Face to face means together in one place... (Academic Advising can not be done effectively online)

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As I sit in my department meeting I’m shocked to hear that half of my co-workers believe that the internet and social media have no place in the academic advising or counseling world. They claim that it is a waste of time to try and do any advising online as all advising should be done face to face so students can be truly engaged and gain understanding. I asked them about facebook or even Skype or teleconferencing through our website and why that was different from meeting with the students in person. When I began to speak about how the other advisors and myself used Skype to do advising with some the international or out of state students, they responded that the students would still need to come in.

I later (just for my own personal knowledge) asked the advisors that used the internet to do advising to research how many of the students that were met with online showed signs of not being engaged and/or not understanding the registration process. What we discovered was very interesting. Of all 24 students met with in this way over the summer all had completed the registration process correctly and before the deadlines. I asked those same advisors about the international students in their caseloads that were not met with online. Only 32 of the 41 students that came in person registered correctly and all 41 registered late after the deadline. One of the advisors told me the 7 students he met with online e-mail and facebook him regularly, some with questions, some just to say hello.

Are his students more engaged than the other students because he met with them online and has a facebook site devoted to his advising? Studies would say yes. Heiberger & Harper (2008) and the Higher Education Research Institute (2007) found that, “time spent on social networking websites was correlated with indices of student engagement.” Additionally, Ellison, Steinfield, and Lampe (2007) discovered that, “Facebook use was related to an increase in engagement with students’ supportive social ties.” The answer is yes! His students are more engaged, an office survey done last Spring showed that his students had the best GPA overall, came in less frequently, but communicated through e-mail more. His students seemed to get petitions and grad checks in on-time more than any other advisor.

What does all this mean? It means that if students are engaged online, they will also be engaged in the real world. Students are not afraid of the technology so why are we? “Students today network with each other using technology as much as, if not more than, what use to be considered face-to-face communication.

Check out this graph detailing student engagement and their use of social media...

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“Low Users” for the Heiberger & Harper study was quantified as spending less than 1 hour/day on Facebook and “High Users” spent greater than 1 hour/day while “Low Users” for the HERI study was quantified as spending less than 1 hour/week on social media (FB, Myspace) and “High Users” spent greater than 6 hours/week.

“College administrators must not only recognize this phenomenon, but learn to use the variety of elec- tronic media available in positive ways: to stay connected to college social networks, promote relevant events, and help students feel safe and at home on campus.” Heiberger, G., & Harper, R. (2008). Why are we dragging our feet?

A SEEN magazine had an interesting article written by a Professor and Department Chair for a Graduate Education program. He felt that there was more personal interaction in the virtual classroom than in the traditional environment. “I find that in our online classes, closer relationships develop between the students and the professor than in a traditional classroom setting because of the constant phone call and email exchange throughout the week. There is much more direct communication for online classes than in face-to-face classes due to the nature of environment.” I totally agree with this. Students like my fellow MALTers share more information than we would if we met quote un quote face to face in the class room, and we communicate far more frequently. We are much more engaged with each other. This relates to advising also. My co-worker ends up communicating much more frequently with his students through his facebook account and uses his time more effectively.

One Study showed that people who participated in on-line counseling sessions reported a self-perception of increased autonomy, improvement in decision-making and interpersonal relationships, and more taking of responsibility for self-help and interpersonal engagement. Other benefits included things like improved online relational skills, within groups and individual e-mails. ISMHO’s Case Study Group (2001-2002)

Students use of computers, cell phones and PDAs are higher than ever before. Today their first response in seeking help or information is to turn on the computer. Using the Internet is an easy way to find help, advice, or peer support, so why not provide advising online in real time rather and traditional face to face? Through the internet we can create students engagement, provide information that leads to a better student experience and a more balanced workload for ourselves. We can use wikis to explain the details of common advising processes, Facebook and Twitter to send reminders about important deadlines or respond to student questions, use YouTube videos to explain advisor breakdowns or walk-in/Skype in times, maintain wikis that explain the details of the advising process, and develop realspace-to-digital relationships with students.
In the same ways that experts became experts in advising skills and competencies, I desire for the experts in my office and beyond to push themselves to the limits and explore new ways to reach students through virtual formats. As it CAN be done and is being done WELL!
Ellison, N. B., Steinfield, C., & Lampe, C. (2007). __The Benefits of Facebook “friends:” Social capital and college students’ use of online social network sites__. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 12(4).

Heiberger, G., & Harper, R. (2008). __Have you Facebooked Astin lately? Using technology to increase student involvement__

SEEN Magazine online __http://www.seenmagazine.us/articles/article-detail/articleid/44/adding-a-personal-touch-makes-br-online-education-go-the-distance.aspx__
ISMHO Case Study Group, Assessing a Person’s Suitability for Online Therapy

Retrieved (2002) from __www.ismho.org/casestudy/ccsgas.htm__