Skip navigation
EAB Logo Navigate to the EAB Homepage Navigate to EAB home
  1. Events /

Providing Virtual Support to Students and Staff During Crisis

This event has passed.

Watch the on-demand webinar on our
YouTube channel.

Speaker: Christina Hubbard

While these are certainly trying times, various circumstances can necessitate virtual services from today’s colleges and universities. Watch the on-demand webconference where EAB’s Christina Hubbard, Senior Director of Strategic Research, will share a few recommendations that can help you, your students, and your staff to feel more connected even when they can’t interact in person. There will be challenges ahead, but the most important thing to do is to keep your focus where you know it belongs: determining what it will take for your students to succeed and putting those pieces into place.

Read the transcript

Thank you for joining my latest insight on providing virtual support to students and staff during crisis. My name is Christina Hubbard, and I’m a researcher here at EAB. Today I wanted to take a moment to share a few recommendations that can help you, your students, and your staff to feel more connected, even when they can’t interact in person. These practices are derived from my own work as an online instructor for the past 10 years and five years managing a team of advisors, counselors, and support staff that worked remotely due to the flexibility required to serve our adult learners. I certainly don’t claim to know it all, but I wanted to share these ideas in hopes that it would help college leaders adapt during these volatile times.

So let’s take a look at four aspects that really drive student success online. These are in no particular order. But let’s start with instruction. There are countless faculty right now who have shifted their face to face classes online and they may not feel well equipped to prepare the virtual classrooms. Collaborations with instructional design teams will help ease this transition. It’s also important to have web based training modules that will allow faculty to review and repeat training on best practices for teaching online at your institution.

That brings us to the second area: student life. No one should underestimate the importance of student life in the success of college students. We need to think creatively about how we can keep our students connected to each other in remote environments. I’ve shared a few ideas here, such as establishing a blog where students can share their feelings and thoughts during this challenging time. Perhaps you can create virtual meetups. We’re hearing about people doing things like setting up online meetings where small groups of people share dinner and chat. Another idea is to use this time to stream college speakers. Instead of sharing everything out to students via email, consider setting up a broadcast to increase the human touch in our interactions with students.

For those who are not using a caseload management approach, surveys may work best and then divide up negative responses and non respondents across your advising teams to conduct outreach to those individuals. While you may temporarily request the support of your advisors with a specialization like career or transfer advising, across time, they will need to build out their own virtual programming in their disciplines.

First, we can’t overstate the importance of regular communication. Shifting to a virtual environment can make staff feel like they’re on an island. Encourage them to collaborate with their peers, carve out time for more water cooler type conversation, and managers should be looking for insight from their teams about what’s working and what’s not.

Third, check in regularly. Managers should have a complete virtual check in with each direct report at least once per week. This should be scheduled for at least 30 minutes to set the expectation of depth. Use the time to discuss long term projects as well as top short term priorities. Takeaway items that you can work on to support your team members. Also, be sure to do a daily check in to see how things are going and how you can support your team members.

Five, track productivity metrics. This is especially tricky with the time constraints we’re under in the shift remote work. While I focused on student outcomes such as persistence and success of students on my advisors case loads, in today’s environment, we need to look at short cycle metrics. It might make more sense to measure immediate progress, such as how many students did you reach out to and how many did you connect with. These metrics certainly aren’t perfect. A call to a student might take 30 seconds or 30 minutes depending on the students needs, but at least it gives some measure of productivity.

This is a period of unprecedented circumstances. We are moving quickly, and even with the best intentions, we aren’t going to get everything right. While there will certainly be challenges, the most important thing you can do right now is to keep your focus where you know it belongs. Focus on what it will take for your students to succeed and then put those pieces into place. For additional resources, please check out our website You’ll find expert insights and the latest resources to help you navigate these trying times. Thank you.