Richard D. Miller III and Heather Calchera, Pace University
Technology and Advising
Is this a familiar scenario? A student contacts their academic advisor on the last day to add classes with permission, a commonly busy time in the world of advising. Due to inclement weather, working a full-time job, or a variety of other reasons, the student is unable to travel to campus. Typically, without physically visiting campus, the student would miss the deadline and incur additional costs and certainly heightened emotional distress. Students are used to doing things in person, whether it is face-to-face meetings with advisors, printing add/drop forms for a faculty member to sign, or hand delivering paperwork to the registrar. However, there are more timely and effective ways to address student issues, which is especially important when dealing with millennial students that have grown up in and around technology. According to Leonard (2008), “on the institutional level, one future trend should be toward offering more academic advising functions via the internet” (p. 304). Given this new reality, the Dyson College Academic Advising Office at Pace University has made significant strides towards a full-on integration of technology and is consequently changing how students expect, and deserve, immediate attention to their requests.
As Leonard (2008) further contends, “technology has had and will continue to have a profound effect on academic advising” (p. 292). While such statements may certainly be true, changing traditional practices can often be overwhelming and time consuming, and since “nothing changes as rapidly as technology” (Leonard, 2008, p. 292), integrating new techniques also comes with a commitment to learning and staying on top of current trends. In fact, as Underwood and Anderson (2018) explain, “adopting new ways of operating is necessary to improve the entire advising process.” Advising improves when advisors use technology to provide student centered advising solutions as well as standardize practices that give students numerous avenues of accessibility. In Dyson College, the utilization of cutting-edge technology such as e-Advising via web conferencing, e-signature tools to process paperwork efficiently, online surveys to garner direct student feedback and make improvements, and a digital sign in system, make daily operating procedures more effective and interactions with students more productive.
As advisors, when we do not have the luxury of meeting with students in person, e-Advising via web conferencing is a seamless way to interact. This can come in handy for students who work full-time, or just have busy schedules in general, and find it difficult to get to campus. e-Advising leverages existing technology like a student’s smart phone, tablet, or laptop, and allows all participants to use screen sharing to view documents that are pertinent to the appointment. e-Advising, according to Shana and Abdullah (2014), “brings advising to a modality most convenient to students while improving advising efficiency and accessibility, and has been proven to boost student academic success” (p. 41). As advising professionals, the ultimate goal is the success and satisfaction of the students. Meeting students where they are allows them to get real-time assistance in a way that is suitable to them. This also cuts down on appointment cancellations, as students who may have a last-minute change in their schedule can easily switch to an e-Advising format for an appointment if needed.
According to Steele and Carter (2002), “the adoption of electronic communication technologies over the past decade has changed the nature of advisors' daily work.” The Dyson College Academic Advising Office is completely paperless and only processes student forms via our e-signature tool. The transition to electronic signatures allows advisors to focus on projects, responsibilities, and other tasks as opposed to worrying about losing forms or waiting days or weeks for processing. To web conference with a student and sign paperwork while they are watching each step be completed puts the student’s mind at ease and gives them the confidence to know their forms are being processed in a timely manner. Indeed, one Dyson College advisor described e-signing as “life changing.”
An internal file share allows advising staff to save all students forms and academic worksheets electronically, rather than storing them in a filing cabinet never to be seen again. All Dyson advisors have access to the file share and can grant read-only privileges to other departments throughout the university as needed. Maintaining an electronic filing system conveniently helps advisors keep appointment notes and document every student interaction. It also ensures that a consistent message is being sent to students, so that they are receiving the same information regardless of which advisor they speak to throughout their time at Pace.
Additional benefits of the e-signature system include cutting down on the use of paper, saving time, and allowing us to go green (in conjunction with Pace University’s ‘Green Pace’ initiative). This is something that everyone should truly consider no matter what department you work in, but especially in advising where the influx of forms can be overwhelming.
