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Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Virtual advising proves to be accessible, successful during pandemic

Knack tutoring online
Knack tutoring online

With unprecedented times come unprecedented changes, and academic advising has been no exception. 

To protect advisers and students alike from the spread of COVID-19, UF advising has been moved online, meaning face-to-face meetings have been replaced with Zoom calls. Now, students talk to advisers on a screen and have a much more distanced relationship than before.

Advisers were concerned that virtual advising wouldn’t be as effective, said Joseph Spillane, director of UF’s Academic Advising Center and associate dean for student affairs at the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. But data from adviser evaluations, through which students give feedback on their advising sessions, show positive results.

“Students feel as though their remote advising sessions are relatively easy to access, and that they’re about as effective as in-person would be,” he said.

The data also show that while some students look forward to in-person advising again, about an equal number said they liked virtual advising better, Spillane said.

Virtual advising has come with challenges, including issues with WiFi and audio or video problems, Spillane said. Advisers also struggled to connect with students and get into deep discussions. But Spillane said he’s seen improvements.

“I think students are feeling comfortable, not just asking very specific or technical questions on a remote advising session, but really getting into the big picture questions, like ‘is this major really right for me?’” he said. 

Spillane also said that while advisers feared they would see fewer students this Fall, the numbers generally haven’t changed.

“If you add in all of the forms we’re processing, all the emails we’re answering, the overall volume of students that we’re dealing with is very much the same,” he said. 

Justin Ma, an 18-year-old UF exploratory engineering freshman, went to online peer advising for the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering twice. He said it went smoothly both times, and he got more than he expected out of the virtual venue. 

“It cuts out the trouble of me having to take time out of my day, walk to the hall, and then talk to them,” he said. 

In his sessions, Ma asked about getting involved in clubs and internships and deciding on a major. 

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Annie Gjineci, a 19-year-old UF information systems sophomore, went to advising for the Heavener School of Business in August. She said it went smoothly, and the sessions were easy to set up.

She emailed her adviser and received a link to their schedule, she said. Gjineci then just picked a time and got a Zoom link for that time.

“For me, it’s a little easier to speak to people in a virtual setting than it is in person,” she said.

Both Ma and Gjineci said they would feel comfortable using virtual advising again.

Keisha Hunte, Heavener School of Business academic and career adviser, said she feels encouraged by how virtual advising is going.

“Everyone’s finding a way, or has found a way, to adapt to this new environment,” she said.

Spillane said advising will remain virtual the rest of Fall, and while advisers are still able to help students, he said they miss collaborating with one another in person.

“Even though we’re happy with how remote advising is going, I think we’re all looking forward to the day when we can be back in person,” he said.

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