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Naomi Craven and Kimberley Rolf, University of Texas-San Antonio

KimRolf.jpgNaomiCraven.jpgA brief glance at NACADA’s Annual Conference schedule reveals that advisor training and development is a hot topic in the advising field. This hardly is surprising given that a 2005 NACADA member survey found that 29% of those responding were over 50 years of age, suggesting that within the next decade, a significant number of veteran advisors will retire. Nor, at that time, was any substantive training program in place for an influx of new advisors; only 10% of respondents reported receiving any formalized or in-depth training despite many recognizing the need for structured initial training and more extensive developmental opportunities (Folsom, 2007). This training need is also identified by Brown (2008), who argued that although informational training is important, “greater emphasis must be placed on conceptual and relational elements if advising is to be viewed and valued as more than a clerical activity directed at helping students to schedule classes” (p.311). However, the nature of the advising profession means that new-hires undoubtedly need large amounts of informational training in their first few weeks on the job. Trainers must then determine how to incorporate relational and conceptual aspects into training without neglecting necessary information.

This problem was faced by the College of Sciences Undergraduate Advising Center (COSUAC) at the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA). UTSA operates a decentralized advising system in which sophomores, juniors and seniors are advised through the college of their major, with COSUAC advisors serving approximately 4000 upperclassmen with declared majors in the sciences. COSUAC advisors are ultimately trained on nine degree plans. Almost all advisor training takes place in-house, and is offered by COSUAC advisors who receive limited time away from their day-to-day duties to spend with new-hires. We needed to ensure that the limited face-to-face time new-hires spend with trainers is maximized, and that advisor training goes beyond policies and procedures to explore the more conceptual and relational elements of advising.

To quickly deliver the large amount of required information in an efficient and user-friendly format, trainers turned to Blackboard™.  Trainers created a Blackboard class that contains much of the informational material previously covered in face-to-face meetings. For example, new advisor training now includes Blackboard modules on policies and procedures, incorporating PowerPoint® presentations that cover details related to each degree plan. Each module is organized in a similar fashion, beginning with learning objectives and a PowerPoint covering the subject material. Schwenn (2010) noted the effectiveness of such a structure when he stated that “step-by-step directions detailing the specific execution for every task are beneficial especially as references after the training session has ended” (p.145).

Each COSUAC online training module is followed by a quiz that gauges the new advisor's basic understanding of university functions, policies and procedures, and office issues.  Making information available in this format has several advantages:

  • it is easy to update and search
  • since advisors review the modules before meeting with trainers there is more time for discussion of the developmental aspects of advising, and
  • online modules do not only serve new-hires since updates also can be posted and used by veteran advisors.

The COSUAC online advisor training confirms Pasquini’s (2010) hypothesis that “advisor training and development programs that incorporate online resources enhance self-directed learning, provide consistent instructional methods, and include ongoing professional-development initiatives (p.123).

Conversely, one of the strengths of COSUAC’s online training program was initially perceived as a potential weakness. When trainers first proposed moving portions of the training program to an online format, some advisors suggested that the move might lead to a lack of communication between team members. The program was designed to ensure that this did not take place, as new hires are allotted time to meet with their trainers. Because the informational training component is covered online, new advisors have time to discuss the more relational and conceptual elements of advising.  Similarly, as Schwenn (2010) noted, tools such as the Blackboard discussion board can be used to give advisors a forum to discuss professional issues (p.145). Pasquini (2010) argued that the use of interactive online tools means that “training and development evolve to become social and connected” (p.123).  Rather than reducing communication between advisors, the integration of online learning into the advisor training program ensured that the connectivity between advisors occurred on a more meaningful level, focusing on relational and conceptual issues rather than the intake of information.

Leonard (2008) asserted that “there is nothing else that has had as significant an impact on advising in the past ten years as the introduction of new technologies” (p.292).  However, Leonard only examined the role new technologies play in services to students. The program developed by the COSUAC demonstrates that Schwenn (2010) and Pasquini (2010) were correct in suggesting that technology can also play a role in advisor training and development by providing an easier and more efficient way for advisors to absorb the informational component of the job. Online informational training allows trainers to spend more time focusing on conceptual and relational aspects of advising, thus moving advisor development closer to the ideal envisioned by Brown (2008).

Naomi Craven
(formerly) College of Sciences Undergraduate Advising
University of Texas-San Antonio

Kimberley Rolf
College of Sciences Undergraduate Advising
University of Texas-San Antonio


Brown, T. (2008). Critical concepts in advisor training and development.  In Gordon, V., Habley, W.R., & Grites, T. (Eds.). Academic Advising: A Comprehensive Handbook (2nd ed.). (pp. 309-322). San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass.

Folsom, P. (Ed.). (2007). The New Advisor Guidebook: Mastering the Art of Advising Through the First Year and Beyond. (Monograph no. 16). Manhattan, KS: National Academic Advising Association.

Leonard, M.J. (2008). Advising delivery: Using technology.  In Gordon, V.N.,  Habley, W.R., Grites, T. (Eds.), Academic Advising: A Comprehensive Handbook (2nd ed.). (pp. 292-306). San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass.

Pasquini,L. (2010). Emerging digital resources: Easy and accessible online tools.  In Givans Voller, J. Miller, M. A., & Neste, S.L. (Eds.). Comprehensive Advisor Training and Development: Practices That Deliver (2nd. Ed). (Monograph no. 21). (pp.123-129). Manhattan, KS: National Academic Advising Association.

Schwenn, C. (2010). Techniques for teaching advisors to use technology. In Givans Voller, J. Miller, M. A., & Neste, S.L. (Eds.). Comprehensive Advisor Training and Development: Practices That Deliver (2nd. Ed). (Monograph no. 21). (pp.145-149). Manhattan, KS: National Academic Advising Association.

Cite this article using APA style as: Craven, N. & Rolf, K. (2011, September). Using technology to enhance advisor training. Academic Advising Today, 34(3). Retrieved from [insert url here]


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