UW Flexible Option: Academic Success Coach Brief
Describes the Academic Success Coaching function of the UW Flexible Option program
University of Wisconsin Flexible Option
Academic Success Coach
Academic success coaching is a central function in the UW Flexible Option. The role of the Academic Success Coach (ASC) is to provide comprehensive and proactive services to students. Each student is assigned an ASC. The Coach helps students understand their curricular paths and how best to succeed in a competency-based model. The ASCs connect students with the academic and administrative services they need as they progress through their academic programs. The ASC also takes on several traditional roles, such as academic advisor, program mentor or tutor, and life coach. As such, the ASC is a role that is different from academic advisors, tutors, and other student support professionals in traditional, credit- and semester-based programs.
Academic Success Coaches are matched to students based on students’ academic programs. An ASC’s work complements the work of faculty and other program staff as students move through their plans of study.
ASCs are cross-trained in a variety of support areas to provide the primary proactive and wrap-around connection for enrolled students. Support areas include planning and guiding progress through competencies, providing guidance based on feedback received from faculty on assessments, academic content help including referral to program faculty, and guidance and direction on curated content, time-management and other general life coach functions, assistance in managing finances (and some financial aid guidance), career guidance, etc.
Equally as important, the ASCs are trained to connect students to the array of specialized resources available that exceed Coaches’ areas of expertise. Academic Success Coaches can help students identify tutoring resources and direct students to faculty and learning activities associated with program competencies. ASCs also understand when students require additional, non-academic support. ASCs then direct students to resources such as specialized financial aid and personal finance counseling, specific career advice, and other resources.
Academic Success Coaches are essential throughout the student academic cycle. They work closely with UW Flexible Option Admission Specialists to ensure that insights gained through the application process are integrated into advising conversations. After graduation, ASCs periodically touch base with their charges to discuss graduates’ emerging learning needs as their work and life experiences evolve.
Academic Success Coaches are typically full-time staff. Appropriate backgrounds include faculty positions, advising positions, and other student services roles. Ideal candidates for coaching roles are individuals who have a passion for student advising and coaching, understand higher education and competency-based education, have requisite content expertise in the discipline in which they are coaching, and have experience in student counseling.
Roles, Responsibilities, Supervision, and Training
From the student’s perspective, the ASC is a guide, coach, and content-helper who works to seamlessly connect the student to the wider network of people and resources necessary for the student’s success. ASCs develop and maintain authenic affiliate relationships with the UW Flex program they represent. Coaches work closely with UW Flexible Option program faculty, staff, and institutional advising personnel to ensure that ASCs have up-to-date knowledge of curricular resources and program advising needs. ASCs consult with UW Flexible Option faculty to best support student performance and development needs.
Academic Success Coaches receive training and support that is dedicated to providing comprehensive, proactive student services. They require training in the competency-based operational infrastructure of the UW Flexible Option, including deep familiarity with the functional areas that students encounter (e.g., financial aid, bursar, registrar, etc.). Included in the training of ASCs is a wide range of curricular, noncurricular, and interpersonal skills.
ASCs are employees of UW-Extension, who is primarily responsible – through the Director of the Office of Student Success – for providing supervision and training, as well as coordination and oversite of the ASC component of the Flexible Option student cycle. To create and maintain authentic affiliate connections with UW Flex programs and faculty, hiring, supervision, and performance evaluations are a shared responsibility with the UW Flex programs with which the ASCs are connected.
Since UW Flexible Option students are not place-bound, and while UW Flex programs may be encouraged to provide space for their ASCs, a particular physical location for ASCs is not required. Regardless of their physical location, ASCs spend time at both UW-Extension and at partner institutions to participate in professional development and other required activities.
Academic Success Coaches sometimes work during the times when adult and nontraditional students attend to their studies, including evenings and weekends.
Director of the Office of Student Success
The Director of the Office of Student Success is responsible for the performance of the ASCs, as well as coordination and oversite of the ASC component of the Flexible Option student cycle. The Director is a member of the senior management staff of the UW Flexible Option program in the UW-Extension Division of Continuing Education, Outreach and E-Learning.
Each Academic Success Coach is expected to support approximately 85 students. As enrollments grow, the ASC program will be scaled while retaining tight connections to campus departments and program faculty. The Director is responsible for adjusting the Coach-to-student ratios as needed to enable programs to scale and remain financially self-supporting, all the while maintaining exceptional service to students.
Student Grievances and Student Conduct
Academic Success Coaches follow program and institutional processes to address student grievances and student conduct issues. ASCs must understand institutional processes and have good working relationships with deans of students and other personnel to ensure that students are treated fairly and that issues are resolved appropriately.
A Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool will ensure that ASCs have access to information about their advisees, consistent with the requirements of FERPA. The CRM will enable ASCs to share information and proactively address student needs with other UW Flexible Option faculty and staff.
The Flexible Option Knowledge Base provides a central repository of information about all aspects of the UW Flexible Option program and will serve as a 24/7 resource to students, staff, and faculty in the UW System.
Connections to Other Briefs
The ASCs coordinate with UW Flexible Option Admissions Specialists once students have been admitted to learn student information ascertained through the Admissions counseling process, as described in the Admissions Brief.