By: Eric Stoller, Higher Education Consultant
In 2010, I had the opportunity to serve as the lead faculty member for the NACADA Technology Seminar. The event was a showcase of the latest digital engagement practices of the day with a strong focus on using Web 2.0 technologies to enhance the student experience. As a relatively new academic advisor, I had high hopes that the profession would make significant shifts toward digital transformation.
That was more than a decade ago. Since then, the evolution of various educational technologies to enable advisors to effectively and proactively engage students has been steady. However, the adoption of these technologies within advising departments has been inconsistent. COVID-19, in particular, required nearly all institutions to instantaneously deliver support remotely, and many institutions have struggled to meet this need.
Barriers to Getting Digital in Advising
Advisors generally have tremendous amounts of impact on the overall retention and success of students, but their influence on the technological processes within institutions has largely been minimal.
There are several reasons why this has been the case. The advising profession has historically been predicated on multiple face-to-face interactions within an advisee-advisor relationship paradigm. Oftentimes, this has meant that technological considerations have taken a backseat to other programmatic considerations (e.g., content for a first-year orientation session or a change in a degree program requirement). So how can advising move toward a paradigm where digital tools are the norm? Here are four suggestions to digitally transform advising.
1. Get A Seat at the Tech Table
Given that advisors aren’t usually in senior leadership roles within institutions, they have to rely on others: deans, provosts, CIOs, etc. to make the important budgetary decisions that are necessary for procuring and onboarding a new advising-focused technology.
One of the strategies that I have advocated for in the advising community is for advisors to have seats at the “tech table” so that their concerns and digital needs are both heard and met.
2. Fund Digital Initiatives
However, a seat at the (virtual) tech table might not necessarily be enough as it’s also important for advising departments to have robust budgets that run in parallel with the evolving needs of today’s students. A student success initiative that wants to get digital can only get as far as the funding that it receives.
3. Overcome the Fear That Technology Can Be Disruptive
Additionally, while it might not be a popular take, I think another reason why technological implementation in advising hasn’t kept pace with other areas within higher education is that for some advisors who favored a mostly prescriptive approach, digital advising platforms would literally remove a lot of their workloads seemingly overnight. In most cases, this was more of an organizational change and upskilling issue more than anything else.
4. Advocate for Change
Provide advisors with insights into the myriad ways in which unified digital tools can make their day-to-day roles more effective as well as contribute to vast improvements in student success, and they will gladly become advocates for these new technologies.
Fortunately, advising departments looking to increase their use of digital solutions now have technologies that are effective, unified, and student-focused. A New Advising Era: Guide to Moving to a Digital-First Modality is made up of a collection of technologies that provide multiple ways to enhance the student experience. In Eduventures’s 2020 Higher Ed Tech Landscape, the Student Success category grew with Salesforce listed as a provider for student advising, retention, engagement, and journey management solutions.
There really has never been a more relevant time for advising to get digital. These solutions allow advisors to engage students in exceptionally individualized and data-driven ways.
As institutions begin to look at post-pandemic student success options, advisors will increasingly require digital solutions that enable and uplift everything that they do from prescriptive to developmental as well as intrusive advising.
Higher education leaders who understand the vital role that advising plays within an institutional context should be racing to equip their advisors with the tools that will propel student success and retention for the near and long term.
To learn more about connecting all aspects of your advising, download A New Advising Era: Guide to Moving to a Digital-First Modality.
About the Author
Eric Stoller is a higher education consultant, writer, and speaker. Providing thought leadership, strategy, and practical expertise within the intersection of teaching, learning, and student success, Eric’s work is focused on how technology can provide around-the-clock support and insight for students, staff, and faculty. Follow him on Twitter at @EricStoller.
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