Why Remote Advising?
The historical advising model has been to have a team of local advisors to support the local chapter. However, as Americans continue to congregate in large population centers, there are fewer and fewer alumni that are local to support the chapter. This is especially true in traditional college towns where, people come to school, get their degree, and then chase opportunity in other cities. However, our chapters still need consistent advisory support. This is where the need for remote advising techniques and strategies come in to play.
As technology continues to evolve and allow people to connect in-ways never before possible, the traditional model of advising is able to change along with it. While there will be changes to the medium and methodology of advising, several core aspects of advising will need to stay the same in order for the advisor and the advisory board to be effective. No matter the advising model, the goal is the same: to provide the best advisory support possible to our undergraduate members.
What’s the same?
While some things will change with remote advising, many of the concepts of effective advising will stay the same:
- Communication – first and foremost the expectation of bi-weekly communication will stay the same. During the early part of beginning to advise remotely, it is recommended that the advisor and the chapter member communicate once a week. It is imperative as a remote advisor to be consistent with your communication. Setting up recurring call times, as opposed to scheduling as you go, is one of the most effective ways to accomplish this.
- Goal Setting-Retreats – goal setting and transition retreats are one of the most important aspects to fraternity operations, and one of the most overlooked exercises. As a remote advisor, please try to do all you can to attend the goal setting retreat in person. Scheduling the retreat around a big weekend on campus (homecoming, alumni weekend, move-in day, etc.) will give people more of a reason to attend.
- Expectations – the expectations of a Pi Kappa Alpha advisor are to be active and engaged with the chapter, the undergraduate leader you advise, and to the men on the advisory board. That expectation does not change and, if anything, only becomes more important as you advise remotely.
- Face-to-Face interaction – while the whole point of remote advising to be able to live miles away from the institution and still advise the chapter, there is still some need for face to face interaction to build rapport. It is recommended that the advisor try to meet with their undergraduate at least once during his term and preferably twice.
A number of resources currently exist that address the philosophy of the current advising model, including the above expectations . These can be found under Resources>Alumni Advisory Board Resources.
One of the biggest changes will be the medium of communication and the understanding and patience needed:
- Medium – the obvious difference is that meetings will take place over the phone or via webcam as opposed to in-person. While this can take an adjustment, there are several great pieces of software and web platforms that can make it easier. It is recommended to sit down at least once per month using a webcam as that, if the technology is working, can be one of the most effective ways to communicate.
- Patience – while advising in any situation will take patience, doing it remotely will likely only increase the amount needed due to the distance, technology disruptions, and lack of face to face rapport.
- Over-communication – one of the best practices from successful remote advisory boards is to over-communicate everything. Items and points of discussions that might be said in passing in person, might fall through the cracks in a remote set-up. Be sure to CC all advisors on e-mails, have wrap-up e-mails, and conference calls to discuss.
- Management – with the board being primarily remote, the chapter advisor or AAB chairman will need to take a more active role in managing the board and scheduling calls, etc.
Remote Advising Resources
There are several vendors that provide platforms and services that may be of use:
UberConference provides both paid and unpaid versions of both video and audio conferencing. The free version caps at 10 participants.
Google Hangouts provides one of the easiest, intuitive, and free video conferencing capabilities of any platforms on the web. A video tutorial is available here. Hangouts also allows for document sharing and screen sharing which can make things such as collaborating on documents, viewing web pages, etc., much easier. The only requirement is that users have a google account.
Additionally, encourage the chapter to take advantage of meeting spaces on campus that have webcams and large screens built into the room.
For those AAB’s or AAB Chairman that wish to more effectively manage their team remotely, Freedcamp provides free online project management.
Freedcamp provides project management (AAB management) so that the an organizer or chairman can manage, assign, and keep track of their team’s accomplishments. Please see this video tutorial that introduces Freedcamp.
Additionally, the Fraternity has made a document that explains how best to use it to manage the AAB. That can be found here.
Other free online management tools are: Wrike and Trello. Basecamp is an alternative but there are subscription costs involved with that service.
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