[Editor’s note: This post first appeared on the EAB blog and is reposted here with permission.]

History is rife with examples of old paradigms being replaced by new ones during times of stress. Between the economy, the fear, the isolation, and the uncertainty, there is plenty not to like about how the COVID-19 pandemic has altered our lives. Yet, if we look hard enough, we can also see some positives. Our sudden move to a virtual lifestyle has accelerated an ongoing technological revolution in how we access services in fields as diverse as commerce, medicine, and fitness. The massive public embrace of video conferencing means that many of these virtual innovations seem destined to become permanent enhancements long after the pandemic has abated.

Related content: How hybrid advising could help your students

One such permanent enhancement for higher education could be virtual advising. By “advising,” I am referring to the broad suite of holistic academic, financial, administrative, and personal support that has been shown to be highly effective at retaining and graduating students.

Virtual advising pre-pandemic

Before this year, virtual advising was mostly used as a supplemental offering reserved for online learners and working adults who were unlikely or unable to meet in-person with an advisor during normal office hours. It was a niche strategy at most schools, and few traditional advising offices seriously considered that video conferencing could challenge the time-honored paradigm of 30-minute, in-person advising appointments.

The pandemic has changed all of this. Virtual advising played a critical role in supporting students and keeping them connected to their colleges during the spring shutdown. Virtual advising will also continue this fall and serve as an ongoing experiment that could open the door to a new opportunity for supporting student success going forward.

Let’s take a look at some of the early data from this experiment:

Is virtual advising here to stay?

Virtual advising shows promising results

Now that we have several months of data, we have started to see early evidence that virtual advising offers some advantages over traditional face-to-face advising—suggesting that virtual advising should be a permanent part of your institution’s student success strategy.

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About the Author:

Ed Venit manages student success research for EAB. In this capacity, Ed leads the development and dissemination of best practices for using data and technology to improve retention and graduation rates. Ed provides consultative guidance to senior leadership across the Student Success Collaborative and is responsible for understanding shifting needs and trends. He has over a decade of experience researching data analytics and student success technologies.

Ed presents at conferences using case studies to highlight how looming demographic declines are forcing colleges and universities to rethink student retention as an enrollment challenge. This new mindset is triggering investment in proactive advising and the development of support strategies that pay for themselves (and more) in retention gains. By documenting and sharing these trends, Ed hopes to help senior leaders develop self-sustaining strategies that graduate far more students.


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