Choosing an Online Counseling Platform


As California Community College students begin their Fall semester, student services departments are gearing up to provide students access to support services. According to the 2017 California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office Distance Education Report:

“Increasing numbers of distance education course sessions, coupled with increasing numbers of students taking these courses, have led to subsequent increases in full-time equivalent students (FTES). Currently, nearly one in three students take a distance education course in an academic year.”

As the number of online students continues to grow, many colleges struggle to provide online students the same type of support and success preparation as they provide their in-person students. The California Virtual Campus-Online Education Initiative (CVC-OEI) understands the struggle that comes with finding the right tools to provide online support services. In an effort to close the equity gap in online education, the CVC-OEI provides colleges a list of vetted online resources that can help distance education programs support their students and at the same time meet accreditation standards. Online counseling is a perfect example of how online tools can help promote an inclusive and supportive online learning environment. Helping students feel connected means finding a way to meet them where they are and providing the support they need during hours that align with their schedules.

7 Questions to Consider When Choosing an Online Counseling Platform

  1. Accessibility – has the tool gone through an accessibility audit to confirm that it complies with the WCAG2.1 standards. Students with disabilities must be able to trust and rely on a counseling tool that will provide the best quality services.
  2. FERPA, HIPAA & Security- is the tool FERPA and HIPAA compliant? Are there security features integrated into the platform to protect student information? For example: single sign-on authentication and a student consent form.
  3. LMS & LTI Opportunities- does the tool have Learning Management System and Learning Tool Interoperability opportunities? Meaning, it allows services like online counseling to integrate with the learning management system, as single sign-on tool. Ultimately can your students access the counseling tool through Canvas– the learning management system used by the California Community College system.  
  4. Student Information System Integration- does the online counseling tool connect to the college SIS system in order to keep track of data; reason codes for Management Information System (MIS) reporting needed for state and federal funding.  
  5. Group customization- does the tool allow for department/group customization. When colleges provide counseling services there are departments that are also providing counseling services but they are not considered part of the general counseling department. Can the platform separate general counseling from EOPS counseling, DSPS counseling, Veteran Services Counseling and Mental Health counseling?
  6. User Friendly-  does tool have features that go beyond a live video stream? A user friendly tool should provide all modes of communication in one single platform, are there opportunities to communicate through; live video stream, chat and email?  Does it allow users to download information and documents in real-time? Is the tool easy to navigate? Does it allow for features that create more interactive sessions like: screen share, document upload and real-time document editing? Does the tool provide options for  “small meetings” and “large meetings” It is important to remember that students seek support from counseling departments depending on the services that are available: will your department offer online counseling appointments? online walk-in sessions? online webinars or online orientations?
  7. Surveys- does the tool provide the opportunity to embed an evaluation or survey? It is important to collect data that provides insight on the student experience, in order to evaluate the counseling services along with the counseling platform. Surveys will provide counseling departments the feedback they need to make sure they are aware of their student needs when they create a plan of action.

The CVC-OEI is here to support existing CCC distance education programs. If you are interested in learning more about the online student support resources that have been vetted through the CVC-OEI, please visit our website CVC-OEI.  You may also contact Jessica Hurtado, Program Supervisor-Student Experience for the CVC-OEI at or leave a comment below.


Posted in Articles, counseling.

Jessica is the Program Supervisor for Online Student Experience with the CVC-OEI.

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