Academic Advisors Adapt To Challenges Of Remote Advising

Penn State’s remote learning period has created plenty of challenges not only for students and professors, but also the university’s contingent of academic advisors.

Each academic department and team of advisors has its own perspective on and way of handling the new remote learning period due to differences ranging from department size to level of interaction with students.

The broad goal, however, remains the same: make sure students’ academic standing isn’t negatively impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Advisors want to make sure their students have all the necessary resources and want to be as available to the students as they would have been on campus.

Sarah Root, an advisor in the College of Engineering, explained the difficulty of a quick transition to remote learning.

“My workload has increased 50 to 60% since moving online,” Root said. “We moved really fast to teach online, and a lot of work popped up. Not only do I have to manage 400 IE (industrial engineering) students, but I have to teach two 100 person classes.

I learned a lot, though. I learned that I needed to be a lot less strict and a lot more flexible,” she added. “At the end of the day, we are all learning together.”

Both the College of Engineering and the College of Education have established countless resources to make sure that the students have all of the information at their disposal. They have made a commitment to easing the transition, and that comes with the access of all information that the university has provided.

Megan Foster Schrock, an academic advisor in the College of Education, notes that the college has been making the transition as smooth as it possibly can, whether that means constant communication from Dean Kimberly Lawless or providing links to make sure all students have as much information as possible.

“All the advisors have virtual offices in Zoom, and students are strongly encouraged to make appointments with us via Starfish,” Shrock said. “Whether it’s to talk about scheduling, your current grades, or just to catch up, we’re still here for you.”

David R. Smith, the director of academic advisors in the Division of Undergraduate Studies, noted that many advisors have been asked to maintain or increase their pre-pandemic workload despite stressful current conditions. But as Smith pointed out, they’ve continued to put helping students first.

“The need to balance work and life in ways that no one anticipated is hard, but is incredible the ways that academic advisors consistently have risen to the challenge,” Smith said. “Their flexibility, their patience, their sense of humor, and their commitment to students is unwavering.”

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About the Author

Owen Abbey

Owen Abbey was a Secondary Education major before he graduated from the wonderful institution known as Penn State. When he was not writing for the blog, he enjoyed rooting for the Baltimore Orioles and Ravens, supporting Penn State basketball and softball, dreaming of all of the ways he would win the TV show "Survivor," and yes mom, actually doing school work. All of this work prepared him to teach his own class of students, which was always his true passion. He still can be found on Twitter @theowenabbey and can be reached for questions and comments at [email protected]

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