Best practices for supporting online students are based on the Online Learning Consortium (OLC) Online Student Support Scorecard. As a leader in higher education, the OLC fosters collaboration to advance online learning “quality, affordability, and access”. As an active member of the OLC, SUNY strives to provide the exemplary best practices outlined in the OLC scorecards.

Online student support includes services from the point of inquiry through graduation. In each of the service areas, the following overarching best practices are recommended:

    • Staff available to support students during business and non-business hours;
    • Support for students through multiple modalities: videoconference, phone, live chat, appointments, drop-ins, email, and webform;
    • Provided for all student populations – new, transfer, undergraduate, and graduate;
    • Compliance with current ADA laws, regulations, and guidelines.

Student Inquiries
  • Multiple ways for students to inquire with institution:  phone, email or webform, live chat, appointment, webform. 
  • Self-service information available on website. 
Virtual Tours
  • On-demand tours that include an overview of the “electronic” campus, services, and courses. 
  • Overview of technical and academic support. 
Online Applications
  • Can be accessed and submitted online. 
  • Can be started, saved, and continued as needed until ready to submit. 
  • One application for all populations (new, transfer, etc.) 
Online Document Submission & Tracking
  • All supporting documents – transcripts, recommendation letters, vaccination records – can be submitted online. 
  • Applicants receive an electronic confirmation (email, text, etc.) when documents have been submitted. 
  • Application and supporting documents are tracked in a self-service system that students can check 24/7. 
  • One-stop virtual location for students to receive support for application, financial aid, advising and enrollment. 
  • Online software program to guide students through application, admission, financial aid and enrollment processes.   
  • Self-service view and electronic notifications (email, text, etc.) reminding students of next steps in process. 
  • SUNY Best practice example:   SUNY Empire 1Stop 
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    Costs & Financial Aid
    Tuition & Fees
    • All tuition and fees for online students are clearly displayed on website. 
    • Tuition and fees calculator available for students based on individual (i.e., enrollment, residency, modality, etc.) 
    • Loan repayment calculator available for students based on individual situation. 
    • OER resources are used whenever possible to lower course material costs 
    Financial Aid Advising
    • Access to talk directly with financial aid professional, including entrance and exit counseling. 
    • Self-service information available on the website (i.e., forms, federal and state codes) 
    • SUNY best practice example:   
      Financial Literacy
      • Financial literacy can be accessed online via self-service, individual meetings, or group workshops with trained staff. 
      • Self-service information includes all costs, types of aid, budgeting, debt management, and financial wellness. 
      • SUNY best practice example:   
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      Veterans Services
      Veterans Affairs Support
      • Institution provides a veteran’s support office that includes staff trained on veteran student needs. 
      • Students can connect with other veterans, including students, faculty, staff, and alumni. 
      • SUNY best practice examples:   
      Transition Support Services
      • Institution provides assistance and counseling related to transitioning to the educational environment. 
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        Accessibility Services
        Request Accommodations
        Intake Appointments
        • Institution provides virtual intake appointments to students, but students are not required to have an intake appointment to receive accommodations.
        Academic Accommodations
          Assistive Technology
          • Institution provides access to assistive technology to online students (i.e., text-to-speech, voice typing, transcription, magnifiers, FM systems, GLEAN note-taking application, etc.) 
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          Pre-Enrollment Advising
          Transcript Evaluation/Degree Audit
          Online Readiness Support
          Academic Advising
          • Advisors meet with students to establish academic pathways and potential career goals. 
          • Students obtain transfer credit articulations and how the courses fit into their degree program. 
          • Advising contact information is available online. 
          Enrollment Planning
          • Degree paths and requirements are available online. 
          • Information about when courses are offered is available online. 
          • Advisors are available to assist with degree completion planning. 
          Prior Learning Assessment & Credit
          • Students can earn college credit for prior work, knowledge, experience, licensure, certifications, etc. 
          • Staff/faculty support and self-service information available throughout the process. 
          • SUNY best practice example:  SUNY Empire PLA   
          Placement Testing
          • Online options for testing are provided at institution. 
          • Other colleges and/or companies partner with the institution to provide testing in the student’s region. 


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          First Year Advising
          • Advisors are trained to work with first-time college students. 
          • Students are required to meet with an advisor before registering for their first semester. 
          • Self-service resources for first-time students are available online.
          Transfer Students
          • Staff are trained to work with transfer students. 
          • Orientation is designed to address specific transfer student needs including transfer credit, prior learning assessment, time to completion, support services. 


