Like most working professionals, you probably have your share of financial responsibilities. You have to pay a mortgage or rent, cover the bills and put food on the table for your family. If you’ve got kids, well, you don’t need us to tell you that parenthood is expensive. You may want to go back to school for your Master of Education in Counseling, but as an adult student, you need options to make your graduate education work.
Online learning can allow adult students to earn an M.Ed. in Counseling while remaining in their full-time jobs. You might even be able to get your school or district to cover some or all of your tuition costs. But research shows that students in online programs are more likely to succeed when they have strong support from their universities. Before you enrol in an online M.Ed. in Counseling program, you need to know what kind of student support you can expect to receive as an online student – the future of your education depends on it. Here’s what you should be looking for in your prospective university’s student support services.
Dedicated Counseling and Advising Staff
Online students should have access to the same level of career counselling and academic advising that students on campus have. But they shouldn’t be asked to go to the same counselling and advising staff that on-campus students speak to in person because the needs of online students, and the challenges they face, are different from those of on-campus students. As a result, you should have access to counselling and advising staff that are trained in helping students overcome the challenges of online instruction.
Ideally, your school should assign you a counsellor who can answer your questions, address your concerns, and provide you with one-on-one academic and career guidance. For example, at William & Mary, a Student Success Coordinator provides online M.Ed. in Counseling students with individualized support throughout their studies.
Just because you’re an online student from M.Ed. in Counseling program doesn’t mean you don’t want to potentially attend career fairs, forge relationships with your peers, or benefit from faculty mentorship. A strong student support services program offers online students the chance to attend virtual career fairs, as well as the chance to network with other students, whether that’s via online forums, on-campus residencies or study abroad trips.
24/7 Tech Support
As an online student, you could be taking classes hundreds or thousands of miles away from your university. You might not even be in the same time zone. Add to that the fact that you could be reviewing most of your course material at odd times of the day or night. You might want to start studying at 4:00 a.m. before the kids get up, for example. If you have technical problems, you need to be able to reach IT staff around the clock. That’s why 24/7 tech support for online students is so important.
Alumni services can help you plan your next career move and give you valuable personal and professional connections. Online students should get the same opportunities for membership in alumni associations and attendance at alumni events as are offered to on-campus students.
Full Access to Library and Bookstore Resources
You should have access to a bookstore that can ship textbooks to your location or give you digital access, or both. You should also have access to essential library services, including:
- Access to e-books and other online resources;
- Prompt delivery of items, either digitally or by courier;
- Reference help;
- Formats accessible to students with disabilities;
- Consultation services;
- Contractual or reciprocal borrowing;
- Access to materials in reserve; and
- Point-of-use assistance.
Strong Lines of Communication
As an online student, you should never have to wonder what’s going on with your education. You should be able to contact your school with questions or concerns easily and get answers just as easily. Quality student support services use proactive communication to try to head off most student questions and to ensure that students get the information they need. Talk to graduates or current students of your prospective online program beforehand to find out what you can expect from the school in terms of communication with your advisors, financial aid counsellors, professors and faculty mentors.
If you’re considering going to school online, you should know that quality student support services can mean the difference between success and failure as an online student. Make sure you carefully evaluate the quality of support services for online students before you enrol in a program. It’ll make things so much easier for you in the long run.
This article is contributed by Tiffany Rowe, writer of seekvisibility.com.