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Zackary W. Underwood and Melinda Anderson, University of North Carolina Wilmington

Anderson & Underwood.jpgChange is an inevitable part of higher education today, but as our students’ needs change, advisors will have to adapt to new technology platforms to provide better support.  “If utilized effectively, technology in advising contributes positively to the student experience, supporting goals toward increased retention and improving learners’ academic success” (Pasquini, 2011, para. 19).  Academic advisors are not absolved from changes in their routines and advising practices to accommodate for technology.

Adapting to Technology

Increasing the use of technology in advising practices can be seen as intrusive, unnecessary, or part of a bigger number-crunching agenda set forth by an advisor’s institution.  However, technological change is key to adapting modern advising practices that lead to a series of positive changes: personal and professional growth for advisors, enhanced student success practices and policies to serve the mission of the college or university, and ultimately better support for students.

Adapting could be seen as negative and difficult due to change.  As advisors, we are always preparing our students for change and transition.  We want our students to think critically and thoughtfully about how they are growing and developing as scholars.  As advisors, we should stop and take that same advice for ourselves.  Our universities and colleges are constantly changing.  Changes in leadership, goals, demands, expectations, and regulations are driving the transformations we are currently experiencing in our advising practices.  Clapp’s (2007) study of implementing academic advising policy advocates for the need to adapt.  By changing the way advisors process and systematize information, advisors may be better equipped to question the processes never changed in the past.  With advising comes routines and traditions, but sometimes those traditions just existed because that was the way it currently operated.  Familiar statements such as “this is the way we always have always done it” may arise, but this can become an opportunity to investigate how we can adapt to improve academic advising practices.

Changes in technology to support advising practices may feel cumbersome or trivial, but they are often in place to increase efficiency or productivity.  Some advisors may feel as if changes are happening for change’s sake. Change is introduced not to alienate us in our work, but to produce better results for our practice and to support students.  Of course, with any amount of change there can be hiccups along the way, but the changes are designed to improve academic advising processes and procedures to further a university or college’s mission or goals.

Introducing new technology into old advising practices disrupts the flow of the norm.  “The use of technology has, in many ways raised the level of advising discourse” (Lipschultz & Leonard, 2007, p. 72). Adopting new ways of operating is necessary to improve the entire advising process.  As campus change agents, academic advisors will be able to make a difference on their campus by leading conversations that rethink how technology can improve academic advising practices to better support and enable student success.  Advisors can serve as early adopters and demonstrate how “advising is informed by cutting-edge thinking” (Lowenstein, 2013, p. 254).  Thinking ahead to incorporate newer technologies keeps advisors in sync with their students as they embrace new ways of incorporating technology into their lives.  Lipschultz and Leonard (2007) echo this point by stating “advisors then, would be well-advised to anticipate, plan for, understand, adapt to, and appropriately adopt those technologies that will [be] used by their first-year students in the coming years” (p. 83).

Advisors are Agents of Change

Academic advisors can be dynamic agents of change.  Senior-level administration create new policies or procedures; academic advisors are on the front lines and can become intimately aware of the changes that need to take place to quickly adopt, incorporate, and sustain the new practice or policy.  Academic advisors are also well positioned to determine how new practices and policies will influence their work with other offices as they frequently collaborate with other units in support of their students.  Each advisor brings their own unique and individual style to the role because of the various professional backgrounds, educational experiences, and a variety of knowledge.  These elements when brought together can create a powerful platform making advisors the best agents for change in higher education.

Advisors or administrators who support advising centers will look for new ways to help others embrace the changes that are transforming their practices.  Ways in which each individual advisor accepts this change will vary by person (Bowen, 2012, p. 241).  One way to embrace this inevitable change is to focus on how advising technologies can make work more efficient.  For example, technology can support a developmental approach with students as opposed to solely focusing on registration (White, McCalla-Wriggins, & Hunter, 2007).  Research finds that “academic advising quickly grasped the power of technology to free advisors from the more tedious aspects of their work” (White, McCalla-Wriggins, & Hunter, 2007, p. 226).  Though not the norm everywhere, this is one way of assisting weary or hesitant administrators or advisors regarding advising technology improvements.

