Our Student Services Department is being constantly praised by our students. Our student advisors are known for taking excellent care of our students. We have decided to put the praises to the test and we have barged into the Student Services Department for an interview.
From the left: Lucy, Stephanie, Lenka
Please tell me – what is the gist of your unique approach to students?
Lucy: We have created a system of personal and individual care – one of us will serve as the point of contact for a student. This allows the development of trust and comfort as the student is not communicating with different advisors each time.
How do you determine which advisor is assigned which student? Do you flip a coin for example?
Lenka: No, no, that would not be professional, haha. Each advisor shelters certain programs and language variations. We use these criteria when dividing up students. Nevertheless, student comfort and satisfaction is our number one priority, therefore these criteria do not always apply. For example, if a student continues on with his doctoral studies with us after completing his master´s degree, decides to study in a different language, or wishes to change programs, while already being satisfied with his current advisor, we will indulge.
How does the process work, and what are the first steps?
Lucy: When an applicant becomes a student, he is immediately assigned a student advisor. Right away we contact the student with a welcome message, and we plan our initial Skype video interview. In this meeting, we will guide the student through the study system and all its components, for example, the e-library and webinars. We will also answer any questions the student might have, and if necessary, we can set up an individual study plan. It is paramount for us to meet the students personally, as this allows us to get to know each other and set the foundation for a fruitful and trustworthy cooperation. We want to assure the student that he can turn to us whenever he needs. Additionally, we maintain constant communication with our students, further emphasizing our care and our availability to him.
How does the Student Services Department operate at LIGS University?
Lenka: The reach of the Student Services Department is really wide. First and foremost, we take care of our students, we respond to their questions, solve their request or issues regarding their studies. This can include interruption of studies, prolongation or termination of studies, management of the LMS and cooperating with lecturers. We inform students of upcoming news through the LMS - webinars, conferences, and test results. We also take care of our fresh graduates. We immediately start working on the process of handling and handing over the diploma. Additionally, we try to get their feedback and evaluation of the studies through a survey, and we offer them follow-up studies at a better price. We also organize, in cooperation with other departments, the LIGS University graduation ceremony.
Walk us through your typical day, and what are the most common requests and questions you come across?
Stephanie: Our first and most important task is to familiarize the student with the LMS system and concisely explain to him what is required to successfully complete his studies.
We commonly come across and help the students in choosing a topic for their final thesis, and they are very keen on knowing how the cooperation with their supervisor will work.
As we stated before, we also maintain constant communication with our students and we monitor their progress. This really helps the student stay motivated and on track. It can sometimes happen, that the student is unable to finish his studies due to personal or work-related issues. In this case, we work out a prolongation plan with the student, focusing on successful completion of study activities and their comfort.
We are also a bridge between the lecturers and our students, making sure that communication is smooth and that both sides are happy.
How do you communicate with your students?
Lenka: We immediately contact a new student through the LMS with a welcome message, and we coordinate the initial Skype meeting. During the meeting, we want to get to know the student, explain every nook and cranny of the studies, and we answer all their questions. In the case of doctoral students, we pinpoint the area of their dissertation thesis, and we find them the most qualified supervisor. During the studies, we stay in touch with the student and offer them help and consultations especially during periods of their inactivity. We also respond to student requests and questions in the LMS, email, or by phone. When a student is nearing the end of his study license, we inform him of this fact and offer him consultations or help with the completion of his study activities. We also inform him of the option of prolonging his studies. The student advisor also coordinates and administrates dissertation thesis defenses in the case of doctoral students.
How often are you in contact with your students?
Lenka: It is highly individual, it really depends on how active the student is and in which phase of the studies he is. After the initial Skype meeting, you can boil it down to monitoring study progress every 2 – 3 months.
Do the students contact you outside your working hours?
Stephanie: Considering the fact that we have students from over 50 different countries, therefore many different time-zones, it happens frequently.
