Advising Practices of Undergraduate Online Students in Private Higher Education

Adam Morris
Michael Miller


Many private colleges have begun offering courses or programs in technologically-mediated formats, specifically utilizing online or internet based programs. These programs provide opportunity and access to unique student populations, and the personal relationship element of private colleges is often challenged in these distributed programs. This challenge is particularly acute in advising relationships. Subsequently, the current study was designed to explore the use of advising best practices by private colleges' online programs. As an exploratory study, baseline data were collected through a literature-based, researcher-developed survey instrument. With a 40% response rate to the survey, data suggested that many programs are not intentional in their construction of advising protocols to serve online students


Academic Advising, Bachelors Degrees, Best practices, Blended learning, Distance education, Online courses, Online Surveys, Private Colleges, Statistical Analysis, Student Personnel Workers, Undergraduate students, Web Based Instruction


● As a largely descriptive study based on the conceptual issue of the importance of advising to private colleges as an element that helps create a ‘value-added’ perception and helps to justify higher tuition costs, the study employed the creation of a survey instrument. The research-team developed instrument was divided into two sections, the first of which requested baseline information about online program offering. This baseline information included basic descriptors about how verifying respondents use of online programs, in what disciplines the programs are offered, and who participates in advising.

● The sample was selected from private liberal arts colleges listed in the Higher Education Directory (Burke, 2006). With a sample size of 150
● In two weeks 60 responses were received- a 40% response rate
● Of the respondents, 11 senior academic affairs officers indicated that they did offer undergraduate degree programs online, 41 indicated that they did not offer any online programs, and one offered a program in a hybrid format (see Table 1). These 11 institutions offered a total of 51 exclusively online bachelor’s degree programs (averaging nearly 5 degrees per institution), and a large number of hybrid programs (n=24) that utilized both online and in-person instruction. The majority of these programs were identified as being offered in a business related field or in the liberal arts, and five institutions indicated that they made use of professional advisors for their online programs, and six institutions indicated that they relied on faculty advising.
● Over half of the respondents indicated that three of the activities were undertaken by advisors frequently or always. As shown in Table 2, these included encouraging meaningful interpersonal relationships with staff, faculty, and students (100% of respondents), promoting diversity (67% of respondents), and setting personal and educational goals (58% of respondents). Conversely, these senior academic affairs officers also indicated that three of the practices were rarely or never undertaken by advisors. These included assisting their advisees in becoming effective communicators (66.5% indicated rarely or never), promoting healthy behaviors (75% rarely/never), and assisting in developing a satisfying and productive lifestyle (67% rarely/never)

APA Citation

Morris, A. & Miller, M. Advising Practices of Undergraduate Online Students in Private Higher Education. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, 10(4),.

About the Study

Links to Article
Mode Online
Publication Type Journal Article
In Publication OpenURL Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration
Type of Research Theoretical
Research Design Not applicable
Intervention/Areas of Study Advising and other institutional support
Level of Analysis Student-level
Specific Populations Examined Undergraduates
Peer-Reviewed Yes
Specific Institutional Characteristics of Interest Private
Specific Course or Program Characteristics
Outcome Variables of Interest Satisfaction
Student Sample Size
Citing Articles,50&sciodt=0,50&hl=en