over the past three decades on
why students drop. The results show that lack of effective student
support services is a key factor in student retention (Ruth, 2005,
Dahl, 2004; Simpson, 2002; Tait, 2000; Scholl, 1999; Gibson &
Gibson, 1997; Tinto, 1987).
• There are numerous recent studies that have shown that support
services for online students is lacking and that hundreds of colleges
and universities are still struggling with how to address this issue
(Lokken, 2009; Axelson, 2007; Morris & Miller, 2007; Klukas, 2006;
Raphel, 2006; Ruth, 2005).
Framework for Analyzing the Issue
Student support services include:
Enrollment management and registration
Information services
Academic advising
Individual consulting
Student advocacy
(McInnis-Rankin, & Brindley, 1986):
Quick Survey:
For students in online degree programs,
are ALL 5 areas of this framework being addressed at your institution?
Examples of Best Practices
Academic Advising
Based on research, personal experience,
and discussions with other professionals:
1. ASAP after acceptance, make a specific point to:
a) Notify the student who their advisor is and how to contact them
b) Have the adviser make a personal phone call to the student to begin
dialog and interaction
It is all about the “network” (DE students are connected and use cell
phones, txt messaging, and social networks)
a) STRONG relationships with key functions within the organization
b) A Virtual Office (Personal Web Site or Advising Portal)
c) The right office equipment (PDA with email, laptop with wireless
access, scanner, webcam)
Keep a “client”/advisee database – DE students are customer
“Engage” with advisees on a regular basis (monthly, two weeks
before end of term, FYI information from time to time)
Take a 100% online course yourself – put yourself in their shoes
6. Others?
Excellent examples of current
“Virtual Offices” / Portals
University of Southern Maine online portal for
advisors and advisees:
The Community College of
Baltimore County
Michigan Community College
North Carolina State University
Additional Online Resources
Additional Online Resources
Additional online resources
Guide to Developing
Online Student Services
• What is it?
– The final product of a three-year project of the Western Cooperative of
Educational Telecommunications. The project was funded by the U.S.
Department of Education's Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary
Education (FIPSE). This Guide was first published in November 2000.
– It is intended to help higher education institutions develop effective online
approaches to delivering student support services.
• What does the guide provide?
– General tips for designing effective online student services
– Brief discussions on a range of student support services, especially the
needs of online and distant learners
– Guidelines for basic good practice in delivering these services via the
– Examples of some institutions that use the Internet to offer students a
variety of opportunities for self-help and customized services in addition
to providing information and electronic forms online.
Examples of What
Online Students Need - Online
1. Online Enrollment management and registration
• How Do I Get Started
• Online Course Registration
• Online Tuition and Fee payment
2. Online Information services
• Department Information
• Online Library Access
• Online Bookstore
• Online Forms
• Log on to Online Courses
• Testing Information
• Academic and Course Catalog (policies etc.)
3. Online Academic advising
• Important Quarterly/Semester Dates
• Online access to advisor
4. Online Individual consulting
5. Student advocacy
Staying Connected After this
• NACADA Listserv for Distance Education
• Person to Person – Carol Gravel
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