Advising Distance Education Students

Definition of Distance Learning

Education offered via distance education provides greater flexibility to individualized learning. A primary goal of distance education is to provide an environment in which learning occurs at the time, location, and pace of the individual learner. Distance education provides an alternative delivery and ready access to educational offerings and necessary support services.

Faculty as Advisors for Distance Learners

• A distance education program must provide for appropriate real time or delayed interaction between faculty, advisors and students, AND among students.
• The program provides faculty and advisors to support and assist students in making informed choices about career and academic goals; self-assessment; decision making; and evaluation of academic career options.
• The program provides faculty and advisors with the support to orient students to the distance learning environment.
• The institution needs to provide an environment in which faculty as advisors as well as professional advisors can work toward achieving the following competencies needed to be an advisor of distance learners.
(Thach and Murphy, 1995)

     • Advising and counseling
     • Planning and organization
     • Interpersonal communications
     • Writing
     • Feedback
     • Presentation skills
     • Collaboration/teamwork
     • Learner needs assessment
     • Questioning
     • Learning style and theory
     • Distance learning theory
     • Customer support services

For Students Engaged in Distance Learning:

• The distance education program provides workshops and/or training as required for students enrolled in courses/programs in the use of distance education technologies.
• The distance education program provides access to the appropriate learning resources as required of distance learning students, i.e. basic skills, course tutorials, disability support, library, etc.
• In order for students to be able to function effectively and achieve academically, they need to be provided with accurate information on the assumptions about the technical competence and skill level required as well as the actual technical equipment requirements needed to participate.
• The distance education program provides students with accurate and timely information and an internal distance learner network that connects all processes required of the distance learner providing them with one point of contact:
     • Admissions
     • Registration
     • Degree audit
     • Course requirements
     • Financial aid
     • Costs and payment policies
     • Curriculum
     • Nature of student/faculty interaction

• Advise on the level that the student needs and wants. Multiple systems and/or policies may be required. Principal goal of distance learner support services is to provide “individualized guidance” so learners may become more effective in dealing with concerns that influence their pursuit of personal learning goals at a distance and at the time and delivery mode preferred by the learner.
• Ensure that distance learners have access to the full range of student support services appropriate to support their learning.
Institute an orientation course, i.e. “What it takes to be a distance learner.” Proper assessment must be conducted to ensure students have the required backgrounds, knowledge and technical skills needed to undertake the program.