CSUDH library during sunset
Story Student Success

4 Ways Academic Advisors are Helping Students Succeed Online

Christianne Salvador


CSUDH library during sunset

​​​​​Academic advisors across the CSU are reimagining the way they serve students, giving literal meaning to the mantra ​“meeting students where they are."

While the pivot to virtual instruction has brought many changes to campuses, the CSU's advisors are viewing this critical moment as an opportunity to implement better ways to assist students and ensure they succeed in the digital learning environment.

“All students will be obtaining information online and for many of them, this is new," says Maria Grandone, Ph.D., director of the University Advisement Center at CSU Dominguez Hills. “Advisors are maximizing the technologies at their disposal so all students are supported and have the resources they need to excel."

Read on to learn four ways CSU advisors are helping students make the most of their online college experience at campuses across the state:

​​1. Virtual orientations

“The switch to online format has made freshman orientations less overwhelming and better tailored to meet each students' needs," says Grandone.  ​

Traditionally held as one or two days of back-to-back sessions, new student orientations are packed with information and students might not retain all of the information they receive. “This summer, orientations were held online and the videos are resonating with students because they have the option to revisit them at a later time," explains Grandone. One-pagers about​ campus resources and quick tips on study skills are also available in easy-to-digest documents for access throughout the semester.

Parents were able to participate in orientations as well. At campuses such as CSU Dominguez Hills and Humboldt State (HSU), orientations were offered in English and Spanish, making it accessible for many families of first-generation students.

One key aspect of orientations—the initial meeting with an advisor to register for classes—has become more personalized in the virtual space. “At CSU Channel Islands, students received materials to review along with a list of recommended courses before orientation day to prepare them for a productive one-on-one session with their advisor, similar to the flipped classroom approach," says Ernesto Guerrero, Ed.D., director of Academic Advising at CSUCI. “Students attended the meeting ready to discuss any questions for their advisors before proceeding to register for classes." ​

2. Embedding online learning tutorials into first-year courses

While some students may have started the fall semester with years of online learning experience, others required familiarization with processes and expectations. Many CSU campuses are supporting students' transition through programs like HSU's eLearning 101, a self-paced tutorial embedded in first-year courses.

Offered throughout the semester in a series of​ modules to prepare students for self-directed learning, topics include time management and how to engage in meaningful virtual discussions. Since the modules are taken as part of a course, completing them won't hinder students' time to degree.​

Originally developed at HSU in 2016, the eLearning 101 framework is particularly important for students from historically marginalized populations with limited experience in using certain software and the internet. It was adopted by several CSU campuses, including Cal State Long Beach and Cal State San Bernardino, and also inspired similar programs at other universities including University of Wisconsin-Madison and University of Arizona.​

3. Identifying students' needs through analytical platforms

Advisors are using strategic platforms to proactively identify the needs of students and send them direct messages. Most CSU campuses are employing the EAB Campus platform to use data analytics to closely observe student groups based on attributes such as high school test scores and majors. Students who may be in need of additional advising are flagged, allowing advisors to contact them through email or text. The platform can also run campaigns targeted at specific student groups.​

Another platform, You@College, supports student well-being in and out of the classroom. As part of the CSU's Basic Needs Initiative, the platform provides curated content from behavioral health, student life and higher education experts to support student mental and physical health and safety. You@College is especially helpful during the global health crisis caused by COVID-19.

4. Flexible office hours

Working remotely allows advisors to adjust their work hours beyond the regular 8 to 5. Advisors are more accessible than before, greatly benefitting students who are working full-time jobs or have limited availability. Many advisors are taking appointments as early as 7 a.m. to as late as 7 p.m., based on students' needs.​

As part of Graduation Initiative 2025, CSU faculty and staff remain committed to increasing graduation rates and eliminating equity gaps in degree completion, especially during this time of uncertainty. University advisors will continue to explore new ways of implementing technology into their practices to ensure that every student succeeds.