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Where Do We Begin? Public University Group Provides Colleges and Universities a Path Forward on Implementing Campus-wide Advising Reforms

Washington, DC – As college and university leaders continue to innovate new ways to help more students stay in school and graduate, a broad consensus is growing about how holistic, campus-wide, proactive advising systems are driving student success in significant ways. But implementing such systems, which often involves changes to institutional structures, policies and practices while integrating the use of technology and data analytics, can be complicated, costly and time consuming. While some schools have excelled at employing these systems, frequently referred to as Integrated Planning and Advising for Student Success (IPASS), many institutions find themselves aware of the vast benefits, but uncertain of how to proceed with implementing such a system on their own campus.

To help leaders at these institutions begin on a path toward successfully redesigning advising and supporting students across their campuses, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) today announced the launch of an online course entitled, A SMART Approach to Student Success: Strategic Management of Advising Reform and Technology (www.aplu.org/smart). Drawing on the expertise of post-secondary leaders whose institutions have pioneered the implementation and use of proactive advising, the six lesson, self-paced course, provides guidance to leaders in academic affairs and student affairs, advising managers, professional advisors and faculty in transforming their advising and student supports systems to better serve today’s students.

“Post-secondary leaders recognize the vast benefits that proactive advising systems offer in helping to increase retention and graduation rates. But implementing such a system is not a small or straightforward task, which is why this course is so valuable,” said Meaghan Duff, Executive Director of APLU’s Personalized Learning Consortium, who oversaw the development of the course. “Rather than reinventing the wheel, the in-depth content in this course provides participants with an opportunity to learn at their own pace directly from peers who have paved the way in this field. This helps institutions looking to implement proactive advising systems save time and money by avoiding the need for costly and time-consuming activities such as institutional site visits or consultants. All of the interviews, activities and supplemental materials are accessible on the course site for their review as often as they need and whenever they want.”

The content for A SMART Approach to Student Success is anchored in detailed interviews with presidents, provosts, vice provosts for student success, vice presidents of information technology, advising personnel and faculty from Austin Community College, Colorado State University, Georgia State University, Middle Tennessee State University, and Whatcom Community College. The course includes video narratives developed from these interviews, practical activities and resources developed by experts in the field. The institutions profiled vary in their type and geographic region. Research universities, community colleges, urban-serving universities, and Hispanic-serving institutions were selected to illustrate a diversity of approaches, challenges and successes across differing institution types. This also helps make the course relevant to nearly all types of colleges and universities.

Throughout the course, the leaders profiled describe the activities they undertook and the culture they created or embraced to ensure the successful adoption of proactive advising. Common best practices identified across the profiled institutions include: unwavering executive and project level leadership; providing strong mechanisms for cross-campus collaboration and communication across academic and student affairs; tailoring reform efforts to specific campus context; and understanding and communicating to all stakeholders about the return on investment for implementing student success and advising reform.

The interviews and supporting materials in the course cover an array of topics, including the:

  • Intersection of proactive advising, technology and student success objectives.
  • Role of technology and data analytics in proactive advising.
  • Structural, process and attitudinal changes required to improve advising systems.
  • Implementation and communication strategies needed to build cross-campus collaboration.
  • Best methods for calculating and communicating about returns on investments in proactive advising systems and student success driven initiatives.

APLU developed the course with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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