Integrated student supports

Integrated Student Supports

“A faculty cannot by itself accomplish the college’s objectives for students’ intellectual and personal development; it needs the cooperation of others who work with students where students spend the majority of their time.” (Banta et al., 1998) 

Who are these others?  

At the college, we call them integrated student supports. 

What are integrated student supports?

Created by support specialists (librarians, learning strategists, career development specialists, academic advisors), integrated student supports are relevant tools, resources and guidance built into courses to assist learners throughout a learning experience. 

These supports not only foster confidence and encourage collaboration between stakeholders (faculty, specialists and students), but they also push the boundaries of what traditional learning environments look like in academic courses. 

Benefits of integrated supports and support specialists

As we know, the learning environment expands so much further than a physical classroom. From in person to online and blended courses, integrated student supports cultivate multiple, far-reaching benefits—not only for learners, but for faculty too.  

  • Creates opportunities to be more strategic about program implementation 
  • Frees up time and scheduling otherwise spent answering (typically repetitive) questions  
  • Fosters collaboration and community between faculty, specialists and other staff members 
  • Provides timely, direct and personalized access to relevant experts with whom they can develop productive, long-standing relationships 
  • Offers clear, structured pathways to understanding, which increases student success (Dadgar et al., 2013) 
  • Helps them better integrate into their college community through a sense of belonging (Wolf-Wendel & Ruel, 1999) 
  • Eliminates barriers between them and service areas so they are more likely to stay enrolled (Tinto, 1987) 
  • Develops key life skills such as focus (via research, writing, studying) and time management (through program planning) 

And, since supports are integrated, learners do not need to rely on academic assistance, which, as illustrated in the chart below, is not an ideal approach. 

LC data (Student Success Inventory, 2021)

The data shows that only a small portion of students are receptive to available support services, especially for academic assistance. With this in mind, we created a framework to bring student supports into your Canvas courses.

How does this align with the Teaching Excellence Framework?

Integrated student supports align with TEF through: 

Sketch of people sitting around a table learning together.

Instructional Skills

  • Fostering an equitable learning experience that transcends the boundaries of the classroom 
  • Offering appropriate services within the college to support a diverse range of learners
Sketch of a person sitting on floor, typing on a laptop, with books beside them.

Learning Environment 

  • Fostering an equitable learning experience that transcends the boundaries of the classroom 
  • Offering appropriate services within the college to support a diverse range of learners
Sketch of brain.

Subject Matter Expertise: 

  • Exploring opportunities to improve teaching strategies and learner activities (such as hosting colleagues and industry experts) 
  • Offering regular up-skilling opportunities for faculty and specialists 

Meet the specialists


Can help students with…

Streamlining the research process (finding, evaluating, and using library resources)

Developing digital and information literacy skills

Accessing various library databases

Solving access issues with suggested readings and library content


Can help students with…

Time and task management

Study skills (test taking and preparation, note-taking, understanding assignments, etc.)

Advanced reading (articles, textbooks, etc.) (for ELL and non-ELL students)

Both basic and advanced writing and citing support (for ELL and non-ELL students) with a focus on

  • formative feedback
  • higher-order concerns (like main idea, content, organization)
  • lower-order concerns (like grammar and mechanics)

Basic math and science

Motivation and resilience coaching (including information about institutional supports and wellness)

Referrals to peer tutoring (group and one-on-one)


Can help students with…

Important date reminders about institutional deadlines and tuition payment

Motivation coaching

Managing academic jeopardy (what to do if you might fail a class)

Program planning

Career advising (figuring out what you want to do)

Digital learning

Can help students with…

Resolving minor or complex technical issues within a course.

Providing guidance on navigating the Canvas course and its materials.

Offering guidance on using specific Canvas features and other Digital Learning supported tools.

Conducting targeted Digital Learning training sessions or workshops.

And more…

Can help instructors with…

Providing course configuration and Canvas insights.

Integrating ready-made Canvas support templates for technical Canvas components (assignments, discussion boards, etc.).

Reviewing and providing recommendations on assignment and gradebook settings.

Providing course Canvas analytics.

Supporting inclusive Canvas practices.

And more…

Integrated support specialists are passionate about helping students achieve their greatest success. Not only does this equip learners to excel, but it also alleviates workflow capacity pressures on faculty. 

“The library isn’t a physical space. We’re turning the perception of libraries and librarianship to more of a digital platform, making our help more widely available.”  

– Ina Baczuk, Information Services Specialist 

Integrating a support specialist into your Canvas course

Librarians, strategists or advisors act as a bridge, connecting your classroom—whether in person, online or blended—with student support services.  

They can be implemented at any level of your program, including: 


Introduced at the beginning or midway through the course and maintained for a limited period.


Introduced midway through the course and maintained for a limited time. Requests may ebb and flow, but the specialist should anticipate more student requests for support during that timeframe. 


Maintained throughout the entire course. The specialist should anticipate regular and consistent student support requests.

Online communities

Maintained for the duration of the term. The specialists focus on raising student awareness about key academic and student life supports.


When determining whether your course might benefit from integrated student supports, take a moment to consider your students’ needs. 

Ask yourself: 

  • Am I teaching first-year or general studies students who might benefit from proactive and strategic advising help? 
  • Do I teach adult learners with busy schedules (including work/family commitments)? 
  • Does my course have substantial research/writing requirements, and are my students prepared to engage with this workload? 
  • Would my students benefit from additional support with time management and study skills? 

Keep in mind that for integrated student supports to be properly utilized, collaborative strategies between faculty and specialists must be implemented. 

Collaborative strategies

Communication and collaboration between faculty and integrated support specialists are key. 

More about the context

It’s important to note that this framework is not prescriptive. You are not expected to follow it as a rigid set of rules or expectations, nor do you need several specialists constantly integrated in your course. 

It’s up to you to decide what will work best for you as an instructor, for your students’ needs, and for the integrated specialist’s capacity. So, you can customize when and where you’d like the support of a specialist, should you so desire. 

Framework design

Integrated student supports are based off UDL practices. 


Banta, T. W., & Kuh, G. D. (1998). A Missing Link in Assessment: Collaboration between Academic and Student Affairs Professionals. Change, 30(2), 40–46. 

Dadgar, M., Venezia, A., Nodine, T., & Bracco, K. R. (2013). Providing structured pathways to guide students toward completion. WestEd.  

Tinto. (1987). 

Wolf-Wendel, L. E., & Ruel, M. (1999). Developing the whole student: The collegiate ideal. New Directions for Higher Education, 1999(105), 35-46.