Beyond the Technology: Using e-advising tools to drive transformative institutional change

Beyond the Technology: Using e-advising tools to drive transformative institutional change

Tyler L McClain

Assistant Director, Office of Research & Strategic Initiatives, Campus Labs

Over the past several years, the number of technology systems designed to improve retention and completion by enhancing advising and other student support services has increased dramatically. Through our research, the Community College Research Center (CCRC) at Teachers College, Columbia University has found that in order for these systems to be effective, the technology on its own is not enough. The technology must be connected to an actionable vision for institutional reform, and it must be adopted by end-users in ways that reflect this vision. As Part of the Foundations of Retention series this webinar presented an overview of CCRC's work on the topic along with case studies of two colleges.

Community College Research Center

A leading independent authority on two-year colleges based at Teachers College, Columbia University. Founded in 1996, CCRC conducts research on the issues affecting community colleges and works with colleges and states to improve student success and institutional performance. This year the CCRC is celebrating their 20th anniversary and have published Redesigning America's Community Colleges: A Clearer Path to Student Success. The authors delineate a set of research-based design principles and strategies to help colleges achieve this challenging goal, and lay out a path for community colleges working to achieve greater success for their students, and for our nation as a whole.

Areas of research include:

  • The role of the community college
  • High school to college transitions
  • Developmental education & adult basic skills
  • Student services and financial aid
  • Online learning and instructional technology
  • Student persistence, completion, & transfer
  • College to career and workforce education
  • Improving institutional performance

The Agenda

Serena started by defining the field, e-advising, also known as integrated planning and advising for student success (iPASS). She then discussed studying implementation and adoption at various institutions that took part in CCRC’s iPASS research. Then she shared two different case studies from CCRC’s research about implementing iPASS technology. Lasty, she discussed implications based in their research thus far and what is next for the CCRC.

Defining The Field

iPASS: Integrated Planning and Advising for Student Success

iPASS uses technology to promote, support, and sustain long-term intrusive and holistic advising relationships. Using technology enables personnel throughout the college to engage in advising and student support relationships that; approach student support as a teaching function, touch students on a regular basis, and connect them to the information and services they need when they need them, in order to keep students on track to graduation.

Types of Systems

  • Education planning systems are tools for selecting programs and courses, mapping degree plans, and tracking progress toward degree completion
  • Counseling and coaching systems are tools for improving students’ connections to support services
  • Risk targeting and intervention systems are tools for monitoring early indications of academic struggle

Studying Implementation and Adoption

The CCRC research has encompassed three different studies over the last few years. In 2012-2014 the CCRC focused on developing a foundational background research and institutional self-assessment tool, which is known as the Readiness for Technology Adoption (RTA) framework.
In 2013-2015 they focused on implementation and user adoption of Integrated Planning and Advising Services (iPAS). Which encompassed pre/post-case studies of six institutions, including four community colleges and two broad-access four-year universities. In 2015 they began and are in the process of creating a more formal, multi-pronged evaluation for Integrated Planning and Advising for Student Success (iPASS).

Making it Real

Based on the CCRC’s research there are four factors that support transformative change.

  • Good understanding of the technology and strong relationship with vendor
  • Multitiered, aligned leadership
  • A clear vision for reform
  • A culture that includes effective communication and an orientation towards student success

Forest Hill University

Forest Hill is a case where we did not see transformative change, even though they were starting off with a strong focus on advising. As you can see below they only met one of the four factors based on our study and thus there was no transformative change. Forest Hill had technology challenges due to miscommunication with vendor and lack of understanding about system’s technical capabilities. They had leadership challenges due to little end user input into project plans and the lead administrator who designed the project left before its implementation. Which lead to a loss of project vision, and without the ability to perform intended functions, the new system offered few additional benefits compared to existing technology.

  • Good understanding of the technology and strong relationship with vendor
  • Multitiered, aligned leadership
  • A clear vision for reform
  • A culture that includes effective communication and an orientation towards student success

Lakeside Community College

In contrast, Lakeside Community College was a case where we did see transformative changes in all three change domains over the course of the study. As you can see below they met three of the four factors based on our study and thus there was transformative change. Lakeside’s technology strengths were displayed by their selection of a product through a careful mapping process designed to identify gaps in services and technical support, which included routine communication with vendor. They had a clear project vision connected to institutional focus on student success. iPASS for Lakeside is portrayed as advising reform and part of institutional commitment to improving student success. They did however have leadership challenges due to mid-level project leader who did not share upper-level administrators’ vision and did not include end users in project planning. By making mid course corrections they allowed for transformative change. They adjusted their multitiered leadership alignment, upper-level administrators empowered two advisors with clear understanding of vision for reform to take over project leadership role. Which lead to structural changes for the early alert system and connected it to a new case management model of advising. Process change allowed for the early alert system to be strengthened through feedback loops, and prompted a new emphasis on triage services. Lastly leading to attitudinal change where iPASS is seen as an advising reform rather than as a means to increase efficiency.

  • Good understanding of the technology and strong relationship with vendor
  • Multitiered, aligned leadership
  • A clear vision for reform
  • A culture that includes effective communication and an orientation towards student success

We believe that the true potential of iPASS lies in its capacity to transform advising from focusing on registration and administrative tasks, towards taking a more holistic case management approach to advising. And we believe in order to get there, you need three types of change – structural, process, and attitudinal.

Implications

  • Technology is necessary but not sufficient
  • In order for change to be transformative, it must occur at multiple levels—structural, process, and attitudinal
  • Implementation of iPASS is most effective when approached as an institutional reform tied to a culture of student success, rather than a discrete initiative
  • Change must be supported by multitiered leadership aligned around a clear vision

The Webinar

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About the Presenter

Serena Klempin has been a research associate at the Community College Research Center for the past three years. She is also a doctoral student in sociology and education at Teachers College, Columbia University. She conducts qualitative research on technology-mediated advising reform and the role of community colleges in cross-sector collaborations.

Tyler L McClain

Assistant Director, Office of Research & Strategic Initiatives, Campus Labs

Dallas, TX