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Laura Asbury, Kristin Lively, and James Eckerty, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis

Editor’s Note: Hear more about this program from Kristin Lively in our upcoming Webinar, Advising Strategies for Students on Academic Probation.

IUPUI team.jpgCreating an intentional program for students is always a multi-step journey and can feel uphill all the way. When revamping our academic probation program, we turned to the university community—and to students themselves—to help us in the trek.

In 2008, roughly 600 of the 22,000 undergraduate students at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) were School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA) students. At that time, we required first-time probation students to meet with an advisor twice during the semester and attend one of two intervention programs between the two meetings. One of the programs was an in-person, half-day seminar, and one was an online program. Both programs focused on better assisting students with coursework selection and included time management, study skills, learning styles, goal-setting, GPA calculation, and good standing requirements for the school. The in-person seminar seemed to reenergize students, but the online version did not engage students as successfully. Students who used the online model often did not complete the modules, but attended their second advising appointment expecting to register for their next semester of coursework. We concluded that the online model lacked personalization and accountability, yet our student population includes higher-than-average numbers of first-generation students and adult learners who need the flexibility of an online option. With new advisors in the department, the SPEA advising staff began to reassess the current probation program and sought alternatives.

First Step: Individualization

Advising literature supports the personalization of intervention programs and involvement of academic support systems in the process. Frost (1991) examines sharing responsibility for student success to improve motivation and retention as the concept of developmental advising first appeared. Higgins (2003) advances these ideas, advocating for academic advisors to work closely with students on probation and to strive to understand the multitude of difficulties that may impede learning, including college environment, personal motivation, and perceived control. Ultimately, she claims that schools must work with individual students to create more personal success plans.

In fall 2012, SPEA advisors incorporated these concepts in creating a new plan for first-time probation students. It was important that the flexibility of the program allow each student to not only have ownership of his or her own education, but to select components that suit each student’s specific needs and background. In the new program, advisors kept the framework of the success seminar, but enhanced individualization by allowing students to choose the components and design their probation programs. To fully implement the new “Design Your Own” intervention program, advisors collaborated with existing campus resources.

Second Step: Leveraging University Resources

Heisserer and Parette (2002) examine the benefits of intrusive advising, highlighting the importance of compiling a list of university resources for academically at-risk students. Advisors provided such an inventory for students who selected the “Design Your Own” probation program, including group tutoring, learning strategy seminars, and counseling workshops. While this program is designated for students on academic probation, the entire student population is welcome to attend or take part in every component, thus reducing the stigma and heightening the anonymity and learning opportunities for probationary students. The advisors were deliberate about creating student ownership for academic actions. As Cruise (2002) recommends, advisors sought to both refer students to resources and follow up on their attendance. Students were required to write their learning outcomes on a worksheet presented in the second advising meeting. By empowering students to take an active role in the decision-making at the beginning of the process and requiring reflective learning during the probation programming, the advisors’ objective was to teach students how to find, utilize, and learn from existing  resources to reach their goals.

Third Step: Selective Technology Usage

In addition to revising the intervention, advisors reviewed the paper format of the student self-assessment survey. It detailed the student’s perception of why he or she faced academic difficulty and the goals and resources he or she would utilize to improve academic work. By moving this assessment into SurveyMonkey, an online survey tool, advisors retained many of the useful queries posed to students while adding questions to assist advisors in conversations with students. SurveyMonkey allowed advisors to track students who did not complete the self-assessment as well as identify trends within the probation population. Survey results also assisted advisors in locating and utilizing campus resources that would be most helpful to each student’s individual needs. These results also allowed students to recognize campus resources that they may not have considered prior to their probationary period. Advisors hoped that students would then continue utilizing these resources throughout their academic careers. Anecdotally, advisors saw that students shared additional or more intimate details about their struggles on the survey, which developed a richer conversation between advisor and student.

In conjunction with SurveyMonkey, advisors utilized university systems such as the early warning system, FLAGS (Fostering Learning Achievement and Graduation Success), and academic holds. Advisors contacted students who were “flagged” for poor performance in one or more classes to encourage them to examine their actions in that class. Beginning with the first advising meeting, advisors included discussion of a realistic view of the probation student’s performance. Advisors continued to discuss FLAGS with students at pivotal points in the semester. With this university-wide system, records of class performance are contained in the student’s unofficial advising record throughout his or her academic career, assisting university personnel in advising resources and strategies for success for each student. Academic holds are additional technological tools that prevent students from registering for future coursework until they complete their intervention program, including two advising meetings during the semester. While each school utilizes this technology differently, SPEA determined that this would be a good tool to encourage student accountability during the probationary period.

Did We Reach Our Destination?

Results of the pilot program included an 80% response rate to the SurveyMonkey survey. Of the students who continued enrollment after placement on probation, approximately one-third completed the seminar with an average spring GPA of 2.655, rising from 1.519. The third group that completed the “Design Your Own” program moved from 1.67 to 2.044. However, advisors did not feel this average appropriately reflected student achievements as some experienced a significant increase in GPA. Of the students who did not complete a program, the predominant portion (46%) was dismissed. Advisors felt that the “Design Your Own” program resulted in increased participation with staff and provided more individual attention to struggling students than a generic seminar or impersonal online module. These observations were confirmed by students during follow-up meetings and emails. For example, one noted that it was the “Design Your Own” program that strengthened her successful semester because it highlighted resources that would meet her needs. She also mentioned how this experience allowed a more collaborative rapport with her advisor and made her feel like an individual, not just another student at the university.

With the support of existing university technology and effective resources, the SPEA intervention program continues to grow and help students succeed. To initiate this program, advisors simply researched and contacted existing campus resources and reviewed university technology systems. This allowed advisors to make progress quickly and fostered collaboration with other units on campus, an effort that has bolstered participation for staff and students in each subsequent semester. SPEA’s probation program allows advisors to realize the individualized program for which Higgins (2003) advocates, ultimately helping each student reach his or her own unique potential through collaboration with the academic community.

Laura Asbury
Associate Director, Kelley Living Learning Center
Kelley School of Business
Indiana University
[email protected]

Kristin Lively
Assistant Director for Graduate and Undergraduate Programs
School of Public and Environmental Affairs
Indiana University-Purdue University – Indianapolis
[email protected]

James Eckerty
Academic Advisor
School of Public and Environmental Affairs
Indiana University-Purdue University – Indianapolis
[email protected]


Cruise, C. (2002). Advising students on academic probation. Retrieved from The Mentor website: http://dus.psu.edu/mentor/old/articles/021028cc.htm.

Frost, S. H. (1991). Academic advising for student success: A system of shared responsibility. ASHE; ERIC Higher Education Report #3. Washington, DC: The George Washington University.

Heisserer, D.L. & Parette, P. (2002). Advising at-risk students in college and university settings. College Student Journal, 36(1), 69-84.

Higgins, E.M. (2003). Advising students on probation. Retrieved from the NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources website: http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/Advising-students-on-probation.aspx.


Cite this article using APA style as: Asbury, L., Lively, K., & Eckerty, J. (2014, December). Elevation through collaboration: Successful interventions for students on probation. Academic Advising Today, 37(4). Retrieved from [insert url here]


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Academic Advising Today, a NACADA member benefit, is published four times annually by NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising. NACADA holds exclusive copyright for all Academic Advising Today articles and features. For complete copyright and fair use information, including terms for reproducing material and permissions requests, see Publication Guidelines.