Academics & Research News

Students, advisers are learning to adjust to online academic advising

Jiselle Santos/The Cougar

Jiselle Santos/The Cougar

With academic advising at UH being performed from home to comply with Harris County’s Stay Home, Work Safe order, students have been experiencing both the convenience and the frustrations associated with meeting with their advisers online.

Academic advising appointments have been booked using the Navigate app since January 2019. Students log in to the app with their CougarNet ID and select an adviser and time slot that works best for them. 

Advisers right now are at their busiest with students enrolling for summer and fall courses. Priority enrollment for the Summer and Fall 2020 semesters began on April 3, with open enrollment beginning this Friday. 

Vanessa Vasquez is an academic adviser for computer science, mathematics and mathematical biology majors. Since March 16, she has had 145 to 150 scheduled virtual meetings with students, including group sessions of up to 25 students for UHin4.

“Zoom has been a huge resource for us,” Vasquez said. “I have noticed that some prefer the phone call due to lack of resources at home and (they) have shared that, so we are able to accommodate our students the best way we can for them to succeed.”

Part of why some students prefer online advising is they can get an appointment that works better with their schedule. Vasquez believes online advising works better for students and has gotten positive feedback from many. 

The College of Education said its advisers will hold conferences through email, phone and video.

In the Honors College, students are asked to limit their appointments to immediate concerns that impact their enrollment for the summer and fall. The college held online drop-in advising was April 3 during priority registration from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. 

Drop-in advising consists of each student calling the college’s phone number and receiving an email with a Zoom link when an adviser can meet with him or her. On Zoom, advisers can share their computer screens and show PeopleSoft pages and degree plan flowcharts, according to an email sent by the Honors College to students. 

Biology junior Saad Nadeem scheduled an academic advising appointment to discuss his degree plan, summer classes and a possible double degree. His online advising included an email from the adviser containing his updated degree plan and an outline of classes to include his Fall 2020 schedule.

Nadeem said his advising experience would have been better in person.

“It is difficult to ask and receive answers back quickly from the advisers as they are occupied with other students,” Nadeem said. “Online advising limits the amount of human interaction, which makes it difficult to communicate what the student is really asking.”

Media production junior Noah Key similarly prefers in-person advising. He wanted to schedule an appointment to make sure he was fulfilling all his graduation requirements but was disappointed with the difficulty of communication.

“Waiting for an email reply, back and forth, can be ineffective, especially since you reserved this specifically to meet with (the academic adviser),” Key said.

Journalism junior Ivan Duran Puente, however, finds online advising to be much easier than face-to-face advising. He works every other day in Cypress and was only on campus on Tuesdays and Thursdays before the COVID-19 crisis.

His adviser sent a comprehensive email with class recommendations, credit hour information and his current degree plan with courses that he has and hasn’t completed. The two of them then had 45 minutes to email questions back and forth.

Puente works at a community college as an academic advising specialist, which he said might have made it easier for him to understand his adviser’s messages, even if they were through email.

“When you go to a face-to-face meeting, you are responsible for remembering all the information that was told to you,” Duran Puente said. “But in an online or email meeting, you can always go back and reference whatever the adviser told you verbatim.”

For more of The Cougar’s coronavirus coverage, click here.

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