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technology fee, MyPlan allows students to search for cours-
es, receive recommendations from advisers, map out plans
by quarter, and monitor their academic progress through a
degree-audit function. Previously, students relied on an as-
sortment of applications --- word processors, spreadsheets,
the course catalog, the time schedule and a legacy degree-
audit system --- to cobble together academic plans. Now,
with MyPlan, once the student has a plan in place, it can be
shared (or not) with an adviser, and an in-application mes-
saging feature can be used for back-and-forth conversation.
Because advisers in the central advising staff at UW may be
assigned rosters with several hundred students, they have little
time to start from scratch with each student, especially those
who come in "believing that we have four or five majors." (The
university has about 160 majors.) Now advisers can have an
introductory meeting and tell students, "Why don't you go out
to MyPlan, do some exploration, start to develop a plan and
then let's sit down and start to talk about that plan." The result
has been a reduction in the use of face-to-face advising "for
things that could be met in other ways" --- while making the
collaboration between student and adviser "more efficient but
also more value-add," said Van Patten.
3) Guiding Recommendations
If Amazon can figure out what we might want to read next, why
shouldn't schools be able to tell students what courses they
ought to take next? That's the idea behind the guided recom-
mendation functionality in Degree Compass, a course recom-
mendation tool developed at Austin Peay State University
(TN) and acquired by Desire2Learn early last year. Using pre-
dictive analytics based on grade and enrollment data, the pro-
gram provides two kinds of insight: a sequence of courses
that best suit a student's program of study, and a star rating
to inform the student about how well he or she is expected to
do in any given course. The student makes the final decisions.
"We sort of hoped that when students made more in-
formed choices, they would do better. And they have," said
Tristan Denley, the mastermind behind that online service
who has since moved from the university to the Tennessee
Board of Regents as vice chancellor for academic affairs.
A similar pursuit --- informing choices --- comes into play
with UH's STAR; but in that case, an academic pathway
diagram lays out a student's progress toward a degree. As
Rodwell pointed out, a lot of students assume that once
they hit 120 units, they'll be eligible for a degree. It's a shock
to realize that what courses they take is just as important.
"This is [part] of the evolution of trying to find a trigger point
that students really find valuable right from the beginning,"
he said. "The issue we want to overcome is that a true lib-
eral arts education is really diverse in what you can take to
ADVISING STUDENTS WHERE THEY
HANG OUT ONLINE
Hand-crafted advising systems are great --- if you can get 'em. But some schools are supplementing their student outreach
with online media they know students inhabit or wear comfortably. The advisers in the College of Arts & Sciences at Texas
Te c h run a Facebook fan page. University of Oregon advisers maintain a blog called "Grade First Aid: Your Guide to a
Healthy GPA." The Academic Success Center at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas maintains a Twitter account. Ohio
State provides advising in person or via video. Advisers at Northern Illinois University use Skype as well as face-to-face.
Radford University (VA) offers a public chat room where students can tune in and pose anonymous questions.
Some experiments, however, have seen their day and passed into obscurity, like the advising podcast produced by Uni-
versity of Washington advisers, which still lives online in a hundred episodes but hasn't been updated since 2009; or
the Second Life advising center maintained by the Penn State World Campus, which generated a lot of attention when it
launched in 2009 but now presumably exists only in the archives of the virtual world platform.
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