Implications For Use of Technology in Academic Advising
Students experience an increasing need for connectivity and digital access to excel beyond the higher-education learning environment. They must access and interact with information, learning materials, and colleagues from around the globe. Therefore, higher education venues need to expand and enhance students’ involvement in technology, and perhaps greater use of technological methods in advising can support this engagement. The recent EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research National Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology (Dahlstrom, de Boor, Grunwald, & Vockley, 2011) indicated that technology could be used much more strategically than is currently undertaken to commit students to their academic life.
Advising On-Campus and Online Students
The shift in online information and digital education provides multidimensional learning spaces for students. Emerging trends will influence learning in higher education, specifically to increase collective intelligence, collaborative learning experiences, and user-generated course content. As traditional classroom models in higher education are being reevaluated, leaders in advising units must consider how their practices are evolving with the shifting educational paradigm. For example, even though approximately 1% of respondents (with the highest percentage slightly over 4% among all institutional subgroups) reported that all of their undergraduates were online learners, nearly 50% of respondents reported that a mix of online and on-campus students constituted their institutional population. This trend is especially notable at 2-year institutions, where more than 80% of respondents reported that their students were comprised of a mix of on-campus and online students or all online learners. Also, 20% of private institutions, with the fewest respondents reporting affirmatively on the item, offered online courses for students. Additionally, answers varied by size of institution, advising personnel, and mandatory advising; however, respondents from all institutional subgroups reported enrolling meaningful levels of online students.
Student expectations continue to increase as on-demand and continuous connectivity opens up more academic advising opportunities. Learners’ perception of campus technology is based on how well faculty and staff utilize it to better serve students and their institutions (Dahlstrom et al., 2012). Professional and faculty advisors need to consider the ramifications of their current technological systems and communication strategies to consider if they are meeting the needs of today’s learner. Both on-campus and online students will expect more technologically of their institutions and academic advising than did past cohorts.
Prevalent in most higher education systems, technology used in course management, registration, or communication creates demands on the professional and faculty advisors who must employ it. However, the utilization of technology in advising supports more than the learner; it also provides advising units the ability to function effectively and provide consistent, reliable advising services.
Managing Student Information
Technology continues to evolve and impact higher education institutions. The 2011 NACADA National Survey results suggest that technology is widely used in academic advising to manage student information, facilitate communication, and connect learners to institutional requirements. For example, fewer than 3% of respondents indicated that student information was managed without use of any technology. The data show the general pattern of technology use to manage student information; they indicate that shared student-file access via computer was utilized by more respondents than automated degree audits, although both were reported by more than approximately two thirds of respondents. Differences in the percentages of shared student files and (most notably) automated degree-audit systems varied by size of institution, institutional type, advising personnel, and mandatory advising. For example, fewer respondents from small institutions, public and private bachelor schools, and those that employed full-time faculty advisors reported using automated degree-audit systems, but the lowest percentage stood at 40%. In contrast, more survey respondents working at places with mandatory advising for some students as well as those from large and public doctoral institutions reported using automated degree-audit systems.
Because many learners want to balance their work, learning, and scholastic demands, the student information system has become an increasingly essential advising-management tool. Survey results confirm the high relevance and role technology plays in advising practice to support student advising and retention needs. Higher education institutions are adopting a growing number of technology-based student services, and these tools have enabled mass communication, effective streamlined services, and increased connection to information. In thinking about academic advising programs, many administrators should consider the employment of technologies to improve advisee engagement, advising faculty-staff development, sustainable resources, and program assessment.
An increasing number of students are seeking flexible schedules that include online or blended course requirements for their degrees (Dahlstrom et al., 2012). The value and use of technology continues to increase on campus with course components and curriculum requirements. Technology gives students easy access to resources and the ability to track academic progress, connects learners to peers, offers outlets for administrative tasks, and provides the opportunity to engage students in immersive learning experiences (Dahlstrom et al., 2011).
Therefore, small and private bachelor institutions as well as those employing full-time faculty advisors who lack current technologies should assess how the absence of an automatic degree- audit system, for example, affects student progression and academic success. The survey findings will hopefully encourage more advising units to consider ways that resources and services best support the digitally connected student. To understand how degree tracking and academic planning can effectively support their advisees, advisors may need to learn from those working in institutions (large public doctoral) and with advising models (targeted student populations) that successfully employ automated degree-audit systems.
