Supporting online learners: academics and beyond

Everyone within the university system is well aware of the many benefits to online classes. The downside, however, is that those same distance and online learners are not always able to get the same level of care and support as they would in an in-person setting. Like many departments on campus, the COVID-19 Pandemic drastically changed the way in which Student Support Services (SSS) needed to operate. Not all change is bad though! In fact, some of these changes have allowed us to reach an even wider population of students that are not physically here on campus or even in Alaska. SSS can serve students that are first generation, low-income, and/or have a documented disability.

What resources does SSS provide for online learners?

With many of our major services – advising, tutoring, and peer mentoring – we have been able to provide both in-person and virtual services to all of our students. Whether they need to meet over Zoom or over the phone, advisors and tutors can make it work! We have even partnered with to provide 24/7 online tutoring assistance in addition to our student tutors and peer mentors. The subjects available on include:

  • Business (including Accounting)
  • Computer Science
  • Career Help
  • Foreign Languages
  • Marketing
  • Communications
  • Math (various levels)
  • Nursing and Health Care
  • Science (various)
  • Social Science and Humanities
  • Student Success Skills (life skills; time management)
  • Writing
  • Technology help (Canvas, Blackboard, Google Docs, etc.)

For those students that are unable to stop by our office, we have created an SSS Canvas page in which students can access the same information and resources they would connect with on campus. They can connect with various departments including Financial Aid, CTL, Disability Services, among many others. We also provide links to all of the other services we provide for easy access. Finally, at the very bottom of the page, we have included a link where students can let us know if we are missing anything or if there is something else they want to see on Canvas.

What about things other than their academics?

Building a supportive community within the university is the very heart of what we do at SSS and we have strived to extend this to include our distance students as well. Having a virtual option for various academic events is fantastic, but it does not provide the same sort of social interactions many students crave. We have tried our hardest to change this!

If they are not on campus, students can join our bi-weekly crafting club virtually. The great thing about this is that students get to share the crafts they have been working on at home with their peers! We have had students show off their creations as well as their work-in-progress projects in various mediums from resin to crochet. These events don’t have to be complicated! We have found that something as simple as sending students a supply list for a craft and a Zoom link that then allows them to connect with other students doing the same exact craft together goes a long way toward building that community.

And students don’t have to be crafty to get involved! We have hosted games nights where students from all over can play virtual Jackbox games together and get to know their fellow SSS students. This has been a popular event even among our advisors!

SSS and beyond…

Student Support Services has a new embedded mental health counselor in our office that provides counseling and other mental health resources to our students. While the mental health resources that UAF can provide are a bit more limited for out-of-state students, they still have access to Student Health and Counseling services. The Student Health and Counseling Center hosts consultation hours every weekday (Monday through Friday) from 1 to 2pm. These hours are available for students, staff, faculty, and even parents to consult with a trained mental health counselor about any mental health questions or concerns. Learn more about consultation here or contact Student Health and Counseling at 907-474-7043.

Student Support Services also works closely with the Center for Student Rights and Responsibilities (CSRR) to help students find resources in their own communities as well. Whether it is related to housing or food insecurity, counseling or health care, CSRR can help students connect with resources even if they are not in Alaska.

These partnerships have also allowed us to provide distance students with even more support. Whether they are looking for academic resources or community building SSS is still here to help no matter where they are located!

If you know a student that might benefit from Student Support Services, you can refer to them to us through our online referral form.

Montana Goss

Montana received her BS in Biology from the University of Alaska Fairbanks and her MSc from Kingston University London. She has been working as a STEM Advisor for Student Support Services for 2.5 years and has been the instructor for the SSS Emerging Scholars Academy’s fall College Success Skill course since 2020.

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