Some thoughts on changing academic advising

By bringing it more into the online world.  Here's an example of eAdvising at Arizona State University from Elizabeth D. Phillips, writing in Change Magazine.

Improving Advising Using Technology and Data Analytics

Traditionally, the collegiate advising system provides each student with a personal academic advisor who designs a pathway to the degree for that student in face-to-face meetings. Ideally, this is a supportive mentoring relationship. But in truth, this system is highly inefficient, error prone, expensive, and a source of ubiquitous student dissatisfaction. 
This article describes a method that enhances human advising with modern technology and data analytics, thereby freeing advisors to spend more time on the things only people can do. This method, called eAdvisor, helps students find majors in which they are likely to succeed; keeps them progressing toward a degree; and makes advisors more informed, efficient, and effective. It also allows the university to manage enrollments effectively, thereby saving money while improving student success. 
The National Academic Advising Association (NACADA) describes the ideal human advising program focused on the interaction between individual students and their advisors in the following terms:
  • Academic advising conferences must be available to students each academic term.
  • Academic advisors should offer conferences in a format that is convenient to the student, i.e., in person, by telephone, or online. Advising conferences may be carried out individually or in groups.
  • Academic advising caseloads must be consistent with the time required for the effective performance of this activity.
  • The academic status of the student being advised should be taken into consideration when determining caseloads. For example, first year, undecided, under-prepared, and honors students may require more advising time than upper-division students who have declared their majors. (NACADA, 2011)
Early in the 21st century, most universities—including Arizona State University (ASU)—had advising systems that followed these guidelines. As was typical at comparable institutions, the university's academic advisors handled students in the majors and those in University College (a lower-division unit that counsels undecided students and those who wish to change majors). Every student had to see an advisor each semester in order to register for classes. 
Most programs at ASU admit majors in the junior year. Prior to the advent of eAdvisor, students used their freshman and sophomore years either searching for a major or enrolled in a pre-major sequence (e.g., pre-business, pre-architecture) in which they acquired the credentials required for admission to the program of their choice. 
With this system, students often did not know until the end of their sophomore year whether they had sufficiently high grades to gain admittance to the major. Failing to achieve the appropriate level of performance for a given major by the end of the sophomore year, they were forced to seek another that might have significantly different prerequisites, re-enter an exploratory mode, or transfer to another institution. 
Students, faculty, and advisors all recognized the complexity and ineffectiveness of this system, but alternatives to this hand-crafted process proved difficult to design. However, the recently developed ability to capture many aspects of the student experience in computer-accessible databases permits a much more systematic approach to managing a student's path through the complex and rich curricular offerings of any major university. 
Today many institutions have versions of online course planning for students and advisors. One of those systems, developed at the University of Florida at the end of the 1990s, served as a prototype for the much more comprehensive system implemented at ASU: eAdvisor.


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