Supporting Learners with Technology: Perceptions and Practices of Technology in Advising

It is a critical time to assess how campus stakeholders are employing digital resources to scaffold learners beyond the course curriculum and learning environments. A growing number of colleges and universities want to advance how they offer student support using technology outside the “classroom.” This campus change is impacting more student success and academic advising programs as they consider the best technology to provide advising content and service delivery for learner-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.

#advtech

Surveying Institutional Perceptions and Practices on Advising
 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%).

Key findings from this study:

  • Top 3 advising technologies: desktop computers, campus storage networks, & Wi-Fi
  • Technology tools/platforms the institution wants advisors to use: learning management systems (46%) and laptops (40%)
  • Technology tools/platforms utilized by advisors: 24% use scanners and 23% use social networks (e.g. Twitter and Facebook).
  • Advisors communicate with technology (daily) primarily with: other academic advisors/counselors (86.35%) and students (89.88%).
  • Advisors less frequently use technology to communicate with: academic administrators (58.08%), faculty (47.22%), & student affairs administrators (37%).
  • Daily advising practices include: e-mail (99%); face-to-face interactions (91%); locally installed word processor, spreadsheets, etc. (80%); phone (73%) and Facebook (30%).
  • Less frequently used advising technology (< 2%): licensed video-conferencing (e.g. Adobe Connect, Wimba, Zoom), retention software, photo-sharing websites, and podcasts.

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

When asked what their “ideal technology in advising practice” to support students and advising functions, respondents wanted advising technology to:

  • Be integrated into current systems and existing campus technologies.
  • Create opportunity and access for student support and advising regardless of physical location, time, etc.
  • Help build an advising rapport, make connections, and support communication.
  • Support transparent knowledge sharing and degree completion information.
  • Scaffold effective online and blended models of academic advising.
  • Address the needs and challenges related to advisor and learner preferences and/or practices for student support/services.
  • 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 using technology. Beyond soliciting input during the technology purchasing and implementation phase, institutions need to consider HOW student support is organized and ASSESS current advising practices and models.

To integrate or update technology for advising, our institutions will need to also consider how they will provide additional support, offer advisors training, and create job aids or 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. Thanks for the support of the NACADA #AdvTech Commission, and co-author George Steele.

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

Note: 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 and replication of this study.  

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