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Advising Non Traditional Graduate Students Online: A Graduate School's Response the Evolving Needs of Students

#Twitter: 
#olc55847
Presenter(s)
Jennifer Grahek (Boston University, USA)
Deborah Sheehan (Boston University School of Social Work, USA)
Session Information
October 14, 2015 - 1:45pm
Track: 
Student Services and Learner Support
Major Emphasis of Presentation: 
Practical Application
Institutional Level: 
Universities and Four Year Institutions
Audience Level: 
All
Session Type: 
Discovery Session
Location: 
Atlantic Hall
Section: 
A
Position: 
1
Session Duration: 
45 Minutes
Session: 
Discovery Session 1
Abstract

The five year evolution of a graduate school's advising model. Focus includes adapting practices by reviewing research, student feedback, technology, administrative and faculty collaboration .

Extended Abstract

Students entering a master's level online degree program often face many challenges including adapting to the rigorous demands of the program, feeling isolated, and navigating resources and supports. After launching the Online MSW Program at Boston University School of Social Work in 2011, administrators noticed a pattern of behaviors in which students whom felt overwhelmed and confused often dropped out or performed poorly in their first course in the program. The incoming student programing was reviewed and a new first semester advising model was implemented to provide additional support to new students within their first semester. To build community and reduce isolation among students this model was designed to be delivered in a group discussion setting using Adobe Connect. Students were asked to attend three group sessions within their first semester. Session topics were designed to closely follow their progress in the first semester. Topics discussed included navigating resources and supports, reviewing policies and procedures, understanding student responsibility as well as the role of their first semester advisor. As the semester progressed, information was shared in detail about the registration process, understanding their academic program plan, and reviewing best practices to retain course material and academic work. In addition to educating the students on the pragmatics of the program, students were encouraged to use this time to connect with each other, discuss questions and concerns about courses, adapting to the program, share ideas of self-care and time management in a relaxed non graded environment. To help encourage discussion, small exercises built around the MSW curriculum were created to foster connections with the learning objectives of the courses and program as well as social them to the profession of social work.

The goals of the first semester advising sessions were to:
- Build community and reduce feelings of isolation among students
- Educate incoming students on important programmatic systems they may have not retained in orientation
- Provide a space to seek guidance and assistance
- Connect students with MSW curriculum
- Reduce the number of course drops, leave of absences, withdraws, and poor grades within the first semester

Outcomes
- Consistent group of advisors that meet on a regular basis to discuss student issues and supports
- Administration is tracking average GPA of first semester students, course drops, leave of absences, and withdraws for pre and post first semester advising implementation
- Surveys have been administrated to students to gather feedback of first semester advising
- An improved relationship among administration and faculty has increased communication and retention efforts of students.

In this presentation we will review the context, problems, approach and results by sharing examples of Adobe Connect Sessions, session material, student satisfaction feedback, and faculty testimonials.