Why virtual advising (prompted by the pandemic) could become a permanent part of institutions' student success strategies

Is virtual advising here to stay?

Why virtual advising (prompted by the pandemic) could become a permanent part of institutions' student success strategies

Students make more appointments

When the shutdown began, EAB partners quickly reconfigured Navigate to allow students to make appointments with a virtual advising “office” just as they would with in-person advising. Advisors at the University of Wisconsin at Parkside saw a 29% increase in appointments after they moved virtual. Across the nation, Navigate partners saw a 25% increase in students accepting appointment requests sent to their mobile apps.

Students were more likely to show up for appointments

Prior to the pandemic, students at Pueblo Community College would no-show for appointments at a rate of roughly 15%. After the move to virtual advising, the no-show rate dropped to just 5%. At least some of this improvement can likely be attributed to ease of attending a meeting that is only a link away.

Appointments became shorter and more efficient

Pueblo Community College found that their average advising appointment time dropped from around 40 minutes to just 27 minutes. Shorter appointments allow advisors to see more students. They also allow advisors to design advising plans with shorter, more frequent meetings for students with higher levels of need and more complex cases.

Advisors became more proactive in communicating with students

From fall 2019 to spring 2020, Navigate partners across the nation ran 35% more proactive appointment campaigns. They used the platform to send nearly half a million text messages in spring 2020, a 126% increase over the fall.

Students were more likely to use online advising tools

Student at colleges with the Navigate academic planning module saw a 25% increase in student use during spring 2020 versus fall 2019. Advisors responded by accessing and using these plans during their meetings with students 48% more often.

The long-term benefits of virtual advising

Taken together, these data suggest that virtual advising has had a positive impact on how students are engaging with support. And there are a couple more reasons why it makes sense to carry on with virtual advising even after in-person meetings become possible again.

Virtual advising could help promote equity

Many students live complex and busy lives that make it difficult to carve out time to meet with an advisor in-person. This means that not everyone has equal access, and it may be the students who need the most support who are least able to engage. Shorter, on-demand meetings joined via phone or laptop are a more equitable approach for students trying to seek out support while balancing school, family, and work.

Virtual advising could give you a competitive advantage

Done well, virtual advising could be a selling point for your institution. Even before the pandemic, students had come to expect virtual support in many other aspects of their lives. Now, students nervous about in-person interactions could show preference to schools that offer them safe, convenient support. This will be especially evident for schools that make advising and onboarding a central part of their recruitment and summer melt strategies.

In summary

If these early trends continue, it seems very likely that virtual advising will become a standard part of the toolkit for advising offices even after the pandemic is long gone. Smart advising offices should recognize this shift and use the fall semester to prepare for this future.

eSchool Media Contributors