Educational technologies and digital enterprise resources will require more advising administrators to identify their purposes and goals within their advising department, unit, or campus. Current academic advisors attribute great value to the efficiency and effectiveness advising technologies provide for their profession. Advising administrators must evaluate the needs of their advising program and best understand the needs of their student population, faculty members, and staff.
Communicating with Students
The 2011 NACADA National Survey data demonstrate that the majority of institutions use technology to communicate with students and that they employ a wide range of technology options. E-mail, as reported by over 99% of respondents, was the most common technology employed to communicate with students and was reportedly used by approximately 55% more respondents than course management software, which was the technology ranked second in utilization. Other highly reported communication technologies included social networking sites and interactive advising web sites and portals (each reported by nearly 30% of respondents). Relatively few respondents indicated using text messaging, instant messaging, Twitter, Skype, podcasts, LinkedIn, phone, and early alert systems. This general trend characterized most of the institutional subgroups, although some data varied by institutional size, advising personnel, and mandatory advising. For example, more respondents from large institutions than smaller schools reported using social networking sites, advising portals, podcasts, and Twitter. By institutional advising personnel, fewer respondents from campuses employing only full-time professional advisors reported using course management software, and fewer from institutions employing only full-time faculty advisors indicated they used social networking sites. Relatively few responders from colleges or universities where advising is mandatory use advising web sites or portals.
The higher education campus is complex and expanding with a number of new technological resources. As learners look online to engage with social applications and mobile tools, those in university and college leadership need to understand the communication spaces used by their student populations. Because the overall trend indicated that nearly 99% of the respondents endorsed e-mail as a key method for communication with advisees, administrators of advising units need to consider ways staff currently uses this communication technology and the other means of contact available to reach advisees. With access and usability of emerging technologies, advising communication can become a dynamic component for many academic entities. The Pew Research Center (Smith, Rainie, & Zickuhr, 2011) indicated that over 94% of undergraduate, graduate, and community college students are Internet users and approximately 80% of this same group use social networking sites. Participatory and social technologies allow students to collaborate with peers, ask questions, actively make decisions, contribute to academic progress and planning, and connect to communities of support. For example, even though a meaningful number of respondents indicated using social networking sites and interactive advising web sites and portals for a number of advising contexts, more could access these tools, and of the 30% of respondents reporting use of these technologies, certainly some could offer models and examples to those looking to implement them on their own campuses.
When adopting technology to communicate with students, advisors must understand the ways students acquire advising information and establish an effective communication strategy. More college students access the Internet with the latest gadgets: Over 50% of undergraduate, graduate, and community college students use their mobile device to get online (Smith et al., 2011). Many advising units need to assess ways they engage and support student success before initiating any new communication plan with emerging technologies and social media. They also need to consider how they will meet the growing advisee and advisor demands for access in the years to come.
Universities and colleges have seen a tremendous increase in the use of technology and online tools to support students. As this new generation of web-based resources and services empowers learners to easily create and share content, educators need to better understand how to utilize these resources to generate an impact in their professional practice. Many of these emerging technological trends are initiating a new frontier for academic and student support services.
Current advising professionals and faculty members who are interested in engaging with students and peers need to be aware of the technological trends and changes facing higher education. The New Media Consortium and the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative have collaborated on The Horizon Report project to explain the technological trends likely to impact teaching, learning, research, or creativity within learner-focused organizations. The recent NMC Horizon Report (Johnson, Adams, & Cummins, 2012) suggests that the adoption of mobile applications and tablet computing will revolutionize higher education learning-delivery models within the next year. Intelligent and exciting educational technologies are developed each day, and they will affect higher education campuses as students engage in these new, interactive learning ecologies.
The following key trends from the NMC Horizon Report (Johnson et al., 2012) may have particular influence on academic advising:
- Individuals are gaining the ability to work, learn, and study whenever and wherever they want.
- The world of work is increasingly collaborative and cloud based.
- Educational paradigms are shifting to include new modes of online and collaborative learning models.
- Student-centered, active learning best challenges learners to connect curriculum with real life issues.
