Home' Campus Technology : January 2014 Contents CAMPUS TECHNOLOGY | January 2014
It's a heavy load, but when you take into consideration the
fact that many advisers are responsible for hundreds of stu-
dents at once, the task seems almost superhuman. As a result,
institutions have turned to online systems to streamline the
process, helping automate administrative tasks and giving stu-
dents self-service access to decision-making tools. But even
as the use of technology has grown tremendously in the work
of academic advising, the human element is still an important
part of the mix. Here, CT looks at five ways online advising sys-
tems can complement --- and even improve --- face-to-face.
1) Making Requirements Transparent
As is typical of most sizable institutions, the University of
Hawaii System offers a variety of pathways to a degree,
including a "ton" of exceptions and special allowances for
particular students, said Gary Rodwell, architect of the insti-
tution's S TA R degree-audit system. First released in 2006,
STAR lets students track their progress toward their degrees.
Rodwell described it as a cross-institutional "cloud" interface
over the system's Banner student information system.
When students were given permission to bypass a partic-
ular class, sometimes those exceptions would show up in
STAR, and sometimes they were written out on a piece of pa-
per tucked into a file. That in turn led to disputes over course
requirements and waivers as students moved from one major
to another or from one university or college to another.
In the name of transparency, a watchword for the STAR ini-
tiative, the vice chancellor strong-armed the system's Council
of Academic Advisors into agreeing that all advisory excep-
tions needed to be put into STAR. Now, "everybody can see
what's going on and students can move to different programs
and majors," Rodwell said. "It's still not 100 percent," he ac-
knowledged, but it did "move things along a lot."
That transparency has also shed some light on conflict-
TOP TIPS FOR DEPLOYING AN
ONLINE ADVISING SYSTEM
Don't worry about mobile yet. Usage analytics at the University of Washington show that students don't expect to do
their academic planning on a small screen. "Academic planning is not something that people do every day," said IT Student
Program Director Darcy Van Patten. While a "mobile-first perception" exists, she explained, "Certain interactions that are
highly complex require processing of a lot of information at the same time." Those activities are tough to do on a mobile device.
Keep advising solutions student-centered. The University of Hawaii conducted surveys among the student popula-
tion before it set out to design and build its STAR online advising system. And at UW, the development team's user experi-
ence designer spent two months interviewing students to understand their needs. She used those to create four separate
"personas": one-page descriptions of end user "types" that help steer development priorities.
To improve student engagement, get advisers engaged. Even though it was the student technology fee committee
that commissioned development of UW's MyPlan online advising system, the university has learned that it's not enough to
promote use of the advising system to students alone. "A lot of adoption is going to be because of the influence of advisers
on this process," said Van Patten. "So it's incorporated into how they talk to their students about planning, how they use
their face-to-face time; it's not something that's separate."
Pursue staged development. In order to track the functionality of its online advising tool, Advising Sidekick, Brown
University (RI) started with the needs of its 2009 freshman class. Said Director of IT Christopher Keith, "As the class of
2013 entered as first-years, we had enough functionality for them to upload their letters to advisers. In 2010-11, we had
to develop the ability for 1,500 sophomores to declare an academic major." Now 10 distinct modules meet the needs of
students at different points in their academic careers.
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