Leora Waldner, Lane Boyte-Eckis, Hal Fulmer, Troy University
Strong academic advising leads to greater engagement by students, higher levels of retention, student successes, and higher graduation rates (Ohrablo, 2017; Smith, 2018). Given the critically important role of good advising, how can universities create an advising platform where advisors can readily share their best practices and access resources?
One potential solution involves an Advisor Hub. At Troy University, an innovation team deployed a learning management system (LMS) as an Advisor Hub to engage advisors system-wide, curate best practices, facilitate discussions, and allow advisors to crowd-source advising solutions. Troy University is a public state university in Alabama that employes a decentralized strategy wherein both faculty advisors and professional staff advisors advise students. All primary role and faculty advisors are enrolled in the hub (students are not enrolled).
Though the Advisor Hub uses an LMS course shell, it is not a course. A focus group of advisors vehemently rejected the notion of a sequential advising course focused on theories of advising. Rather, they wanted a highly utilitarian, one-stop-shop for advising resources and a way to seek advising assistance from their peers.
Features of the Advisor Hub
Advisor Hub Home Page
The Advisor Hub is a Canvas organization where all Troy University advisors can easily access forms, resources, and training to help us thrive as advisors. Built by over 50 primary-role and faculty advisors system-wide, the hub represents a partnership between academic advisors, I.T., and the Centers for Student Success.
This one-stop-shop features easy access to forms and policies; tutorials on registration; tips on advising special populations such as military students; areas to share and discuss advising strategies; information on financial aid and counseling; and quizzes so that new and seasoned advisors can test their advising prowess if desired. A two-minute video orientation provides a guided tour of the hub for new users. Because the hub is an LMS, the announcement feature allows organizers to quickly and effectively disseminate information about advising changes to all advisors at the click of one button.
Advising Special Populations Menu
Utilizing a simple table design, the Advisor Hub resembles a user-friendly website rather than the module-based design typically utilized in courses. This table-based design ensures that the hub is visually appealing and more accessible to primary role advisors that may not be as familiar with traditional LMS systems.
Get Advising Help Menu
Developing the Advisor Hub
Universities frequently leverage technology to enhance advising and advisor training (Junco, 2010; Miller & Calchera, 2019), including using an LMS in a flipped advising model to supplement face-to-face advising (University of Florida, 2019) or developing advisor training courses using an LMS (Coder et al., 2019). However, focus groups of current advisors within the university suggested that our advisors did not want a training course—they wanted a very practical hub that would feature on-demand advising resources and allow crowdsourcing of solutions to commonly faced advising problems. Recent initiatives at Humboldt State University suggest that crowdsourcing can be an effective way to cull and share best practices among advisors (Boschma, 2016).
Two focus groups formed to guide the content and design of the hub. A traditional focus group was held face-to-face at the Troy campus in Alabama, while a second focus group was held online through videoconferencing in order to reach stakeholders throughout the system at Troy University’s multiple campuses across the globe. Each focus group combined primary role and faculty advisors.
Employing backwards-design principles (Wiggins & McTighe, 2011), the focus groups specified their desired content in detail—for example, what is the role of faculty advisors versus primary role advisors? What are the best tips for advising at-risk students? What do advisors need to know about financial aid? What effective strategies and technologies exist for holding virtual office hours with online students? What tips would the university’s most experienced advisors share about academic regulations and policies, such as drops and withdrawals? For each section, the developers curated tips from experts throughout the university and incorporated a mechanism on each page in the hub where advisors could share their own best practices.
Financial Aid Page
After the hub launched, the innovation team discussed how to provide ongoing support and maintenance for the hub and how to integrate the hub into the organizational structure of the university to ensure sustainability. The decision was made to house the hub in the Associate Provost and Dean of First-Year Students Office, due to their focus on student success through excellence in advisement.
Benefits and Challenges of the Hub
The Advisor Hub consolidates resources for advisors in one place, thus eliminating the need to search through numerous internal websites. The hub also provides an effective mechanism to push out advising resources and policy changes through the LMS announcement function. Moreover, the Advisor Hub serves as an effective training platform for new faculty. In some academic units, new faculty are required to review the Advisor Hub and complete the basic or advanced advisor quiz to demonstrate proficiency. Upon successful completion of the quiz, the hub automatically generates a certificate of completion for advisors to include in their supervisory reviews. The LMS allows administrators to easily track the completion of the quizzes and even track overall utilization of the hub systemwide. Access reports indicate that there were over 6,000 unique pageviews during the first year of the hub.
All advisors are enrolled in the hub, and many frequently consult the hub for tips, processes, and forms. However, some advisors have never visited the hub, as engagement with the hub is voluntary rather than mandatory. The process of incentivizing faculty to review the hub can be challenging. However, as the hub provides advisors a one-stop-shop to obtain information, it maximizes efficiency for those that use it.
Other challenges include keeping enrollments current (adding newly hired advisors), updating the links, and structuring the long-term implementation of the hub. To utilize the full capabilities of the Hub, future initiatives will focus on facilitating robust discussions in the hub’s discussion boards, and stimulating ongoing crowd-sourced tips from the advisors. With those enhancements, the hub has the potential to genuinely seed a culture of advising excellence throughout the university.
Associate Dean for Strategic Innovation
College of Arts & Sciences
Associate Professor of Economics
Sorrell College of Business
Associate Provost & Dean
First Year Studies
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Cite this article using APA style as: Waldner, L., Boyte-Eckis, L., & Fulmer, H. (2020, June). The advisor hub: Using an LMS to curate best practices, promote crowdsourcing, and seed a culture of excellence. Academic Advising Today, 43(2). [insert url here]