Online guidance competence

Online guidance refers to guidance that does not take place face-to-face, in the same physical space. Online guidance can either be synchronic remote guidance which takes place in real-time (via tools such as Skype, Connect Pro, a chat, telephone, SMS or WhatsApp) or asynchronic, not in real-time, (websites, email, blogs, Twitter, Facebook pages, Screencast-o-matic, YouTube).

Benefits of online guidance:

  • Independent of time
  • Independent of place
  • Accessibility (mobile devices) > suited to the students’ different life situations and circumstances
  • May lower the threshold for contact (for shy students, for example)
  • Some people express themselves better in writing than verbally
  • In group guidance, online guidance leaves time for actual interaction when some of the subject matter has already been studied independently, for example by watching videos
  • All guidance meetings leave a ‘trace’
  • May enhance peer learning and support (such as Yammer, Facebook and WhatsApp  groups)

Challenges of online guidance:

  • Successful interaction, small amount of non-verbal communication (feedback, taking emotions into account)
  • Technical problems
  • Some students may not be comfortable with using online technology
  • Peer support, sense of belonging in the group (if all studying takes place online)
  • Sufficiently early detection of problems (those about to drop off the group, students with different challenges, passive students)
  • Privacy and confidentiality (for social media channels in particular)
  • Time management – when the tutor is available, and not on-call for 24/7
  • The functionality of networks and support services online (guiding the student onwards)

Confidentiality and ethical aspects

Confidentiality is one of the cornerstones of guidance. Even in online guidance, the physical location of providing guidance is significant: others should never see or hear you handling the students’ personal matters. When planning online guidance, it is important to pose the following questions: what kind of information is passed and how is it processed? How strong is the authentication required by the service? Who is the administrator of the service? All services, in which the user can be identified, may cause a confidentiality risk. It is a good idea to make rules with the students about what kind of matters can be discussed in the different tools and media.

Even though the privacy settings in social media can be adjusted, you should always be aware of the risk of spreading information. Due to identity thefts, user IDs may even end up in the wrong hands altogether. For data security, the most secure platforms are the systems supported by JAMK, into which JAMK user IDs are required. It is important to be able to utilise the flexibility of social media channels, but the parties must recognise and understand the boundaries related to the confidential information.  Furthermore, students or career tutors cannot be obliged to use services provided by third parties.

Selecting and managing the right tool

There are several suitable tools to support online guidance, such as email, SMS, Optima, Adobe Connect, Skype For Business, videos, Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Webropol surveys, blogs, ePortfolios… It is a good idea to listen to the students about the tools they would like to use. Be brave in trying out new tools, but it might be best for all those involved to keep the number of different systems manageable.

Learn more about the tools on the Benefits and challenges of tools for online guidance page.

Online presence and accessibility

  • Feeling of togetherness and trust
  • Accessibility (exact information: who, when, where)
  • How is the feeling of togetherness built? How do we break the ice?
  • Ask for tips and advice from a more experienced colleague: tutoring in pairs may be very rewarding.

Comments from the online tutors (JAMK / autumn 2016):

  • “Clarity, precision, anticipation and easy access are key.”
  • “When the primary communication takes place through the screen, the task instructions, workspaces and other information must be precise, carefully written, unambiguous and available in good time —”
  • “In a way, tutoring is more challenging — the different wishes, matching schedules etc. and, at times, the technical functioning of the devices and out-dated tools all pose some challenges… On the other hand, the desire to become a better online tutor encourages me to do better and find new solutions every day.”