Academic Advising in Distance
Education Degree Programs
Robert F. Curry
Old Dominion University
Good academic advising contributes to a caring environment, students' academic and career development, and a positive public image through satisfied students (Greenwood, 1984). Academic advising is the one function that covers both academic and student services; it deals with students from their first day at the institution to graduation (Gordon, 1992).
A student's success in distance learning is often determined by the quality of academic advising and other student services (Miller, 1993; Wagner, 1993). Distance learners are usually returning students, at least 25 years old, and employed (Peterson's, 1998). As reported by Sloan and Wilmes (1989), meetings with an academic advisor may be the first and only institutional contact adult students have outside the classroom. This is probably even more true for distant students, who may not have a classroom; if they do, it is away from the main campus.
Academic advisors currently face challenges in advising distance education students. This section discusses the role and practice of academic advising in distance education and presents summaries of articles about specific practices at individual institutions.
Despite advising's importance, it is often an activity that is not adequately staffed or rewarded (Habley, 1998). With large caseloads and multiple responsibilities, advisors may not have adequate time for advising students. Advisors face these difficulties regardless of the student population served, but advising students at a distance presents additional challenges.
Because of the physical separation of advisor and student, communication may be infrequent and impersonal. If the advisor never meets the student individually, the student may