University of Wisconsin–Madison
Providing central coordination for the undergraduate advising and career services communities

Promising Practices for Remote Working

Tips & Strategies for Virtual Advising

Find promising practices and resources for virtual advising appointments.

Thank you to our colleagues in Cross-College Advising Service, Letters & Science Student Academic Advising Service, SuccessWorks at the College of Letters & Science, Education Academic Services, and Biology Major Advising for sharing their thoughts and ideas on remote advising practices.

Do you have strategies or ideas you’d like to share? Please email those to us at or submit feedback and questions here so we can share with others in the advising and career services community.

  • Managing your Schedule
    • Be sure to indicate your preferred or recommended advising modality if you’re using Starfish (for example: Teams, phone, etc.)
    • Build in breaks or consider longer appointment times to allow for technology glitches and space between appointments to give your eyes a break from the computer screen.
    • Take a moment in the morning to verify all your appointments and that students have provided a phone number. Email the students who do not and get a phone number, since a phone call can serve as back-up if video technology fails. When making an outbound call from a personal number, you can dial *67 so students won’t see your number on their caller ID.
    • Consider offering advising outside of regular business hours for students in different time zones or for those with family and other obligations.
  • Before Appointments
    • Test your audio and video to make sure they work before going into an appointment. Know where the audio/video features are in case there are issues during the appointment.
    • Preview your video in order to check your lighting and background. Several remote meeting platforms give the ability to blur your background if needed.
    • If possible, send links and other relevant data ahead of time to students.
    • Download and save all transcripts for your day at once or organize a way for your office to download and save transcripts in an organized way.
      • For example: One advising office is having their office coordinator put copies of transcripts for each advisor’s appointments for the day into their own BOX folder.  Each advisor made a BOX folder called “______’s transcripts for the day” and then the office coordinator uploads all the transcripts for their day there. (Normally this person would be printing them for advisors, so it’s not a leap for them to continue this work)
  • During Appointments
    • Have the student’s DARS, transcripts, or other relevant documents ready, open on your computer, and use the “screen share” option to discuss those documents. Students can follow along with you.  
    • If you have follow up materials or notes you’ll be emailing to a student after your appointment, let the student know to expect that email. Have an email window open during the appointment to type in notes. After editing the email, send it to your student and copy into ANS.
    • While many platforms being used to hold virtual advising appointments have the capability to record, advisors and career services staff should not record their virtual advising appointments with a student. Read the full Provisional UW-Madison Online Collaboration Session Recording Policy
    • If your current appointment is running over, use the chat function in Teams to alert your next appointment.
  • Virtual Relationship Building & Addressing Privacy Concerns
    • What you can establish at the beginning of the appointment:
      • Protocol if there are technology difficulties: “If we get disconnected, I will call you back.”
      • Framing appointment time available: “We have 30 minutes for our appt today”
    • What you might share:
      • Information about the space you’re in: “I want you to know that I am in a private space and am the only one who can hear you, but since I am working remotely you may hear some noise in the background.”
      • Technology they may see you using: “I am using headphones in our video chat today so that I am the only one who will hear you and to prevent distractions.”
      • Thanks: “Thanks for your patience and flexibility with this new meeting format.”
    • What you might ask:
      • Information on the space they are in: “Are you in a private space and do you feel comfortable talking in this space?”
        • If they don’t feel comfortable talking in the space they are in, you could offer to talk using a chat function during the appointment time, reschedule the appointment, or talk via phone or email.
      • Accessibility needs: “Are there any specific accessibility needs you have that I can be attentive to during your appointment.”
      • How are they doing: “How is this transition going for you?” “What are the biggest things on your mind right now?”
    • How you can share information:
      • Make sure the student is ready to take notes or determine another way meeting notes will be shared. Suggestions could include using a chat function to type out course names and numbers or to send links. 
      • Use a sharing screen function to work through DARS, Handshake, application materials, or to share links.
      • Complete any forms or advising tools you would use in a regular appointment and email them to the student at the conclusion of the appointment.
    • Being mindful of differing student experiences:
      • Make space during appointments for students to share what’s impacting their learning right now–remember to invite students to share what’s been particularly helpful or challenging during this time. 
      • The same considerations you might have for creating an inclusive and welcoming environment for students during in-person appointments are still relevant and important for virtual advising. 
      • Continue to do your own learning and cultivate your awareness of campus climate concerns to help create a better learning environment for everyone.
      • Stay current on support services for students so you can make helpful referrals. The Dean of Students Office is one place to start.
      • Be aware of and create digital content that is accessible. Learn more here
  • Self-Care & Connection
    • Be mindful of taking breaks, stepping away, or maybe going for a quick walk to help your eyes and general health while navigating additional screen time.
    • Set expectations that response times may be different than normal. We all are balancing work, family, and life obligations and it is important to be patient with each other and ourselves.
    • If possible, make time to connect with team members or other campus colleagues–remember you’re not alone in doing this work in a new and challenging context.
    • Information can change quickly and we are all discovering and learning more everyday – remember that it is okay to say you don’t know the answer but will help look into it. 
    • Please reach out to your colleagues across campus and OUA at when we can be helpful in finding answers.
  • Other Resources

Building Connections Remotely

Learn from colleagues in our advising community as they share their tips, strategies, and insights on how to build connections remotely.

Do you have strategies or ideas you’d like to share? Please email those to us at or submit feedback and questions here so we can share with others in the advising and career services community.