When assessing technology usage, postsecondary leadership must also consider future significant challenges such as economic pressures and new modes of scholarship (Johnson et al., 2012). Through researching these technological trends and challenges, conducting campus-wide assessments, and establishing strategic plans, advising stakeholders can effectively integrate technology in advising practices that support both advising units and institutional goals.
Before implementing or altering any form of technology for advising, institutional leaders need to conduct research, assessment, and review, whether on a small scale or within advising units, departments or colleges, or broad and campus-wide, depending on the technological resource. Advising administrators can create small working groups within their advising unit or elsewhere on campus to determine the purposes, objectives, and gaps in advising service provision before looking for the appropriate technology for advising solutions (Esposito, Pasquini, Steele, & Stoller, 2011). They must critically evaluate ways their advising units share information and connect advisees. Technology in advising solutions, such as online student information-management systems or digital communications, need to be part of a comprehensive strategic-advising plan within individual advising units or across an institution, and like the technological needs, must be determined by a thorough needs assessment and evaluation (Esposito et al., 2011). Effective leadership and support will be critical for advising units who wish to improve and enhance technology in advising.
Many students bring expectations about using technology to campus, and therefore, many institutions participate in community advising approaches in which technological solutions provide seamless support and communication for academic planning and progression. When advising units address the use of technologies for both managing student information and communicating with students, they may impact student support and retention initiatives on campus. Higher education institutions, who deploy technologies for communication and information management, benefit from having both the data and ability to effectively connect to their student populations.
Advising and technology partnerships will significantly impact the future of higher education with regard to learner assessment, engagement, and retention as the campus environment continues to evolve. Advising administrators need to assess current advising media and methods to best meet the needs of students, staff, and faculty members. If utilized effectively, technology in advising contributes positively to the student experience, supporting goals toward increased retention and improving learners’ academic success.
The following questions may help those leading an inquiry into the best technological solutions for delivering advising to students:
- What are the technology needs for advising practices?
- What are the long- and short-term learning objectives or goals for the advising program?
- What gaps and needs, if any, in the current advising program can be addressed with technology?
- Does the institution have a strategic technology or communication plan for the campus?
- Are administrators exploring technology use for campus or advising units?
- What needs assessment or evaluation, if any, of current technology in advising practices has been conducted?
- What data have been collected about current advising practices?
- What data have been collected about the current advising population?
- Who will conduct the technology needs assessment and evaluation process?
- Will the technology solution serve the entire institution?
- Will the technological needs of student support or other service units, other than advising (e.g., Registrar’s Office, Admissions, etc.), be evaluated?
- What available resources support the technology in advising needs?
- How will research and evaluation of current technological resources be conducted?
- Who will support advising-in-technology initiatives or projects?
- What department, unit, and persons will be responsible for the technology assessment, implementation, and deployment process?
- What student populations will be reached through the use of technology in advising?
- What factors will facilitate technology implementation? What challenges exist?
- Which advising team members will be part of the pilot efforts and subsequent implementation of technology (e.g., deployment, review, and update of technology for advising resources)?
Dahlstrom, E., de Boor, T., Grunwald, P., & Vockley, M, (2012). The ECAR national study of undergraduate students and information technology, 2012
. Boulder, CO: EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research. Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/library/resources/ecar-study-undergraduate-students-and-information-technology-2012
Esposito, A., Pasquini, L. A., Steele, G., & Stoller, E. (2011). A world of tomorrow: Technology in advising. In J. E. Joslin & N. L. Markee (Eds.), Academic advising administration: Essential knowledge and skills for the 21st century (Monograph No. 22) (pp. 261-274). Manhattan, KS: National Academic Advising Association.
Johnson, L., Adams, S., & Cummins, M. (2012). The NMC horizon report: 2012 higher education edition. Austin, TX: The New Media Consortium.
Smith, A., Rainie, L., & Zickuhr, K. (2011, July 19). College students and technology. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2011/College-students-and-technology.aspx
Cite this resource using APA Style as:
Pasquini, L. (2011). Implications for use of technology in academic advising. Retreived from the NACADA Clearinghouse for Academic Advising Resource Web Site: http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/Implications-for-use-of-technology-in-advising-2011-National-Survey.aspx