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meet the requirements, but that leaves so much choice open
for students. You can choose from 1,500 courses. You're
numb because you can't possibly make that decision. STAR
guides you down and down through those choices."
4) Finding Hidden Information
Frequently, the inability to steer through university process-
es holds students back from obtaining their degrees, and
these people may never reach out for professional help.
"There is some high percentage of students who go in and
out of college having never seen an adviser," said UW's Van
Patten. "It's a reality whether you have good systems or bad.
But if you have good systems, [students are] getting better
information than they would have otherwise, and at least
they're not purely self-advising or peer-advising."
In fact, online advising systems can help uncover informa-
tion that might be missed by both student and human advis-
er. In a process called
"reverse transfer," for
example, UH's STAR
system informs stu-
dents when they've
earned a degree even
if they were unaware
of it. As Joy Nishida,
assistant director of
the STAR Technology Office, explained, students of Hawaii's
public institutions can pursue a degree at any campus from
any campus. Somebody attending Manoa, for example, could
receive a degree from Hilo, as long as a stipulated number of
credits are earned from the degree-granting university.
This could happen, for instance, when somebody transfers
from a community college to a four-year school without com-
pleting an associate's degree. As classes are taken at the
second school, STAR automatically sends those new credits
back to the first institution to see what the result is. "When
they're eligible, it says, 'Bling!'" Rodwell noted. That's impor-
tant because "if you have these milestones along the way, it
helps the student go forward with the next degree."
5) Improving Human Interactions
The most effective online advising systems act as a kind
of exoskeleton that extends human advisers' capabilities. In
one example, UW's Van Patten cited a student who was
pursuing a double major: one in community, environment
and planning, and another in civil engineering. His goal was
to finish his studies in as timely a manner as possible. With
the help of undergraduate adviser Mariko Navin, the stu-
dent was able to use MyPlan to create a roadmap of all the
courses he would need. In that process, adviser and student
also uncovered a way to add two minors --- in mathematics
and urban planning --- and graduate in the same time.
A student could do all of that on his or her own, said Van
Patten, "but they would have to cross-reference the majors
and the minors and make sure they haven't made mistakes. I
love that MyPlan could help that student, but it couldn't have
been done had he not also sat down with Mariko, his adviser."
In other words, the current crop of online advising tools
supplement --- not supplant --- face-to-face time between
adviser and student. With every form of outreach, the ad-
viser is tending to job one: helping the student make the
decision to remain in college, excel or extend by providing a
one-on-one relationship that forges a personal link between
student and institution.
The tools themselves are making students "more 'planful,'"
as one UW adviser expressed it to Van Patten. Online advis-
ing programs are making students think more about their aca-
demic planning early on, so they're more intentional about the
coursework that they take. "That's a great result," she said.
"Their No. 1 priority is registration and getting the classes
they need; but at the same time they need to be thinking
ahead --- they're not just getting into classes, but the right
classes. It's kind of like the difference between 'Help me do
the things I'm doing better,' and 'Help me do better things
and be more effective in my decision-making.'"
Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor of Cam-
Tune in on Any
To learn more about the advising systems in
this article, check out these online videos:
University of Hawaii STAR for Students
University of Washington MyPlan
Desire2Learn Degree Compass
CAMPUS TECHNOLOGY | January 2014
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