At Pace University, there is a strong belief that student feedback is imperative. In the past, suggestions were received through informal channels such as conversations or email. In order to obtain direct feedback, advising surveys are sent directly after a student’s appointment. The survey has two logic triggers that dictate the questions asked—one for traditional face-to-face appointments and one for e-Advising appointments. Students seem to feel more comfortable voicing their anonymous opinion through an online survey, so this process has worked well since its implementation a few years ago. Szymanska (2011) says, “It is generally good practice to include in the assessment open-ended responses for qualitative analysis” (p. 1). Gathering effective feedback via the proper medium is important and can only help us improve interactions with our students. This practice allows us to constantly monitor our performance and instantly implement changes as needed. It is a great way for the advising management team to spot check and maintain accountability to ensure students are receiving optimal attention to their matters.
Swipe Card System
Meeting with students virtually is great, but there are many who continue to prefer the traditional in-person appointment. To keep track of all the students who physically visit the advising offices, especially during peak registration periods, Dyson Advising has relinquished the paper and pen sign-in for an electronic card swipe system. According to Underwood and Anderson (2018) “Changes in technology to support advising practices may feel cumbersome or trivial, but they are often in place to increase efficiency or productivity.” By utilizing the university ID card swipe card system (which connects directly to a computer via a USB connection), students easily check-into and out of their appointments. The adoption of the swipe system creates automatic timestamps and pulls pertinent information into a tracking program for the advisor. In addition, the software gives advisors the option to export the list of students who come in each day and ensure they are receiving a survey in a timely fashion. Overall, the swipe system helps with quality control, organization, and metrics. The biggest metric is the fact that the swipe in/out process provides us with minutes spent in each student appointment. This is a good baseline and can allow for further analysis for things such as better scheduling of appointments and justification for hiring additional advisors.
As Junco (2010) explains, “in today's interconnected and wired society, meeting them ‘where they are’ means engaging our students in their online spaces.” With tools like e-Advising, e-signature solutions, student surveys, and a digital sign-in system, there is a constant creation and re-shaping of the best practices that enhance the advising experience. The common goals amongst all of these tools is to be flexible, always have an open line of communication, and ensure that there is a constant way to improve upon the student/advisor relationship as a whole. According to Leonard (2008), “This is the world that eighteen-year old students have grown up in. They know no other world. They live in the digital realm, and they expect others to do the same” (p. 304). In closing, a direct quote submitted by a student on one of the surveys sums up the success Dyson has had over the past few years with the ongoing technology initiatives: “Dyson advisors were sent to CTRL + S all the college students of the world.”
Richard D. Miller III
Associate Director of IT
Dyson College of Arts and Sciences
Assistant Dean of Advising
Dyson College of Arts and Sciences
Junco, R. (2010, September). Using emerging technologies to engage students and enhance their success. Academic Advising Today, 33(3). Retrieved from http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Using-Emerging-Technologies-to-Engage-Students-and-Enhance-Their-Success.aspx
Leonard, M. J. (2008). Advising delivery: Using technology. In V. N. Gordon, W. R. Habley, & T. Grites (Eds.), Academic advising: A comprehensive handbook (2nd ed., pp. 292–306). San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass.
Shana, Z., & Abdullah, S. (2014). SAAS: Creation of an e-advising tool to augment traditional advising methods. Computer and Information Science, 7(1), 41–57. Retrieved from http://www.ccsenet.org/journal/index.php/cis/article/view/32664/18963
Steele, G. and Carter, A. (2002, December).Managing electronic communication technologies for more effective advising. The Academic Advising News, 25(4). Retrieved from: http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/Managing-Electronic-Communication-Technologies-for-More-Effective-Advising.aspx
Szymanska, I. (2011). Best practices for evaluating academic advising. Retrieved from https://advising.uncc.edu/sites/advising.uncc.edu/files/media/best-practices-evaluating-academic-advising.pdf
Underwood, Z. W., & Anderson, M. (2018, March). Technology and academic advising: A case for embracing change in academic advising. Academic Advising Today, 41(1). Retrieved from https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Technology-and-Academic-Advising-A-Case-for-Embracing-Change-in-Academic-Advising.aspx
Cite this article using APA style as: Miller III, R.D., & Calchera, H. (2019, September). A fresh approach to advising through innovative technology. Academic Advising Today, 42(3). Retrieved from [insert url here]