Online Student Support Services: What You Should Know

Online student smiling and sitting at desk with laptop and notebook, looking at screen, holding pen
Category: Going Back to School

By Matt Rowley
Posted on

Whether you're a first-time college student or returning to school after spending time in the workforce or the military, finding a college that supports their students can make a big difference. Attending college online is an option that offers many benefits, but you may have concerns about what kind of student support services are available in the online environment.

Will online student support services be as helpful as traditional brick-and-mortar schools? Will the school be able to help me meet my educational goals and succeed?

The answer to all these questions is a resounding “yes.” In this article, we explore some of the different online support options available, whether you’re an established college student or attending online classes for the first time.

Understanding Online Student Support Services

What is it like to be an online student? Some of the best reasons to attend classes online are flexibility and being able to work at your own pace, but with that comes the uncertainty of accessing the same kind of academic support offered by traditional schools. The importance of student support services cannot be understated.

So, what kind of online support is available for students? Support can come through email, phone, real-time chat or other methods, and some common services are:

  1. Academic advising.
  2. Career services.
  3. Issue resolution.
  4. Library services.
  5. Technical support.
  6. Testing services.

Below is a quick rundown of each.

1. Academic Advising

One advantage of online school is easy access to academic advising. An academic advisor is a cornerstone of success for any college degree, as they look out for your best interests during your time with the university. Working with an academic advisor also means that students may be more likely to complete their degrees.

At many universities, students are assigned an academic advisor upon their admission. What does an academic advisor do? They assist students by:

  • Answering questions about degree programs and career paths.
  • Discussing your struggles and guiding you through difficult situations.
  • Helping you with your degree choice and course selection.
  • Monitoring your progress and helping you manage your course load.

Here at Columbia Southern University, our academic advisors typically meet with students prior to their first week of initial courses, then again after about four weeks of classes, then again six months after your initial enrollment, and finally when you’re within 12 credit hours of graduation. Academic advisors also reach out to help students when they have a low GPA or are otherwise struggling in courses.

2. Career Services

Students attending classes online are practical and motivated. In Online College Students 2020, a research report by Wiley Education Services, more than 90% of the survey respondents answered that they had professional objectives they hoped to achieve through their education, and nearly half were hoping to change their careers.

A university’s career services offices can be one of the most valuable resources available to online students. Career services professionals can assist students with:

  • Career counseling.
  • Career explorations by major.
  • Interview preparation.
  • Job search strategies.
  • Labor market research.
  • Networking advice.
  • Professional correspondence review.

3. Issue Resolution

While pursuing your degree, you’re likely to experience at least some issues that need to be resolved. Online schools are equipped to respond quickly and thoroughly to concerns from students. University staff can listen and discuss concerns with students over the phone or online chat, offering appropriate resolution as needed. Before enrolling in a school, you may want to review their policies for resolving issues, since one poor experience can have a big impact.

4. Library Services

College libraries provide vital access to archives, academic journals and other educational materials that no college student can do without. This is especially true when it comes to online learning.

An online library can offer access to resources like e-books and webinars, along with digital databases. They don’t have operating hours, so online students can access their resources at any time. CSU’s online library can offer an example of what to expect from this kind of resource for online schools.

5. Technical Support

Technical support is an essential service for online students for obvious reasons. Attending classes online requires an internet connection and a device that can handle the software you’ll need, and not every student is an IT expert.

Many online schools offer tech support throughout the week during times when students are most likely to need it. Here at CSU, our tech support service for students is currently available from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. CT on weekdays and from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. CT on Saturdays.

6. Testing Services

Exams are still part of the online college experience. Traveling somewhere for an in-person, proctored test is an option, but many schools now offer virtual proctoring services. There may be a small fee associated with online proctoring services, but they typically don’t require any extra purchases or additional equipment. Here at CSU, we use a program called Remote Proctor Now to facilitate online testing.

Online Degree Programs

There are many considerations when selecting a school, but student support services are often an overlooked factor. Here at CSU, our faculty and staff do our best to help make your online learning experience as enjoyable and practical as possible.

“The staff are extremely helpful and go out of their way to see me succeed,” explained Timothy Smith, who earned his bachelor’s degree in occupational safety and health from CSU. “My student advisor checks on me frequently. When my work schedule is demanding, and I know I will be late, all of my professors have been understanding and accommodating.”

To learn more about our online degree programs at the associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral levels, visit our website.

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