Student Support Spotlight​

SUNY campuses across the state are always finding new ways to support our online students. Here is the place to showcase these best practices!  Featured here are exemplary SUNY campus online student support programs and services.   

Know about a great SUNY campus online student support program or service?  Submit a nomination! 

Online Student Orientation:

GCC’s Student Success Course


As a cohort, online students bring with them a broad spectrum of readiness levels for online learning. Furthermore, online students frequently juggle multiple responsibilities, which place significant time demands on them and make it challenging for them to prioritize the time required for an orientation course.

Genesee Community College addressed these challenges with a redesign of their orientation course that provided promosing early results and positive tudent feedback. 

For more information, checkout GCC’s  2023 SUNY Student Success Summit presentation, “Leveraging the Success Course for GCC Students.” You can access the recording on the  2023 SUNY Student Success Summit YouTube page:

Facilitating Peer Connections for Online Learners:

Alfred State’s Online Student Lounge

Fully integrating students into their learning community is a key student success strategy. Strong connections with classmates can enhance a student’s sense of belonging in their program and at their institution. 

For online students, especially those attending asynchronously, providing opportunities to connect with classmates outside of the virtual classroom can be a challenge. Christy Schmitt and Lynn Orton, Alfred State Online Success Coaches, took on this challenge and created an “Online Student Lounge” in Microsoft Teams. Only students enrolled in Alfred State’s fully online, coach-supported, degree programs and their student success coaches were added to this space.  

In addition to the student-initiated chats, the Online Student Lounge has been a great space for Alfred State’s online student success coaches to encourage student conversations by asking a question, posting a poll, or sharing important information.  

Supporting Online Students’ Mental Health & Wellbeing:

FLCC & ESU Partnering with Student Mental Health Vendors

“The mental health crisis has important implications for student success. A Gallup survey in fall 2021 found that two-thirds of community college students and three-fourths of bachelor’s degree students had considered leaving school in the previous six months due to emotional stress. These responses doubled those of the prior year’s survey, and they far exceeded other common retention threats such as cost (24% for two-year students and 36% for four-year students) and academic difficulty (24% and 34%, respectively).” (Venit, 2022, p.14)

Sarah Whiffen, Associate VP for Student Affairs at Finger Lakes Community College and Joshua Boardman, Coordinator for Health & Wellness at Empire State University recently shared with the Online Student Success Collaborative Community of Practice how their campuses are addressing the increasing mental health needs of their students, including their fully online students. After partnering with outside vendors, both campuses are pleased with the quality and level of mental health services provided by their vendors and the feedback they have received from their students.

Sarah and Josh will be presenting on their respective college’s experience with mental health and wellness vendors at the 2023 SUNY Student Success Summit, April 26-28, 2023. This virtual summit is free to SUNY faculty and staff. Registration is now open.

Finger Lakes Community College – TimelyCare

  • 24/7 Telehealth services with provide choice
  • 24/7 Talk-now services
  • Scheduled counseling services (12 max)
  • % of population referral for psychiatry support
  • Unlimited “health coaching”

Finger Lakes Community College – EdSights Chatbot

  • 350+ “searchable questions for students to use
  • Seven surveys designed to measure one of four categories of risk: Financial, Academic, Social Belonging, and Wellbeing
  • Dashboard that provides instant feedback on at-risk students based on surveys
  • Specialized “campaigns” designed by campus to deliver announcements/news

Empire State University – LifeWorks My Student Support Program (MySSP)

  • 24/7, real-time, confidential mental-health support services for everything from an immediate crisis to everyday concerns, via phone and online/app chat 
  • Counseling from trained, master’s-level, multi-lingual clinicians (Counselors who speak Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese, French, and English are available 24/7. Other languages by appointment, depending on availability.) 
  • On-demand support — whenever, wherever — as many times as they need it, with no appointment necessary 
  • Wide range of self-guided support strategies in their branded mobile app
  • Variety of assessments to screen for anxiety, substance use, and depression
  • Free access to LIFT, a fitness app for body and mind

Venit, E. (2022). Navigating the Recovery: A Long-Term Perspective on Student Success Following the Pandemic-and What Actions you Can Take Now [White paper]. EAB.