Adam Duberstein, NACADA Webinar Advisory Board Member
Reprinted from Academic Advising Today, 35:2, June 2012
The National Academic Advising Association’s webinars exemplify a cost-effective professional development opportunity in which presenters explore some of the most pressing contemporary concerns in our field. Additionally, these webinars can build community among diverse constituencies across a college campus. At Ohio Dominican University in Columbus, Ohio, the Academic Advising Center opens the NACADA webinars to all interested university community members. Not only does this inclusiveness foster better partnerships with other staff, faculty, and students, it also allows professional advisors to showcase the links between advising and other areas of higher education.
Recent webinars have included discussions of advising and the law, working with students who come from China, and conducting assessment of academic advising programs. These topics deal with advising while involving other units on campus. For example, employees of the admissions and study abroad offices attended the webinar which discussed Chinese students’ culturally-unique advising needs, so that they could better recruit and retain Chinese students on campus; members of the tutorial services staff came to the webinar on assessment so that they could translate the assessment skills learned in the webinar into self-study projects regarding their own office.
Webinars make our work as advisors more visible and more understandable to those campus community partners who neither advise students nor recognize how to define academic advising. According to Habley (2009): “Beginning…in 1979, the call for quality research to support the field [of advising] has been unrelenting and has taken on increasing urgency now that academic advising is far more visible on the higher education scene” (p. 82). The fact that NACADA’s webinars are grounded in strong research attracts faculty attendance. Faculty attendees at Ohio Dominican webinars comment that they find the presenters’ research both relatable and understandable, and the faculty members add that they can better conceptualize how to advise students because of the webinars’ strong base in research.
While the webinars’ presenters demonstrate expertise as researchers and practitioners in their respective areas of advising, many of the professionals tasked with hosting the webinars possess two central worries. Technology setup proves itself one major concern; NACADA easily rectifies this problem by explaining how to connect to the webinar. If one visits http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Connect/participants.htm prior to the webinar, any technology issues can easily be resolved by the webinar hosts or by an information technologist on campus before the webinar begins. Advisors and other professionals need not feel dissuaded by technical difficulties, as Riddle (2010) reminds readers: “[b]ecause meetings can be recorded, those who miss training sessions can view them in segments or in their entirety at a later date” (p. 28). Thus, webinar attendees can receive the information asynchronously if a technological issue exists or if a job-related problem arises and they need to leave the session.
By the very nature of their jobs, advising administrators find themselves dealing with budgetary matters, which could pose a problem for those who advocate webinars. Realistically, it makes sense that some administrators could approach webinars with cost-related trepidation. However, by inviting many campus constituents, and by holding a discussion afterwards, the fees prove quite minimal. Additionally, each webinar presenter prepares handouts prior to the session. These documents need not be printed, and instead can be downloaded, so even printing costs decrease. Administrators’ staffs have different learning styles, and webinar presenters demonstrate a deep respect for a variety of learning modalities, as PowerPoint, hyperlinks, and even a chat box exist in the webinars’ presentation room. Those advisors inclined to use Twitter often “tweet” comments to the presenters and other participants as they follow the webinar, which allows them a unique way to engage the higher education technology community with the material presented. Riddle (2010) opines: “All in all, [webinars are] a convenient, efficient—and comfortable—way to receive and deliver information” (p. 28). At Ohio Dominican, the advising staff reserves a large computer classroom, and those who feel inclined can use Twitter or send their questions to the webinar presenters via the on-screen chat box. This informal atmosphere saves the institution money and allows for international interactions, as other institutions simultaneously participate in the webinar.
If advising professionals utilize these webinars creatively, they can introduce non-advisors to advising practice and theory while learning how to improve their own advising practice. Carr (2010) points out that “Online [professional development] may offer a solution to heightening skills, enhancing strategies, and expanding upon theory to inform practice better” (p. 13). With the opportunity to integrate social media into webinars and the chance to explain how advising affects all campus professionals – faculty and staff alike – institutions would do well to invest in these efficient and effective professional development opportunities for their employees. To use webinar technology to teach advising not only connects advisors to new ideas, it networks campus partners to one another.
Bowling Green State University
Editor’s note:Formerly of Ohio Dominican University, Adam Duberstein begins a doctoral program this month at Bowling Green State University.
Carr, V. B. (2010). The viability of online education for professional development. AASA Journal of Scholarship and Practice, 7, 6-14.
Habley, W. R. (2009). Academic advising as a field of inquiry. NACADA Journal, 29, 76-83.
Riddle, J. (2010). Through the computer screen: On the other side of the webinar. MultiMedia Internet at Schools, 17, 28-31.