          • Schedule of classes and course catalog is available online in searchable format. 
          • Course registration process is outlined online. 
          • Students can self-register or have staff register for them.  
            Payment Processing
            • Payment for application, deposit, tuition, fees and transcripts can be completed through a secure online payment system that is user and mobile friendly. 
            • Students can utilize third party sponsorship and payment/installment plan to pay bill. 
            • SUNY best practice example: 
            Preview Week
            • Students have access to online courses in LMS at least seven days before the first day of classes. 
            • Readiness webinars are provided by student support services/success coaches to prepare students for online learning.  (i.e., LMS overview, time management, academic support, reading strategies, avoiding plagiarism, etc.) 
            • Success coaches are available to meet with students to develop academic success strategies with students. 
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            Post-Enrollment Services
            Academic Advising
            • Advisor works with student from admission through graduation. 
            • Advisor partners with student to plan out degree completion based on student’s individual goals, opportunities, and constraints.  Adjustments are made during student’s time at institution. 
            • Student has access to meet with advisor each semester. 
            Early Alerts
            • Early alert system is used by faculty and campus departments to keep students and track with course progress. 
            • Advisors, success coaches and/or appropriate campus departments are informed to provide student support and assistance. 
            • Designated department coordinates proactive, automatic, electronic messages to students that could impact successful student academic progress. (i.e., add/drop deadlines, withdrawal deadlines, registration, finals week, grade deadlines, etc.) 
            • Communication loops are closed with all involved in early alert messaging. 
            • SUNY best practice example:  SUNY Brockport Eagle Success 
            Success Coaching
            • Success coaches are trained on online student support needs. 
            • Coaches proactively reach out to students during key points in a semester or term. 
            • Collaborate with departments to provide assistance and support for student success. 
            Mental & Physical Health Services
            • Students have access to in person and virtual mental and physical health services. 
            • Staff are trained on online student challenges and issues. 
            • Best Practices Examples
            Personal Development
            • Institution provides opportunities for students to participate in organizations, clubs, service learning, mentoring, leadership, research, and any other activities available to on-campus students. 
            • SUNY best practice example:   
            Building Sense of Belonging & Connection
            • Create a online student virtual lounge
              • Alfred State – Microsoft Team Channel dedicated to online learners
            • Send online students campus-branded swag
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            Academic Support
            • Individual or group tutoring is provided to online students in all subjects taught online. 
            • Institution either provides the tutoring service internally or partners with a third party for tutoring services that support their degree programs.   
            • Appropriate technology tools for each subject are used to provide assistance. 
            • SUNY best practice example:    
            Writing Support
            • Support is provided to online students in all courses that require writing assignments. 
            • Students can access individual, group or via self-service assistance on the writing process, research writing, plagiarism, writing formats, citations, etc. 
            • Institution either provides the tutoring service internally or partners with a third party for tutoring services that support their degree programs.   
            • Appropriate technology tools for each subject are used to provide assistance. 
            • SUNY best practice example: 
            Software Access
            • Individual or group support is provided to online students in all math subjects taught online. 
            • Institution either provides the tutoring service internally or partners with a third party for tutoring services that support their degree programs.  
            • Self-service resources are available for students to utilize 24/7.  
            • Appropriate technology tools are used to provide assistance. 
              • Institution offers proctoring services to faculty & students via online, on-campus, or off-site location. 
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              Technology Support
              Technology Requirements
              • Minimal hardware and software requirements are included on public website, admissions information, course descriptions and in the syllabi.  Information should be accessible to students prior to enrollment.
              • Degree programs/courses that require more than the minimum requirements provide this information online.
              • Support is provided to students to obtain the technology needed for online courses.
              • SUNY best practice example:
              Help Desk
              • Support is offered 24/7 through phone, email, webform, or live chat.   
              • Staff is trained on online student technology issues and has appropriate access to resolve issues. 
              • Response of 24 hours or less to issues. 
              • Self-service resources about common issues are available online. 
              Math Support
              • Students can access software through a website or “check-out” process. 
              • Required software should be free or minimal cost to students. 
              • SUNY best practice examples:  
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              Library Services
              Library Faculty and Staff
              • Students can get individual virtual assistance from internal or external library faculty and staff. 
              • Staff are trained to work with online students. 
              • SUNY best practice example:
              Library Resources
              • Institution provides online collections and databases. 
              • eBooks and eJournals are available for download or check-out. 
              • Students have access to resources available at other partner libraries through interlibrary loan. 
              • SUNY best practice example: 
              Library Skills Workshops & Tutorials
              • Institution provides on-demand and/or live workshops and tutorials on research skills, citation guidelines, database use, information literacy, etc. 
              • Workshops and tutorials are institution specific, as needed. 
              • SUNY best practice example: 
              Library Accessibility
              • Resources provided by the library can be accessed using a computer, laptop, tablet or mobile device. 
              • Library has an app that is mobile friendly and can be used to access resources, support staff and tutorials. 
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              Career Counseling
              Career Development Support
              • Institution provides online career assessments, career & major exploration tools for students to complete on-demand. 
              • Students can meet individually with trained counselors, coaches and/or peers for guidance and support. 
              • Self-service on-demand workshops and tutorials are provided by the department. 
              Internship Services
              • Students can access internship services online. 
              • Students can complete an internship where they are located or virtually. 
              Career Search Support
              • Institution provides online access to job search strategies, interview preparation, resume & cover letter writing, and networking. 
              • Students have access to virtual career fairs and institution supported career fairs in their area. 
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              Graduate Student Services
              • Institution provides synchronous or asynchronous online orientation tailored toward specific graduate program expectations & requirements and student needs. 
              Academic Advising
              • Advisors are trained on specific needs of online graduate students in a specific degree program. 
              • Student work with the same advisor from admission through graduation on their goals and degree completion plan. 
              Research & Dissertation Guidance
              • Students have access to on-demand IRB training materials and information sessions. 
              • Institution provides information and guidance on how to apply for research grants. 
              • Students have access to on-demand resources about the process and best practices for writing and publishing a thesis or dissertation. 
              • Networking opportunities are available online for students to collaborate on research interests (discussion boards, student organizations, conferences, support groups, etc.) 
              • Faculty and/or staff advisors are available to meet with students throughout the research and dissertation process. 
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