Adjunct Counselor at Los Angeles Southwest College
About a year and a half ago, the world turned upside down when the COVID 19 pandemic hit. Most of the world had to transition from going to the office every day to shutting down the offices and working from home. In many ways that transition was difficult and full of uncertainties. Our Counseling Department at Los Angeles Southwest College (LASC) transformed into a home office, where counselors were expected to provide the same quality of counseling services to students that were provided while physically present at the college. I wondered how I could be expected to provide the same quality of support and services through online advising if I would not have the ability to see my students, as their physical expressions and body language are so important to create a rapport with them.
A few days before the Counseling Department at LASC transitioned into working from home, we were informed that counselors would be using the ConexED student services platform to continue providing counseling to our student population from home. ConexEd has become the most vital service that I use to connect with and counsel students. With this platform, I can now provide virtual student services and am able to deliver the exact same services that I provided in person virtually utilizing the Cranium Cafe meeting space. LASC students can access the ConexED platform to meet virtually with their academic counselors, message the counselors when they are offline, and create appointments with the scheduling system all in one system. The easy-to-use features and versatility of this platform have made my day-to-day virtual counseling sessions easier to manage.
Providing Virtual Student Services
It is important to explain a little bit of the academic counseling process to understand why ConexED has become indispensable to my work. When I meet with a student, I discuss their academic and career goals. I review what the requirements are in order for them to begin to work towards those goals. For example, I might have a student whose goal is to get an Associate Degree in Sociology. When I meet with the student to provide online advising, we have to review the requirements for that degree using a degree requirement sheet. As you can imagine, counselors have and use many sheets/documents given the array of majors available at LASC. At first, I wondered how I would be able to share these documents with the student in order for them to really visualize what the requirements are for them to reach their goal. However, I quickly realized while utilizing the ConexED service that I was able to upload a PDF version of all the documents that I use in a counseling meeting into the platform itself. Once all of my documents were uploaded into the Document Library, I no longer have to search for each document individually on my computer, which allows me to help the student faster.
Now every time I meet with a student via Cranium Cafe, I can quickly and efficiently pull up a document within the meeting to share with them. The documents open for both the counselor and the student at the same time. While the student is looking at the document, I can mark up the document utilizing the tools embedded into the white board. For example, I can check off any classes the student has completed and write in additional notes. The student can watch me doing this in real time. Once we are done using the documents, the student can save a PDF copy for themselves. The ability to save the document is so important because in person I can hand them their copy as a takeaway, and with ConexED, they can download the document to their computer and save it. This means they can have a copy readily available whenever they need to review it again. This is so important as students use the documents given to them by the counselor to help them select courses for each semester. The student is empowered to refer back to the sheets as guides whenever they need to make their class selection by simply saving a copy for themselves on their computer. When I follow up with the student in a future meeting, I can revert back to the documents that we previously used as they are saved in the system. The user-friendly features and tools make any meeting with a student smooth. The Document Library, document sharing, and document collaboration (students can also mark up and sign documents while in the meeting!) capabilities of ConexEd make this service functional for everyday meetings with students.
Tools for Online Advising
Another component that I like to utilize while doing my virtual counseling sessions is the ability to share a screen. At times I meet with students who are ready to transfer from our community college to a four-year university. This means they need assistance with their college applications. As you can imagine, this can be an anxiety ridden process for a student who is hoping to transfer into their dream university. When I meet with students, I can review their college admissions application by simply having them share their screen with me. While they are sharing their screen, I can give them advice to help them improve their application and increase their chance of gaining admission. This gives the student peace of mind, knowing that a counselor has reviewed their applications before they submit them and makes the process a little bit easier for them.
I meet with many students throughout the day. Doing all aspects of my work within the same ConexED platform without having to switch systems for the different tasks that I need to do has saved time and resulted in a more efficient way to get my work done. ConexED has made the transition to the home office smooth and less stressful, and I will continue utilizing it as I transition back into being on campus.
Sandy Diaz is a member of the Counseling faculty at Los Angeles Southwest College, which is part of the Los Angeles Community College District. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in History from UCLA and a Master of Arts in Counseling from Loyola Marymount University. She is interested in utilizing technology to enhance student success.