As a new term begins, we are often thinking about the logistics of our courses, the Syllabus and course schedule, and ensuring everything is working properly. For our students, these early weeks set the tone for what they might expect from their courses and from their instructors. Your first announcement, the language and tone in the Syllabus, how you greet incoming students – these small actions all help to create a welcoming environment for your course. When students feel included in a positive course climate, they are more motivated and engaged in learning.
In the weeks ahead, some students will likely reach out to you with concerns or information about major events going on in their lives. Faculty are often the first to hear of health issues, death in the family, deployment, financial matters, and a variety of mental health concerns and needs. In prior surveys, Ecampus students have shared that the most important relationship in their college career is with their instructor(s), rated higher than their advisors or other student support professionals around campus. When life happens, you are often the first person a student thinks to reach out to for support and direction. Last year, Ecampus put forth the Online Teaching Principles, derived from research-based best practices. The principle “Reach Out and Refer” directly relates to what we can do when our students need some additional support.
When students reach out, your care, concern for their well-being, and support is sometimes enough to help the student. That may look like an assignment extension, acknowledgement of their circumstances, setting up a time to speak, or a variety of other measures. At other times, there are situations when making a referral to the appropriate resource or department is the best course of action. In these instances, it is important to remain calm and formulate a plan.
OSU’s Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS) department shares the following about making student referrals:
When to Make A Referral
There are situations when making a referral is the best option for both you and the student. For example:
- You know that you can’t handle the request or the behavior. There are limits to the kinds of help a faculty or staff member can provide.
- You believe that personality differences will interfere with your ability to help.
- You know the student personally and believe that you could not be objective.
- You feel overwhelmed, pressed for time, or stressed.
- The student acknowledges a problem but is reluctant to discuss it with you.
- After working with the student for some time, you realize that you don’t know how to proceed.
- The student’s problems are better handled through services such as CAPS, Financial Aid, the Registrar’s Office, Affirmative Action, or Legal Advising.
How to Make a Referral
Some people accept a referral for professional help more easily than others do. Here are some tips for making a successful referral.
- Let the student know that it is not necessary to know exactly what is wrong in order to seek assistance.
- Assure the student that seeking help does not necessarily mean that their problems are unusual or extremely serious.
- Be frank with students about your own limits of time, energy, training, objectivity, and willingness to help.
- If appropriate, suggest that the student consider talking with family members, friends, clergy, community agencies, and campus offices.
CAPS provides consultations to faculty and staff who have urgent concerns about a student. If you have an immediate need, please call 541-737-2131. Phone counselors are available after hours. If you or a person of concern are experiencing an emergency, please call 911 off campus or 541-737-7000 on campus.
Resources for instructors
There are a wide variety of concerns that a student may bring to you. It can be time-consuming to identify the available resources and get students to the right area. There are a few main webpages you can bookmark that outline the resources available to our Ecampus students.
- Student Resources For Ecampus Students – This page on the Ecampus website maintains a comprehensive list of all resources available to Ecampus students. It includes academic resources, emergency food and housing, disability access services, mental health, technical support, and more. This is a great page to bookmark and/or print the PDF version that is linked at the bottom of the webpage.
- Student Care Team – This Box folder contains resources for faculty including a referral and consultation chart and tips for working with distressed students.
- In Crisis Support For Students (CAPS) – 24/7 support for students in crisis. Includes contact information for CAPS, Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, and more.
- If You Are Concerned About A Student (CAPS) – Faculty/staff member consultation form. You can also call 541-737-2131 for a more immediate response.
- Ecampus Student Services – If your student is not in crisis, but you are unsure where to start, directing them to our student services representatives is a great option. They assist students with navigating OSU resources and are the first point of contact for student inquiries. Phone: 800-667-1465 (select option 1) or Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Ecampus Student Success Coaching – If you feel that your student(s) could benefit from individualized, strengths-based academic counseling, you can refer them to the success coaching team. This group works with all undergraduate Ecampus students.