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Mary Ross

What’s New in ConexED? August Product Releases 1024 536

What’s New in ConexED? August Product Releases

What’s New in ConexED? August Product Releases

August product releases were hyperfocused on creating smooth, uninterrupted user experiences. Having launched so many new features this year, we spent the month reviewing past designs and builds to make sure everything was in great working order.

Our development team held what we affectionately called a “bugathon,” working weekends and into the night to get the platform that much closer to perfection. In total, we released nearly 30 enhancements, as well as several new features, including those highlighted below.

Chat Statistics Report

With many schools shifting to fully virtual student services, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in the number of chat sessions for student support. ConexED already had a Chat History Report, but we went further, creating a Chat Statistics Report that can be filtered by staff member and date range with usage stats for these fields:

  • Chats by staff
  • Chats by month
  • Chats by weekday
  • Chats by start time
  • Chats by meeting length
  • Chats that led to a Cafe meeting

A sample report shown below tallies the number of chats by weekday. A complete Chat Statistics Report includes sections for all fields listed above.

SIS File Uploads

Our new options for uploading files from your student information system make it more flexible to import SIS data. Here are three easy ways to get files from your SIS into ConexED:

  1. Self-Service Uploads. This option enables manual uploads with the ability to define how fields are mapped to the ConexED database schema, save mapping for future uploads, and check the progress/status of upload(s).
  2. Asynchronous Uploads. This option makes it possible to upload files in the background while you continue working in the platform. The system processes the upload, logging errors and the status of the job.
  3. API Uploads. This option provides a public API endpoint for single files or batch uploads. It uses the same field-level mapping as defined in the user interface.

Check back next month for a summary of September releases!

See ConexED in Action

If your institution hasn’t yet started using ConexED, submit the form below to request a demo. We’ll show you how these and other features will help you deliver high-quality student services and instruction online.

How to Adapt Academic Advising to a Virtual Environment 1024 683

How to Adapt Academic Advising to a Virtual Environment

How to Adapt Academic Advising to a Virtual Environment

Academic advisors adapt their approach based on the needs and strengths of individual students. In some cases, they may use multiple approaches during one advising appointment. But now, as more institutions announce fall 2020 plans for online or hybrid learning, advisors need to adapt their in-office methods to a virtual environment.

The good news is that going virtual is easy with the right virtual tools. Below are a range of advising approaches—from active to passive—with tactics for virtualizing advisor-student interactions.

Proactive Advising: Reach Out Before Students Need Help

Also known as intrusive advising, this approach makes academic support staff responsible for student success. Not only do advisors initiate contact with students, they take the lead in telling students what to do.

Proactive advising is an effective way to help first-year and first-generation students stay on track while developing a supportive, ongoing relationship with someone from the institution. The first step toward proactive virtual advising is proactive communication. Tactics include:

  • Targeted emails and text messages. Keep students informed about relevant deadlines, events, and campus resources. Segment messages for different groups (such as freshmen, graduating seniors, or by area of study) and include targeted FAQS to reduce the number of inquiries flooding your inbox.
  • Standing virtual meetings. Book a virtual meeting with every student in your cohort before next term’s registration deadline. Rather than making calls and playing phone tag, send students the link to your online self-scheduling system. This will give them more control to make and change appointments, while also reducing the administrative burden for your team.
  • Virtual orientations, workshops, and information sessions. In addition to 1:1 meetings, consider hosting synchronous online sessions for groups. Group advising can be paired with proactive advising to keep student cohorts informed and connected with advisors and each other.

As COVID-19 disrupts on-campus learning and services in 2020, proactive advising will be critical to keep at-risk students from falling behind or dropping out. 

Developmental Advising: Partner With Students to Achieve Success

Developmental advising aims to help students grow socially, emotionally, and cognitively. Rooted in student development theory, this approach requires advisors to partner with students to identify what they value personally and academically.