We follow the 24-hour rule, which means that even if we are contacted outside our working hours, we will get back to the student first thing the next day.
We do not want to hinder our students, which means that their questions and concerns are our priority.
How do you create an individual schedule of studies with the student?
Lenka: The flexibility of the online studies at LIGS University is an immense advantage, but it also requires a lot of discipline. From the start, especially for students of our MBA and MSc programs, I recommend creating and following a personally tailored study schedule. If the student is interested, I will gladly consult the schedule with him (I will warn of time consumption of each module, required activities, and I will recommend setting up a time reserve). Additionally, I will help him stay on track with the schedule by monitoring progress and contacting the student every 1 or 2 months with words of encouragement, offering help, or complimenting them on a fantastic job. Some students appreciate this approach and it keeps them motivated.
You are also in charge of communicating with lecturers – what does it entail?
Stephanie: We are in daily contact with our lecturers. Most notably due to the assignment of a supervisor for students´ theses. Thanks to our constant contact, we have gotten to know them better on a professional and personal level.
Just as with students, the lecturers turn to us with questions, consult procedures, and other special cases.
Our lecturers also contact us with their holidays and business trips. This prevents communication gaps between students and lecturers. We have a great overview of when a lecturer is available or unavailable.
Can you explain the Oxford Tutorial Model?
Lucy: The Oxford Tutorial Model is based on the relationship between the student, lecturer, course guarantor, and student advisor. Each course has an assigned lecturer, who helps the student through the course. The course guarantor is in charge of the quality and content of the course. The student advisor supports all involved parties.
How do you make sure that lecturers respond in time?
Stephanie: We get automated notifications in the case of incomplete tasks by our lecturers. This may include not replying to a communication, returning a paper or not filling out evaluations.
We are able to access lecturer and student accounts, where we can easily check if the lecturer is really behind on his tasks, and then we can alert him of the fact.
The tutors react to our alerts promptly and the student will have an answer, evaluation, or his paper returned within hours.
What if the student does not get along with his lecturer?
Stephanie: Our main priority is student comfort and satisfaction. If there is a case of bad blood between a student and a lecturer it becomes our main priority.
It may happen that a lecturer and student just do not get along. It may be caused by differences in opinions. Before resorting to the radical option of assigning a different lecturer, we try to find another solution. Sometimes the involvement of a student advisor can work as a catalyst in clearing the air.
If our efforts prove fruitless, we will resort to the option of assigning a different lecturer for the student. We do not want to force the student into an uncomfortable cooperation.
What do you most enjoy about being a student advisor?
Lenka: I enjoy working with people, even though it gets hard sometimes, haha. Helping, answering questions, solving issues, and guiding our students through the programs is very fulfilling. It makes me happy whenever I am able to help a student effectively through complications, may it be personal or work related, which then leads to successful completion of their studies. It also warms my heart when I receive a compliment on my efforts from the student. It means I did my best and that I helped someone through an important stage in their life.
Did you partake in the accreditation visit? What are your thoughts?
Lucy: Through its existence, LIGS University has come a long way. The accreditation visit in Hawaii was a wondrous experience. Having the opportunity to discuss my experiences with pioneers in the field of education was downright amazing. Many of them were blown away by our unique approach to students. They could not believe that we are able to individually and swiftly resolve all student communication, but what surprised them the most was that we practically know our students personally and that we remember all their names. This is very dear to us, we love what we do, and in my opinion, it makes us stand out above other online universities.
What are you working on now and what are your plans for the future?
Lucy: We are currently working on implementing the new student system CANVAS, which we would like to release next year. We are constantly doing revisions of our programs with our focus currently on our doctoral programs. We are hard at work with our DBA and Ph.D. programs to better meet and surpass the criteria of the US education system. As we are in daily contact with our students, we have plenty of feedback. This allows us to swiftly react to their needs and observations – we are able to constantly innovate and update our programs.
There is a long road ahead of us, but I am sure we are on the right track to further success.
Thank you for your time. :)