There’s a lot about how the COVID-19 pandemic has changed our lives that we don’t like: the economy, the dread, the solitude, and the unpredictability. However, if we examine closely enough, we can find some benefits. Our abrupt transition to a virtual lifestyle has expedited a long-term technology revolution in how we access services in industries as diverse as business, medical, and education. Because of the widespread adoption of video conferencing, many of these virtual advancements appear to be destined to become permanent additions long after the pandemic has passed. Virtual advising could be one such long-term boost for higher education.
Once the pandemic is over, students will expect university advising services from their academic support or student support centers to be hybrid with online and in-person support. By enabling virtual capabilities, universities will be able to help students, especially non-traditional students such as part-time, mature, or adult students. Students can easily get access to the resources they need to succeed during non-normal business hours and without having to be on campus. It’s simply a win-win situation for both students and universities.
In this article, we’ll take a look at what virtual student advising actually is and whether or not it could become the standard for the foreseeable future.
Is Virtual Student Advising the Way of the Future?
To put it simply, we’d have to say “yes.” But first, let’s break down exactly what virtual student advising actually is to get a better idea of how it could become the standard for the near future.
Understanding What Virtual Student Advising Is
Academic advising is a series of scheduled meetings between students and academic advisors to review program requirements, course content, learning outcomes, and other related themes and issues in the program of study. It is a professional undertaking that is essential to achieving higher education’s teaching and learning purpose, and it can be done in a variety of ways, including prescriptive, developmental, and appreciative approaches. The essential ideals of academic advising include caring, commitment, empowerment, inclusion, integrity, professionalism, and respect.
Academic advising is described as situations in which a college student receives advice or guidance from an institutional official about an academic, social, or personal matter. Academic advising can cover a wide range of topics, including degree or major requirements, course selections, career orientation, on-campus activity, and, in certain cases, even mental and physical health.
However, this abrupt shift in academic advising practice presented a number of issues for both students and academic advisors, as well as a significant increase in the usage of synchronous communication technologies, which scholars anticipate will become the new normal in academic advising. This is when the concept of virtual advising was born.
Virtual advising refers to the use of video chat technologies such as Zoom or another video-chat platform to conduct advising sessions. In light of the campus closures due to COVID19, this kind of advising allows students and advisers to have face-to-face conversations. Screen and document sharing is possible with Zoom and comparable services, which is not possible with a standard phone call.
What Does Virtual Advising Typically Involve?
Wi-Fi and a PC with video chat capability and a microphone are normally required for a student’s virtual conference. Although a smartphone or tablet can potentially be used, a connection to a computer is preferred because the advisor may wish to offer documents and materials that are simpler to view on a computer. Students can use Zoom using a web browser or by downloading the app. In most cases, no account is necessary.
The Onset of Virtual Advising
When COVID-19 struck, it wreaked havoc on higher education. Academic advising was no exception, and the old face-to-face paradigm was replaced with remote academic counseling, which leverages synchronous communication tools such as Zoom and Google Meets.
The COVID-19 epidemic has had a far-reaching and unprecedented influence on higher education. Learning switched to an online format for many schools, frequently in the form of remote emergency teaching rather than true online learning. By April 2020, the majority of in-person classes at 98 percent of the 3,278 U.S. institutions affected by the COVID-19 epidemic had been relocated online. This was a considerable gain when compared to the number of students regularly enrolled in an online course, which was just 33% in 2017. Various student services, including academic advice, were also relocated to emergency virtual versions during the pandemic.
The abrupt disruption of traditional learning and student services created some uncertainty and anxiety about the shift from mostly in-person encounters to wholly virtual or remote interactions. Many schools, however, reacted rapidly to the disruption by implementing remote or online teaching and student services, including academic advising, and student success management. Academic advising used synchronous communication tools such as Zoom and asynchronous communication technologies such as email to assist student learning and success.
The Benefits of Virtual Advising
Virtual advising was formerly primarily employed as a supplemental option for internet-based learners and working-class adults who were unlikely or unable to meet in person with an advisor during regular office hours. At most colleges, video conferencing was a niche technique, and few traditional advising offices genuinely contemplated that it could disrupt the time-honored model of one-hour in-person advising meetings.
All of this has changed as a result of the pandemic. During the spring semester, virtual advising was crucial in aiding students and keeping them connected to their universities. This fall, virtual advising will continue as an ongoing experiment, with the potential to open the door to a new way of supporting student achievement in the future.
Students’ engagement with support has improved as a result of virtual advising. There are a few more reasons why virtual advising should be continued even if in-person visits are once again possible.
To begin, virtual counseling could aid in the promotion of equity. Many students have complicated and hectic lifestyles, making it difficult to schedule a face-to-face meeting with an advisor. This means that not everyone has equal access, and the children who require the most assistance may be the least able to participate. For students attempting to balance school, family, and employment, shorter, on-demand meetings joined via phone or laptop provide a more egalitarian method.
Virtual counseling may also provide colleges with a competitive advantage. Virtual advising, when done correctly, can be a selling feature for your institution. Even before the pandemic, kids had grown accustomed to receiving virtual assistance in a variety of areas. Students who are hesitant about in-person interactions may now prefer institutions that provide them with safe and convenient support. This will be especially true for schools that prioritize advising and onboarding as part of their summer melt plans.
If current trends continue, virtual advising platforms for higher-ed will almost certainly become a common component of the toolset for advising offices long after the pandemic has passed. Smart advising offices will see this transition coming and will use the fall semester to prepare for it.