Global Campus Coaching Online Students to Success with Live Webinars

September 21, 2023  |  by Heidi Wells, Global Campus

Global Campus staff at the University of Arkansas look at students enrolled in online degree programs the way coaches in the competitive world of sports look at their players: they want them to succeed.

The Global Campus supports academic departments in the development and delivery of online, distance and workforce education programs and courses. Over the past few years, the Office of Recruitment and Student Outreach at the Global Campus has developed new ways of helping online program students, including creating the staff positions of coaches and student liaisons.

Kati Williams

Liaisons are available for extended hours by chat, phone and email during the week and for four hours on Saturdays to answer questions for prospective students about getting enrolled and navigating life as an online student. Coaches are available by appointment to serve as a personal guide to academic resources provided by the U of A. Services of the liaisons and coaches come at no additional cost to students.

Now, to further that goal of reaching out to make sure students know about resources available to them – and use them – the online coaches have created a series of live webinars pulling together resources, strategies and other information. The coaches discuss the latest topics in online learning, tips and tools students need to be successful, and upcoming events at the university.

Kati Williams, the online student coaching coordinator, also works as a coach.

“We saw this as another way of trying to reach students outside of sending weekly emails,” Williams said. “We also wanted to put our faces out there where people can see us. Our primary focus is student success and retention. The content is based on our conversations with students.”


Serving Students

Selin Nelson

The video series dubbed “The Insider” serves students in two ways. They can join the sessions live on Zoom and use the chat function to write questions or they can speak on camera directly to coaches. A student prepared dinner for her children while watching a recent session.

Sessions are scheduled for 6 p.m. CDT the last Tuesday of each month, and the coaches plan to offer eight sessions. They picked a time after business hours because it’s common for students enrolled in online degree programs to work full time. The coaches email students the Friday before the scheduled session and send another notification an hour before it starts.

Or, students can watch recordings of the sessions later on the Global Campus YouTube channel. Each session contains contact information so that a student can reach out to a coach for help. Students watching live can ask questions on the spot about topics the coaches cover such as:

  • How can keeping a planner or calendar up-to-date help you remember assignments?
  • How do you stay motivated in a virtual environment?
  • What goes into a professional email?
  • What does the typical study cycle look like?

One of the coaches had put together a series of slides with information about the Global Campus coaching program and other U of A resources that students studying online can access based on her conversations with students about what they needed. The Student Success Center, which includes the Writing Studio; the Offices of Career Connections, to help students transition into the workplace; TutorMe, a service available through Blackboard Learn; and the Online Student Union, a virtual gathering place for online students to make connections and support each other, have all been featured.


Guest Speaker

Abi Moser

Some sessions include guests such as Abi Moser, the Blackboard support coordinator at Global Campus, who appeared on the webinar Aug. 29 helping students navigate the Blackboard learning management system. Although the Blackboard help team of Moser and three support specialists is based at Global Campus, it serves the entire campus, including students enrolled in on-campus degree programs. All online degree programs use Blackboard Learn as their learning management system, and most on-campus programs also use the Blackboard platform for several purposes, including posting student grades.

Moser emphasized to students the importance of asking for help early in a project, a semester or any process, rather than waiting until something is due.

The Blackboard help team works from:

  • 7 a.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday.
  • 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday.
  • 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.
  • 11 a.m. to midnight Sunday.

The Information Technology Services help desk offers longer hours and can help students with technology issues.

Moser suggests that students give themselves arbitrary deadlines that are at least a couple of hours ahead of actual deadlines. Otherwise, if they wait 10 minutes before an assignment is due to call the help desk, it’s possible all the lines might be busy.

“People think we are a call center with hundreds of people but we’re not,” she said. “We can serve only three people at one time so please force yourself not to procrastinate and wait until the last minute so that, if anything does go wrong, you’ll have support.”

She also encouraged students not to wrestle with an issue more than 15 minutes before asking for help by phone, email or submitting a help desk ticket.

“It’s our job to help you,” she said. “Yes, we want you to learn how to search for answers, spend 15 minutes trying to figure something out, Google it, read Blackboard help articles, watch videos, but don’t get frustrated.”

Other tips Moser offered concerned profile settings and equipment and software upgrades. She suggests students put a picture in their profile settings because sometimes others you interact with online can be unfriendly or unhelpful when you have only the gray outline of a person’s head, making you anonymous to a degree. Personalizing your profile, even if you use a pet’s image or an avatar, makes you more personable and relatable as well as recognizable to classmates you may never meet in person, she said.

She also showed students how to check their profile information is accurate and how to customize their notifications from the Blackboard system.

As for computer upgrades, a simple task many people don’t know is that they must turn off the computer and turn it back on for the upgrade to finish, Moser said. Just closing the computer only puts it to sleep, leaving the upgrade unfinished.

Moser also pointed students to resources and software available to them free that are covered by student fees, including Microsoft Office 365.

More than 550 students in degree programs delivered online graduated last spring. The U of A offers more than 90 online degree, certificate, microcertificate and licensure programs. They can be viewed at U of A ONLINE.

Photo of Heidi Wells

Heidi Wells

Content Strategist

Heidi Wells is the content strategist for the Global Campus at the University of Arkansas and editor of The Online Learner. Her writing spans more than 30 years as a communicator at the U of A and a reporter and editor at Arkansas newspapers. Wells earned two degrees from the U of A: a master's in 2013 and a bachelor's in 1988.

Wells can be reached at or 479-575-7239.

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