As partners, advisors need to track students’ progress from one appointment to the next. They also need to help students develop, implement, and monitor short- and long-term goals. Tactics include:

  • Dynamic student success plans. Use a virtual student services platform to develop an individualized plan for each student that can be monitored/updated by every service group on campus. Your software platform should make it easy to track student interactions with different departments, applying case management methodologies to identify when they may need support or follow up.
  • Interactive virtual tools. During virtual advising sessions, share a virtual whiteboard or Google Doc that you can edit with students in real time. This is valuable for brainstorming, collaborative list making, and zeroing in on students’ personal and academic goals.
  • Virtual meeting archives and chat histories. Make sure your virtual platform archives text transcripts from all virtual meetings and online chats. Being able to reference past discussions is an important way to help students stay focused on their goals.

Whether advising students online or on campus, technology makes it easier to keep tabs on their interactions with other service groups, and to follow their progress.

Advising as Coaching: Help Students Help Themselves

As an approach to academic advising, coaching emphasizes students’ personal responsibility for their success. Advisors are there to help students explore their options and create a plan of action. And, as coaches, they offer feedback and encouragement throughout the process.

To help students help themselves online, advisors need to eliminate barriers by making online support more visible, flexible, and accessible. Tactics include:

  • Interactive contact cards. Embed an online business card on your departmental or course website that gives students the ability to make contact directly from the card. This helps students figure out who they need to contact from each service unit and how to reach out without making a call or sending an email.
  • Virtual drop-in hours. Mirror the on-campus experience by giving students the ability to virtually drop in for appointments. Use your online scheduling system to block out open office hours each week, then post those hours on your online contact card so students know when you’re free for a spontaneous chat.
  • Instant messaging. Make it easy for students to reach out with quick questions via online chat or instant messaging. This is the simplest way to increase students’ access to online support when they need help or encouragement from a trusted advisor.

When it comes to advising approaches, one size doesn’t fit all. But the virtual tactics outlined above can be customized for any approach you use—from prescriptive advising to appreciative advising, and everything in between. To learn about ConexED virtual tools for online advising and support, submit your contact information in the form below.

Get a free demo and request more information.

What’s New in ConexED? July Product Releases 1024 536

What’s New in ConexED? July Product Releases

What’s New in ConexED? July Product Releases

This month, we began launching new features, updates, and bug fixes every other Thursday. Our goal: to continue adding and improving all the features you need to connect and engage with students. Here are the highlights from our July 9 and July 23 releases.

ConexED iOS App 2.2.3

We updated our iOS app for a more user-friendly experience. The app enables students, staff, and faculty to join virtual meetings and video conferences on their mobile devices.

The app provides:

  • Audio, video, and text chat functionality
  • Access to built-in tools like the whiteboard, document library, and digital signatures
  • Closed captioning and compatibility with major screen and text-to-speech readers

ConexED CEO Tracy Gorham said, “Our team worked diligently on this new version and I’m excited to make it available to users on the App Store.”

Expanded Browser Support

ConexED is now compatible with the latest versions of major web browsers, including Chrome, Edge, and Firefox. Support for Safari is on the product roadmap for later in 2020. This means more flexibility to use your favorite tools and less confusion for students.

Institutions Hierarchy

For community college districts or higher ed systems with multiple schools, our new Institutions Hierarchy streamlines account administration and reporting. It gives district-level admins the ability to create scheduling exceptions, reason codes, and other shared settings for all related institutions. This saves time and ensures consistent, comprehensive data collection for reporting.

For example, the Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD) has nine colleges. District-level admins log in to ConexED via one central account. With the Institutions Hierarchy, they can now manage accounts and data on a systemwide level or choose individual institutions from a dropdown list as shown below.

This feature gives every ConexED customer with multiple schools the ability to run reports (e.g., how many students met with an academic advisor this month) for individual campuses or across every institution. Additionally, it gives faculty and staff who work for multiple schools in the same system the ability to schedule and host meetings through one centralized account—while providing a seamless experience for students.

ConexED Director of Customer Success Heather Lund said, “With our Institutions Hierarchy, districts can easily pull data for all schools, and make group setup consistent for students, faculty, and staff across institutions.”

Report Status Button & Email

A new button will show the status of the current report in your queue. When it’s ready, the status will change and you can then view the report.

