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Automating Student Advising? Think BI

How to put advisers, faculty, students, and institutional planners on the same page.

Many institutions use software to automate student advising. But Jay Crowthers, interim vice president for information technology and CIO at Mt. Hood Community College (OR), says his college's new online advising system provides opportunities for more consistent reporting and institutional planning. Recently, Crowthers told CT about his plans to leverage the student advising system for business intelligence.

Campus Technology: How do students benefit from the new online advising system?

Jay Crowthers: We're coordinating student records and transcript data from the student information system with up-to-date catalog data, so students can build personalized academic plans using a convenient online tool called Agilegrad. The college now allows--and may soon require--all degree-seeking students to build a road map when they enroll. The automated system basically says, "Tell us your goals. Based on your record, we'll tell you which courses to take in sequence, including which ones to take next." By keeping their goals in sight right from the start, and being able to share a detailed road map with their adviser online, students will achieve their degrees more quickly in most cases.

CT: What's different now for advisers or for faculty?

JC: We share advising duties between our faculty and our advising office. Before, faculty would notice that the information they were working with was not always consistent with the information in the advising office. Academic programs change from year to year to meet the needs of a changing student marketplace: How do faculty and advising staff keep track of all that? The online advising system has definitely helped. There has been a real groundswell of support for the system among our faculty, who are now using the same tool and accessing the same information as the advising office.

CT: Can you leverage the system for reports?

JC: Before, without a tool that could be shared across different stages of the advising process, some of the state reporting requirements fell through the cracks. Oregon--and I don't think this is unique to our state--is moving toward a funding model based on completion of certificates and degree programs in a timely fashion. Because we depend on state funding to balance our budget, it's important that we demonstrate the ability to help students stay on track.

CT: How can the system help institutional planners?

JC: There are several areas where the student-advising system touches other institutional functions and creates potential benefits for planners. We can now watch trends in degree planning using data from the new student-advising system--this gives us an opportunity to approach course scheduling more proactively in response to projected demand. In the future, data from the student-advising system could inform many other areas including facilities, recruitment, retention, enrollment management, e-portfolio development--the list goes on. The student-advising system can contribute significantly to planning in functional areas and to BI at the college.

CT: Will the advising system be increasingly leveraged for BI?

JC: In the long term, the system will become an important BI tool, helping us use the information that flows naturally from the student-advising process. But whether you look at specific functions that assist students or how to leverage information for institutional planning and reporting, it's still all about student success.

Students have more options for education now than they've ever had. Sometimes, with more options comes more confusion. The programs that are going to be relevant are those that really help a student set goals and show progress toward those goals, so that success builds on success and ultimately results in degree completion.

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