  • Building connections with new students before or during a virtual advising appointment
    • CALS QuickStart/CALS Academic Affairs:
      • I try to create space for us to get to know each other. I have the luxury of getting information from students (via their program application) before we meet. In the application, I ask a couple open-ended questions…what you excited/worried about and some fun ones (what’s something under $5 that makes your day). This added info makes it easier for me to keep track of students and remember who is who. I also keep a spreadsheet with students I am more concerned about.
      • I find in an online space having different modalities to communicate can be helpful…for some students having the time to write a response (whether it’s an email, chat, etc) versus having to verbalize it allows them to be way more open. It takes the pressure off.
      • I also try to be real with students…I’m not always the most polished (esp on video conferencing). We’re all human, and we’re all figuring it out together. When you set that as the stage, it makes everyone more comfortable.
      • Finally, whatever you can do to make it more personal is great…a funny virtual background, a real background that shows something in your house that you’re interested in, proud of, etc
    • Office of Undergraduate Advising:
      • Do the prep work needed to come into the appointment ready to help the student. Follow up with them on things you promise, remember the things you discuss & bring them up again in the future, etc. Be present and do little things to show them that they are not just a number. Additionally, keep track of students who could benefit from you reaching out again over a period of time. In my previous role, I would send a quick email out to students to check in a few weeks after I met with them. Many students appreciate that for various reasons.
    • Division of Continuing Studies:
      • I’ve noticed that being open and honest to prospective students helps build that connection and trust. I usually talk about how quarantining is affecting me and try to see how they are handling the situation. Pretending that everything is normal when obviously is isn’t doesn’t make the person on the video chat or phone call seem genuine.
    • Statistics:
      • Tips for emails: be appreciate and thank students for their email (i.e. thanks for emailing or thank you for reaching out), validate their concerns (i.e. it is understandable to have this concern or that is a very valid point/issue/concern), and thank them for their understanding (i.e. thank you for being so patient/understanding/thoughtful during this time). I also find myself writing longer emails with more detail, especially for those emails that would normally be an appointment so students hopefully feel that they don’t have to make an appointment to get the same information.
      • Tips for appointments: I am someone who regularly draws things out, makes lists, etc. during appointments and that is difficult when not meeting in person. To help students during appointments I will screen share a word document and write things out or during a phone appointment I will type up things in an email, send the email, and then we will look at the information (i.e. 4-year plan) together. I find that this helps to create a connection with students and they share that they feel less lost during the appointment. Other things I have done include more chit-chat at the beginning (if the student seems to respond to that) so asking questions about where they physically are at, how things are going, and answering their question honestly about how I am doing (help normalize that this is difficult and that is okay). I will also ask students at the end of an appointment if there are things they would like for me to send via email or I just send an email summarizing things and invite them to follow-up via email or another appointment.
    • UW-Madison Online, Division of Continuing Studies:
      • Make sure you look at the camera lens on your computer or webcam. Remember that you are on a video, so the student can see your body language. Pretend the camera lens is the eyes of your student.
      • Ask them how they are doing, or what is on their mind. Let them know your role, and how you can help them, but before you go into the “to-dos” of the conversation, ask them what is on their mind. You may have to turn around and schedule another appointment, but listening to their concerns, and what is going on in their world, builds connection. Share personal things about yourself – maybe you have something interesting in the background, or a pet with you. Let them know you are human and not a robot.
      • Share your screen, or have talking points on a slide that you are sharing while also sharing your video. I think video connection so that students can see your face is key.
      • Let them know you are going through this too, and you are adjusting as well. Acknowledge that right off the bat.


  • Creating a sense of community with colleagues during virtual gatherings
    • CALS QuickStart/CALS Academic Affairs:
      • We’ve been doing some check-in questions at the beginning of meetings (ice breaker stuff). It’s simple, but it’s a nice way for everyone to see everyone.I’m working on developing our virtual peer training for my summer program right now, so this is something I need to think a lot more about myself. I think a big thing is figuring out what needs to be delivered over a meeting, and what can be sent via email…that allows the meeting to be more of a space for dialogue
    • Office of Undergraduate Advising:
      • We host informal lunches and coffee times several times a week to just chat and catch up. We also do team builders like trivia, bingo, etc to reconnect and do something fun together.
    • Division of Continuing Studies:
      • A way to create a sense of community over the phone or on video chat is to have multiple meetings that are not work related. We’ve noticed that without coming into the office we don’t have those social interactions in the hall or just passing by, and to help have more socialization we video chat and talk about our day/week, play games (Jeopardy, Wiki Race, etc.), and over all be support for the people on your team.
    • Statistics:
      • In Statistics we have 2 different types of Teams meetings to help in maintaining community during this time. Once a week we have a more open chat time for 30 minutes to catch up and more informally chat. Every other week we have continued to do our professional development meetings. We rotate between the three of us in picking a reading, topics, etc. and then chat for a hour regarding that topic and ways to improve our advising. This is something we do normally and have continued during this time. We also will regularly call via Teams to chat about things rather than trying to write lengthy emails or text chats.
      • I have also continued to have more informal meetings with colleagues outside of my department by “having lunch” or a “crafting hour” via Teams.
    • UW-Madison Online, Division of Continuing Studies:
      • Polls, surveys, stop for questions and answers.
      • Meet on a regular basis and talk about non-work related items. We have talked about music, wine, books, our favorite outdoor spots, favorite coping mechanism, share funny videos, after hours happy hours, IM’ing more during the day, virtual lunch breaks.
      • The key is to have your video on! For those not comfortable speaking up, the chat feature on many platforms are nice, too.