Additionally, you can now run any type of new report, log out of the platform, and ConexED will send you an email with a link to the report once it’s complete. This resolves the issue some users experienced when the system timed out before lengthy reports were ready.

Check back next month for a summary of August releases!

See ConexED in Action

If your institution hasn’t yet started using ConexED, submit the form below to request a demo. We’ll show you how these and other features will help you deliver high-quality student services and instruction online.

Online Counseling: Serving Students With Disabilities 678 278

Online Counseling: Serving Students With Disabilities

Online Counseling: Serving Students With Disabilities

By Dennis O. Cambara M.A., DSPS/RISE Counselor/Instructor at the Chabot College Disabled Student Resource Center (DSRC)

Last month, the Online Counseling Network invited me to present in a series of webinars about how colleges are using ConexED to increase student access to online counseling and advising. As a counselor/instructor for the Disabled Student Resource Center at Chabot College, I shared the following insights about how my department is using the ConexED platform.

Eliminating Barriers With Student-Centered Technology

For students who have a disability or illness, coming to campus can be a barrier. Online counseling makes it possible for students of all abilities to participate in college support services.

ConexEd enables a more robust experience than emailing back and forth or discussing needs over the phone. The platform has many features that allow counselors to not only interact meaningfully with students but to facilitate learning. They include the following:

  • Self-scheduling for online meetings. Students can self-schedule appointments for online counseling. This allows them to seek support on their terms in a location that’s best for them.
  • Access from any internet-connected device. Students can connect from their computers/laptops, as well as their tablets, iPads, and smartphones.
  • Collaborative tools. Students can get interactive, real-time help on documents and presentations with online highlighters, text-boxes, shapes, arrows, and more.
  • Digital signatures. Students can sign forms with the counselor in the online session. When a student signs a form, their counselor is notified which form was signed.
  • Chat box. Students can communicate with their counselors as if they were texting. This is a great feature if the student’s mic isn’t working or if they’re non-verbal, deaf, or hard of hearing.
  • Closed captioning. Students can read the transcript of your meeting, which is especially helpful for those who are deaf, hard of hearing, or have learning disabilities (but everyone can benefit from this universal design tool). Although closed captioning in the platform is not completely accurate, the feature is constantly improving. To increase accuracy, I recommend using a headset with the mic close to your mouth, and making sure you enunciate.

Adapting On-Campus Methods for Online Advising

Counseling students with disabilities online can be intimidating because you have to learn how to navigate e-learning tools while still meeting students’ unique needs. Many of us have a style for conducting face-to-face counseling sessions, and it takes time to establish a style using a virtual platform.

With practice and intentional effort, you can easily replicate methods used for face-to-face appointments in an online environment. Here are three steps you can take to start adapting your on-campus style for online advising:

  1. Consider allocating time throughout the week just for online counseling. This will give you an opportunity to master the e-learning tools and start to get a feel for your online style.
  2. Carve out extra time for potential technical difficulties. Depending on their technology skills, your students may have issues. These challenges can eat up your counseling appointment, so it’s important to allow extra time to meet student needs during these situations.
  3. If you run out of time, schedule a follow up appointment. Online counseling appointments are more unpredictable because of the possibility for technical challenges. Be prepared to work through these difficulties with students and model calm behaviors while getting back on track. If you need more time, schedule it.

Expanding Online Counseling at Chabot College

When I started at Chabot College, only two counselors were using ConexED to counsel students. Since then, I’ve had the privilege of working with my DSPS director to expand our online counseling services.

I’ve recently been working on proposals for conference presentations to demonstrate this new way of working with our student population online. I’ve also presented at campus-wide committee meetings, Flex-day, training activities, and have collaborated with other campus departments that want to start using ConexED.

My goal at Chabot College is to help the whole campus replicate on-campus services for an online environment. This will expand services for every student, while providing more equitable access to students of all abilities.

As an educator in post-secondary education, I understand that technology is the way of the future. With ConexED, I can eliminate barriers and do more to help students with their personal and academic growth.