Utilizing Online Academic Coaching as an Added Value for International Student Support

Utilizing Online Academic Coaching as an Added Value for International Student Support

Emily Guetzoian
Copyright: © 2021 |Pages: 20
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-7000-5.ch014
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This chapter explores the utilization of academic coaching as a way to support international students in the online higher education environment. International students and online learners experience barriers to academic success which have been amplified by the COVID pandemic. Given the lack of a widely accepted definition of academic coaching in academia, the author describes what academic coaching is and why it is different from other academic services such as advising or tutoring. This chapter also offers an implementation guide for campuses and departments considering the implementation of such a program on their campus, especially given the budget constraints caused by the pandemic. This guide includes suggestions of who can serve as an academic coach, ideal training topics for coaches, and logistical considerations for the online environment. The chapter concludes with a recommendation for future research on the topic of academic coaching, especially as it relates to online learners and international students.
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The COVID-19 pandemic has brought innumerable challenges to higher education. These issues include financial challenges, such as budget cuts and hiring freezes, which run simultaneous with student demand for tuition and fee decreases. Campuses closing and moving to the online environment caused unexpected expenses, such as “refunds issued to students for room and board, increased cleaning operation costs, and growing technology costs from moving courses online” (Smalley, 2020, para. 9). Despite increased costs incurred by universities moving online, many students unsatisfied with the online experience felt like they were getting less value out of their education. This is especially impactful to international students whose desires to study abroad included actually living in their country of study.

There are both short-term and long-term ramifications of the pandemic, even once institutions return to their “new normal.” The largest four-year public university system in the United States, the California State University system, is “working under the assumption that the economic impact of COVID-19 will affect budgets for the next 3-4 years” (Nguyen et al., 2020, para. 10). Budget challenges have caused an impact to higher education staffing as well. Overall, “higher education employment has shrunk over 7 percent already, with almost 350,000 workers losing their jobs” and “additional cuts are inevitable as the pandemic and related economic turmoil continue” (Kroger, 2020, para. 4). With reduced higher education staffing and reduced budgets comes the potential for decreased or discontinued services, such as cuts to student support programs. This is especially impactful in the online environment since “additional academic support services may be needed more in online institutions” (Lehan et al., 2018, p. 290).

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, online enrollment in higher education continued to remain high. The Distance Education Enrollment Report of 2017 “reveals the number of higher education students taking at least one distance education course in 2015 now tops six million” (Online Learning Consortium, 2017, para. 1). That number represents approximately 29.7% of all students, meaning that more than one in four students are taking either fully online or partially online courses. Additionally, Pearson Higher Education Services managing director, David Daniels, states that “Distance learning continues to grow, demonstrating that institutions remain committed to expanding programs that meet the needs of today’s students” (Online Learning Consortium, 2017, para. 5). However, the hearty enrollment of students in online courses “has been overshadowed by course dropout and failure rates among online learners” (Britto & Rush, 2013, p. 29). To accommodate the larger student online enrollment, “educators must continue to find ways to manage the increased number of students, while maintaining engagement as well as high quality education” (White-Jefferson et al., 2020, p. 214). The abrupt shift to online learning meant that some campuses, departments, or faculty and staff may not have been prepared to deliver high-quality education in the online environment, and may not have had the knowledge or training on how to deliver that quality education to online learners. In the COVID and post-COVID higher education setting, “more universities will permanently enter the online education space” which “may attract some students to pursue online options” (Kroger, 2020, para. 10). This suggests that online learning is not going away once campuses are allowed to fully re-open for in-person learning. However, campuses and universities need strategies, knowledge, and resources on how to best support online learners and their unique needs.

International students may also struggle to be successful academically given the academic barriers that they face. There are pedagogical differences between many other countries and the United States, including ones that “have predisposed participants to write, thank, and talk in ways different from the United States” (Heng, 2019, p. 614). Chinese international students are one of the largest populations of international students and may struggle with the academic expectations in a new country, such as the concepts of self-directed learning, classroom participation, and group work (Heng, 2019). In addition, students may struggle with academic writing due to language barriers or the emphasis on argumentative writing in United States classrooms. Unfamiliar references in course content can be another academic barrier. Even students who had high Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) scores and grade point averages (GPAs) “grappled with unfamiliar sociocultural-economic-political references in humanities and social science subjects” which “created learning obstacles” (Heng, 2019, p. 618).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Liaison: A person, such as an academic success coach, who serves as a link to additional resources and services across campus for a student in order to help support their success.

COVID-19: The new strain of novel coronavirus, also called coronavirus disease 2019, which was first identified in December 2019 in Wuhan, China, and quickly spread across the world. It causes a mild to severe illness and/or death to those infected.

Academic Advising: The process of providing students with guidance on how to maintain and fulfill the academic requirements of their academic program.

Academic Coaching: A collaborative, one-on-one partnership between a coach and a student whereby they examine the student’s goals and barriers to academic success and work together to create a personalized plan for the student’s success. It may also be referred to as “Academic Success Coaching” or “Coaching.”

International Student: A student who holds residency in a country outside of the United States but is enrolled at a higher education institution in the United States for the purposes of obtaining an education, degree, or credential.

Tutor: A person who provides individualized or small group teaching support to one or more students in a specific academic subject matter or academic content, usually to supplement course instruction and support students with understanding challenging course materials.

Online Learning: The process whereby students study and attend classes online via a learning management system, the internet, synchronous or asynchronous lectures, and virtual projects, exams, or assignments in pursuit of learning a skill or attaining a credit towards an academic program.

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