Regardless of advisor attitudes, “the future of higher education is deeply intertwined with new technologies” (Bowen, 2012, p. 1).  To meet new expectations, assessments, or policies, technology can help, but there is a risk.  College and universities gather together under the umbrella of a mission/vision and goals.  “Having a shared mission, a social conscience, and an ability to make a difference can create a great working environment and can foster risk and change” (Bowen, 2012, p. 284).  In this light, new assessments, ways of measuring success, or assessing each individual visit with academic advisors could be tedious.  New advising technology can help institutions accomplish their missions by shifting their advising cultures to embrace terms such as student success from student retention percentages of a particular demographic of student.  “Many of these additional measures are likely to require new data-gathering efforts. . . . The right success measures provoke the right kinds of conversations” (Christensen & Eyring, 2011, p. 395).  This means new advising technologies may never serve as a quick fix to address all student needs, but instead still require strong relationships between advisor and advisee.

Practical Tips for Implementing Change

At our institution, University of North Carolina Wilmington, change is inevitable and is a tradition.  This may be thought of as strange as we think of traditions as being long-standing, common practices. However, the tradition at our institution is an openness to considering new and different approaches to support our students.  As a younger institution, founded in 1947, one advantage we have is our ability to adapt to new advising initiatives without being mired down by historical practices influenced by a rigid university culture.  This does not mean we ignore the past, but instead stay open to changing the way academic advising practice happens in order to support our current students’ success.  This does not mean that our institution changes constantly, but remains open to trying new things to continue to improve student success.

When thinking through current practices, please keep the following in mind:

  • Change is inevitable.  Be a part of the process when creating new solutions, because our primary goal as academic advisors is to support student success.  New changes are being designed to support their success and not necessarily for advisors’ comfort.  
  • Be the change you want to see in the world.  This old adage rings true as we think through how we can be change agents at our institutions.  Volunteer to be on the committee or task force.  
  • Use your voice.  Becoming solution orientated will help advisors become less frustrated if they find themselves having to incorporate new technologies into their old practices.

Finally, new technologies will never replace the need to have strong relationships with our students. Advising technologies are intended to support our strategy to increase the level of student engagement, not to complicate it. The heart of an advisor cannot be replaced by software, predictive or student success analytics.  Our passion and commitment to our students will serve as a powerful guide as we continue to move through the seas of change in our institutions.

Zackary W. Underwood
Lead Advisor
Advising Technology and Support
University College
University of North Carolina Wilmington
[email protected]

Melinda Anderson
Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies and Director of University College
University College
University of North Carolina Wilmington
[email protected] 


Bowen, J. (2012). Teaching naked: How moving technology out of your college classroom will improve student learning. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, a Wiley imprint.

Christensen, C. & Eyring, H. (2011). The innovative university: Changing the DNA of higher education from the inside out. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Clapp, M. (2007). Adaptation in the ivory tower: Deciphering the implementation of institutional academic advising policy. College and University, 83(1), 12-21, 23-25.

Lipschultz, W. & Leonard, M. (2007). Using technology to enhance the advising experience. In M. Hunter, B. McCalla-Wiggins, & E. White (Eds.), Academic advising: New insights for teaching and learning in the first year (Monograph No. 46 [National Resource Center], Monograph 14 [National Academic Advising Association]: pp. 71-86). Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina, National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition.

Lowenstein, M. (2013). Envisioning the future. In J. Drake, P. Jordan, & M. Miller (Eds.), Academic advising approaches: Strategies that teach students to make the most of college (pp. 243-258). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Pasquini, L. (2011). Implications for use of technology in academic advising. Retrieved from http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/Implications-for-use-of-technology-in-advising-2011-National-Survey.aspx

White, E., McCalla-Wriggins, B., & Hunter, M (2007). Challenges and recommendations for today’s advisors. In M. Hunter, B. McCalla-Wiggins, & E. White (Eds.), Academic advising: New insights for teaching and learning in the first year (Monograph No. 46 [National Resource Center], Monograph 14 [National Academic Advising Association]: pp. 225-230). Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina, National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition.

Cite this article using APA style as: 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 [insert url here] 

Posted in: 2018 March 41:1


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