Student-Advisor Interaction in Undergraduate Online Degree Programs: A factor in student retention

Carol Gravel


Higher educational institutions have experienced a dramatic growth in online enrollment, especially at the undergraduate level. The number of students who enroll in at least one online course has increased 250%, from 1.6 million in 2002 to over 5.6 million in 2009 (Allen & Seaman, 2010). Those enrolled in entire degree-programs online increased 335%, from .48 million in 2002 to more than 2.1 million in 2009 (Garrett, 2009). This growth in online enrollments is expected to continue (Allen & Seaman, 2010): The National Center of Educational Statistics (2006) estimated that by 2015 over 8.0 million students will be taking college courses online. ion (NACADA), based on input from researchers, policy makers, and practitioners, defined a set of standards for advising online students. The NACADA Standards for Advising Distance Education Students (National Academic Advising Association, 2010) stated that student-advisor interaction needs to be “individualized [so that students] become more effective in dealing with concerns that influence their pursuit of personal learning goals at a distance and at the time and delivery mode preferred by the learner.”


Academic Advising Inventory, Advisor role, Communication, Developmental advising, Internet, Prescriptive advising


● Two hundred eighty-three undergraduates seeking to earn their degree entirely through an online curriculum received an e-mail from the provost that defined the background and benefits of the study. The letter also pointed out that the online survey was available in their online course for a 2-week period. The response rate was 83.4%
● A two-phase exploratory mixed methods study was employed
● . Two participants who completed the Academic Advising Inventory (AAI) They were chosen for two reasons: First, they agreed to be interviewed, and second, the results of Part 1 of the AAI indicated they scored among the highest in terms of receiving a developmental or a prescriptive style of student advisor interaction
● Most interactions are developmental interactions
● t all respondents communicated with their advisors regarding all three types of matters: a) personalizing education, b) academic decisions, and c) selection of courses. The topic most often discussed with the advisors related to academic decision making. Selecting courses was the second most frequently discussed topic, followed by personalizing education.
● The responses to the items on the AAI regarding RQ1 indicated that the majority (n = 146) of respondents perceived a developmental style of student-advisor interaction. However, the mean score (M = 60) for these participants indicated that they rated the developmental interaction on the very low end of the Winston and Sandor’s (2002) developmental advising scale.

APA Citation

Gravel, C. A. (2012). Student-advisor interaction in undergraduate online degree programs: A factor in student retention. NACADA Journal, 32(2), 56-67.

About the Study

Links to Article
Mode Online
Publication Type Journal Article
In Publication NACADA
Type of Research Quantitative
Research Design Survey research (qualitative or quantitative)
Intervention/Areas of Study Advising and other institutional support
Level of Analysis Student-level
Specific Populations Examined
Peer-Reviewed Yes
Specific Institutional Characteristics of Interest Not-for-profit, Private
Specific Course or Program Characteristics
Outcome Variables of Interest Retention
Student Sample Size 200-299
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