Supporting Students with Technology: Academic Advising in Higher Education

With the desire to support our learners, a number of colleges and universities are implementing technological methods and approaches for academic advising. Whether it is campus change or technological necessity, we need a way to encourage advising programs to consider technology for both content and service delivery for advisee-centered approaches. By researching technological trends and challenges, conducting campus-wide assessments, and establishing strategic plans, higher education stakeholders can effectively integrate technology into student support practices to align with individual advising objectives and to further the goals of the institution.Female student listening as we see the back of two adults sitting at a table facing the student and discussing something.

Surveying Institutional Perceptions and Practices on Advising
It is a critical time to assess how these campus stakeholders are employing digital resources to scaffold learners beyond the course curriculum. To understand the impact technology has on student support and practice The Global Community for Academic Advising (NACADA) association, specifically the NACADA Technology in Advising Commission sponsors semi-regular surveys for the NACADA membership (e.g. 2002, 2007, and 2011). In 2013 a new survey instrument was designed to capture data, specifically to identify how higher education advising staff and senior administration employ technology to support their practices. A total of 990 respondents completed the survey; however 65% identified as an academic advisor/counselor. The other respondent’s role on campus included advising administrators (22%) and faculty (4%).

Many Technologies Used in Advising; But Most-Used are Familiar Tools
Here are the key findings we thought were important to highlight from this study:

  • The top three advising technologies: desktop computers, campus storage networks, and Wi-Fi.
  • Differences in technologies for advising: Advisors utilize scanners (24%) and 23% said they used social networks (e.g. Twitter and Facebook) as advising tools. In contrast, most respondents thought their institution emphasized using learning management systems (46%) and laptops (40%) for advising.
  • The campus stakeholder respondents most often communicated with daily was other academic advisors/counselors (86.35%) and students (89.88%).
  • Respondents used technology less frequently to communicate with academic administrators (58.08%), faculty (47.22%), and student affairs administrators (37%).
  • Daily advising technology identified for daily use included e-mail (99%); face-to-face interactions (91%); locally installed word processor, spreadsheets, etc. (80%); phone (73%) and Facebook (30%).
  • Less frequently used technology for advising (< 2%) included: licensed video-conferencing (e.g. Adobe Connect, Wimba), retention software, photo-sharing websites (e.g. Flickr), podcasts, and social studying sites (e.g. OpenStudy).

Overall, we found the advising community communicates with campus stakeholders across their institutions and to stay connected to professional peers outside the institution:

  • 70-90% think advising technology supports information distribution on campus, and sharing knowledge and maintaining connections within higher education.
  • 24% indicated that advising technology tools do not help with communication and student scheduling.
  • 80-92% believe advising technology helps them work faster and more efficiently, produce higher quality work, store advising information, simplifies the academic advising administrative processes, and contributes positively to their academic advising role.

Technology Needs to be Location-Free, Build Rapport, and Use Current Systems
The open-ended responses highlighted the interesting perspectives, challenges, and current practices when respondents shared “ideal technology in advising practice” to meet the needs to support students and their advising functions. Here are a few central themes about their sentiments for advising technology on campus:

  • Student support needs to be intentional and integrated into current systems and technologies being used on campus.
  • Create opportunity and access for student support and academic advising regardless of physical location.
  • These technological tools and resources help to build an advising rapport, make connections, and support communication.
  • Technology in advising needs to support transparent knowledge sharing and degree completion information.
  • Advising approaches need to be implemented to support effective online and blended models for advising to include the human impact and influence.
  • Our institutions are not addressing the needs and challenges in advisor and learner preferences and/or practices for student support.
  • Digital resources and technologies now have the ability to capture the holistic view of the student learning experience, which is essential to enhance academic advising practices and institutional outcomes.

It is imperative that campus decisions about technology and learning also include design and delivery methods that are inclusive of academic advising needs. From this research, it there is both a need and desire to improve front-line advising and student support practices in higher education. Beyond soliciting input during the technology purchasing and implementation, it will also be imperative for our institutions to consider how student support is organized and assess current advising practices.

To integrate or update technology for advising, our institutions will need to also consider how they will provide additional support, training, and job aid resources to scaffold technology use for the students, staff, and faculty user experience. In the efforts to expand this research and distribute this knowledge for higher education technology for advising, the survey instrument, data, and white paper (also shared on Academia.edu) from this study are shared by the researchers with a Creative Commons license.Laura Pasquini

Laura Pasquini, Ph.D.
University of North Texas
@laurapasquini

 

George Steele, Ph.D.George Steele
The Ohio State University
@gsteele1220

Reference:
Pasquini, Laura A.; Steele, George (2016): Technology in academic advising: Perceptions and practices in higher education. figshare. Retrieved from https://dx.doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.3053569.v7

 

Photo Credit: Pexels: https://www.pexels.com/photo/businesswomen-businesswoman-interview-meeting-70292/

One Trackback

  1. […] A version of this blog post was also shared on the NACADA Blog and the WCET Blog. In the coming months, I look forward to working with research collaborators on an updated version […]

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