Counselors help students adjust to online counseling system during COVID-19 pandemic

Counselors at El Camino College continue to help students adjust to the new online counseling services following the campus closing to the public over increasing COVID-19 concerns and social distancing orders.

“We had to change the whole way we operated business,” Sabra Sabio, humanities and veterans counselor, said. “You don’t call in or show up to make appointments. We had to revamp our whole webpage.”

Through Cranium Cafe, a student support meeting platform, ECC Connect and online education plans, students have the opportunity to reach out to counselors in specific programs, schedule appointments and even clear prerequisites.

Xiao Wang, a probation counselor in the Student Success Program, said that a benefit to using the online counseling system is the ability to share her screen directly with students.

However, Wang said that many students have had trouble accessing online counseling and it takes time for counselors to help guide them through it.

“I find out the more I do virtual counseling that it takes longer because I have to spend a lot of time helping students logging in,” Wang said. “It takes extra work to get the information you are trying to explain across sometimes.”

Instead, Wang opts to hold her counseling sessions over the phone when students struggle with accessing platforms including Cranium Cafe.

Sabio said it was a challenge adjusting to only using one monitor screen at home versus being able to use two computer screens at work. It was also a transition having to learn how to access all her forms online instead of having them accessible in her office.

Oscar Gil, an anthropology major at ECC said he saw an academic counselor online to make sure he was taking the correct courses to graduate with an Associate Arts Degree for Transfer (AAT).

Gil, who already holds a master’s degree in education, said he feels the online counseling system is easy to use and prefers it rather than going in person since most of his classes are online.

Rachel Maldonado, journalism major, said she did her counseling appointment over the phone to get information about her major and about transferring for spring 2021.

“I wanted to make sure that I was on track to apply to the CSUs during summer to transfer for spring,” Maldonado said. “She [a counselor] recommended courses that I should take for summer to make sure that I met the unit requirements for the AAT.”

Maldonado said that after the meeting, her counselor sent her a follow up email going over everything during the meeting which she said was useful.

While availability is not an issue at the moment, Wang added that it is expected to decrease after Spring Break as students prepare their classes for summer and fall semester.