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Lori Richard, Nicholls State University

Lori Richard.jpgVincent Tinto (2012) once said, “Knowing the roadmap to success—the rules, regulations, and requirements for degree completion—is central to students’ ability to successfully navigate the path to timely degree completion” (p. 10).  

Enhancing student success, as the purview of academic advisors, is ever-evolving, and recent success has been generated through course management software, an electronic tool that traditionally provides important links between students and their instructors. Course management software can serve as an easy and effective way to engage, communicate with, and teach many different constituents about the importance of academic advising and what it has to offer students and the campus in general. In addition, a university’s advising leadership team can also effectively and efficiently use course management software to communicate to faculty and professional advisors important campus policies and resources.

Communicating with Advisees

Utilizing course management software in academic advising is one way advisors can meet students’ immediate needs. Course management software is typically utilized by all students enrolled in courses, including on-campus, off-campus, online, and part-time students. For each course in which students are enrolled, students are typically required to utilize this software in order to be successful in their coursework and, thus, have a reason to log in and check their account regularly, if not daily, for updates.  

When course management software is used for advising, it can help students to also be successful in other areas of campus life by allowing a continuous working dialogue with their advisor. Researchers have found a student’s sense of belonging to a college campus can be cultivated through specific practices, one of which is maintaining strong and regular communication (Felten et al., 2016). Allowing advisors to build classes on course management software provides a convenient point of contact between them and their advisees.

Utilizing the built-in email or messaging features of course management software allows advisors to email their advisees a reminder when important deadlines are approaching, such as registration dates, withdrawal deadlines, and processes regarding face-to-face advising. Another option is to open a new forum or discussion board when timely information needs dissemination. Adding a new topic to a forum, such as available tutoring appointments for the current term, allows students to post questions or replies to the forum. Information documented through email, messaging features, or forums are permanently available for both advisors and students.

Course management software can also be used as a repository for advisees to access important campus information, such as degree plan templates, course withdrawal forms and policies, grievance processes, as well as tips on how to communicate effectively with professors.

Athletic academic advisors can also create advising pages in course management software for student-athlete specific information. Important topics include the following: study hall information and policies, student-athlete academic center hours of operation, tutoring availability, and Student-Athlete Advisory Committee meetings to name a few.

Examples of advising modules that can be set up for student/advisee access in course management software may include the following resources:

University policies/instructions, including attached relevant forms

  • Course withdrawal
  • Change of a major or minor
  • Course registration
  • Grade dispute and/or grievance
  • Fee deferment request

General advising information

  • List of available majors, minors, and concentrations
  • List of general education courses
  • List of department advisors with their contact and location information
  • List of high impact practice opportunities that are available to students

Tutoring services

  • Description of available tutoring services
  • Link to the university’s tutoring webpage
  • Location, office hours, and contact information for the university’s tutoring services
  • Online tutoring options/availability
  • Other online tutoring resources, such as privately available tutoring services with web links

Counseling services

  • Description of university counseling services
  • Link to the counseling services’ webpage
  • Location, office hours, and contact information for the university’s counseling services
  • Directions on how to schedule an appointment

Other university information

  • Open-source textbook information or available course textbooks located in the university’s library
  • Web links to the financial aid office

Communicating with Advisors

Another way the university can use course management software to keep advising messages to students consistent, timely, and accurate is by creating a course page for the university’s advising leadership to build and maintain and faculty advisors to access. In this scenario, the university’s advising leadership would act as the instructor of the course while faculty and professional advisors are loaded into the course as students. Using course management software helps faculty and professional advisors access and utilize consistent information to be disseminated to students. It helps advisors across campus to use the same language when discussing options with students and also helps them remember deadlines that may be important to their students. The course for advisors gives an avenue to ensure all advisors have access to the most current campus policies and resources that they can then convey to their advisees. When course management software is used in this way, it, again, becomes a repository of information that can be updated and/or deleted as policies change.

Such a course for advisors can also help new advisors/university personnel adapt quickly during the onboarding process by centralizing all important and relevant information in a place that is easy to access. Using this tool helps faculty and professional advisors minimize having to seek out or search individual department websites to obtain the proper forms, policies, or deadline information their advisee is seeking. When questions come up in an advising session that advisors may not readily know the answer to, they can quickly and efficiently refer to their advisor course.

In addition, including the university’s advising leadership team’s contact and location information on the course page provides an avenue for advisors to ask questions when they need help and gives them the confidence that they will receive accurate and current information.

Examples of course modules that can be set up for faculty and professional advisors to access in course management software may include the following:

Advising Information

  • Important dates
    • Census dates
    • Registration dates
    • Fee payment deadlines
    • Withdrawal/resignation deadlines
  • Important advising forms, polices, and information
    • Advising syllabus
    • Change of major or minor instructions
    • Post-late registration instructions
    • Add or drop course instructions

Tutoring services

  • Description of available tutoring services
  • Link to the university’s tutoring webpage
  • Location, office hours, and contact information for the university’s tutoring services
  • Online tutoring options/availability
  • Other online tutoring resources, such as privately available tutoring services with web links

University counseling, health, and disability services information

  • Description, contact, and location information for these student services

Orientation, financial aid, and fee collection/bursar information

  • Orientation dates and schedules
  • Quick web links and contact information for financial aid and fee collections/bursar websites

Not only does an advisor course page help the advisor be informed of all things needed to advise students, but also gives them a guide of things they can include on their own advising course page that they share with their advisees.

Utilizing the functionality of course management software allows the university and faculty advisors to lay out the “roadmap to success” for students (Tinto, 2012, p. 10). Organizing pertinent advising information, for both advisors and advisees, allows for the timely access of accurate information by those who are seeking it. Course management software allows advisors and advisees to be continuously connected to the advising process, thus facilitating more avenues for communication between all parties.

Lori Richard, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Interdisciplinary Studies
Nicholls State University
lori.richard@nicholls.edu

References

Felten, P., Gardner, J. N., Schroeder, C. C., Lambert, L. M., & Barefoot, B. O. (2016). The undergraduate experience: Focusing institutions on what matters most. Jossey-Bass.

Tinto, V. (2012). Completing college: Rethinking institutional action. The University of Chicago Press.


Cite this article using APA style as: Richard, L. (2020, March). Utilizing course management software in academic advising. Academic Advising Today, 43(1). [insert url here] 

Posted in: 2020 March 43:1

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