Academic Advising Technologies in the Era of COVID-19 and Beyond
Exploring the Human Element
Academic advising is one of the most ubiquitous functions in higher education and a central pillar of the student success apparatus at any institution. Prior to the emergency shift to online learning resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, more and more of the administration of student life had become integrated with technology. This includes advising technologies, which are becoming both more common and sophisticated. From foundational degree audit systems to predictive analytics engines, the technologies available to support advising have proliferated dramatically—with many promising to assist institutions in better supporting their most underserved students. In a time when so much of the student experience is facilitated by technology, what these technologies are responsible for has increased exponentially.
Over time, colleges and universities have invested continually increasing resources into advising technologies, and in the months following the onset of the pandemic, many platform providers offered institutions the opportunity to use their services for free. Despite the increased investment by vendors and institutions, these initiatives are often less successful than hoped under more favorable circumstances than those in which we currently find ourselves. Implementation challenges often stymie the potential of these technologies to help further assist students and fulfill institutional responsibilities around equity and student success.
In light of the disruptions to students’ academic trajectories and the shift to mass remote learning brought on by the current COVID-19 pandemic, many institutions are looking to either further enhance the technological infrastructure of their student success operations or create new ones. It is ever more important that these technologies are effectively implemented and that institutions are armed with actionable information to support student success.
The deployment of advising technology has many facets, from the technical to the programmatic to the financial, all of which are essential to the success of the implementation. Stakeholders play a key role in any institutional initiative, but the details of stakeholder involvement in the successful implementation of an advising technology remain underexamined. This is especially true in the almost exclusively online world of higher education that has become the norm during this time. Who within the institution is involved, when in the process are they involved, and the key decisions they make in their varied contexts are all crucial components to a successful implementation in all circumstances. Without fully understanding the role of stakeholders, institutions risk wasting time, effort, money, and, perhaps most importantly, opportunities to better support students by poorly or ineffectively implementing otherwise promising technological solutions now and in the future.
To add needed nuance to the understanding of the role of stakeholders, Ithaka S+R has partnered with EDUCAUSE to examine successful advising technology implementations prior to and during the COVID-19 pandemic through a series of virtual case studies that illuminate the essential role of stakeholders. In the context of this project, implementation includes how stakeholders adopted, adapted, or utilized key advising technologies for remote learning. In the resulting report, we will be featuring effective practices from a diverse set of institutions that have implemented a variety of different advising technologies, and will present cross-institutional findings and recommendations for the field. We hope to feature institutions that have not been previously highlighted in the literature related to advising technology.
This work is part of a larger national initiative exploring advising technology and its role in student success and equity. Ithaka S+R and EDUCAUSE will produce two case study reports examining the successful implementation and use of advising technology. These pieces will come together to support colleges and universities in successfully incorporating this technology into their infrastructure. A corresponding procurement playbook developed by the Ada Center will provide guidance, tools, and templates for institutions looking to purchase advising technologies. These pieces will work together to assist decision-makers hoping to utilize advising technology to support student success during these exceptional circumstances and beyond. For more information about the larger initiative responsible for this project please visit their website.
Has your institution successfully used an existing or newly-implemented advising technology to support student success and equity during the COVID-19 pandemic? Regardless of whether that technology is home-grown or purchased and no matter the challenges you surmounted along the way—we want to hear from you and potentially feature you in our research. Our aim is to ensure that our work features institutions from all sectors of higher education and that serve diverse student populations. Specifically, we hope to spotlight institutions that have been successful in this arena but have not yet been given voice in the field or literature.
Our case study development process is slated to take place through April 2021. We understand that these are challenging times and are prepared to be very flexible regarding scheduling and how much involvement you and your colleagues have. If you would be interested in learning more about this project and how to have your institution featured in our published report, please contact Michael Fried at firstname.lastname@example.org.