Moving Online: Academic Advisement

Every September, thousands of new students set out to do what thousands of other students have done before them: chart a course through…

Image for Post

Every September, thousands of new students set out to do what thousands of other students have done before them: chart a course through university life. But it’s difficult to navigate when you have an incomplete map. For example, in the Faculty of Arts students had only two ways of getting information on their program requirements: keeping track of it themselves in the University Calendar, or submitting a paper Request for Program Check form and waiting for an advisor to check their status. But with hundreds of requests coming into the Faculty of Arts every month, advisors were constantly buried beneath a mountain of paperwork, and students were left waiting for weeks just to hear whether or not they had met a requirement.

The solution? Academic Advisement. Information Services and Technology (IST), the Office of the Registrar, and a consortium of faculties led an initiative to implement Academic Advisement, a module within PeopleSoft Campus Solutions that tracks the requirements a student must satisfy in order to graduate. Together the group began the arduous task of building and testing requirements to create Academic Advisement Reports, which allow students to use Bear Tracks to check their progress in meeting graduation requirements, rather than meeting with an academic advisor.

That hard work paid off: February 2014 saw the release of the online tool in Bear Tracks for all Augustana students and by April 2016, Education released advising reports for a small group of about 20 students; Campus Saint-Jean followed in November 2016 with advising reports for approximately 650 students. Arts released their advising reports in January 2017 for 4,500 BA students, and in August 2017, Extension released advising reports for 13,200 students. Now, many U of A students can look at their academic progress online through Bear Tracks and get answers to questions like which courses they can take towards their major, what courses they are missing towards their minor, and if they are on track to graduate.

Now that Academic Advisement has been implemented, conversations between students and advisors have shifted dramatically. With basic questions answered by Academic Advisement Reports, students now ask more in-depth questions and receive detailed answers. They can get the information they need in a matter of seconds rather than weeks, and they can easily generate What If Reports: advisement reports for programs the student might be interested in transferring to or for majors and minors the student might be interested in declaring.

At the same time, staff now have more time to tackle other tasks. Without Request for Program Check forms coming in, staff can focus on strategic work, help students proactively instead of reactively, and advance the faculty even further.

As Robin Cowan, from the Faculty of Arts puts it, “this was something we needed to save our staff and help our students.”

IST is currently working to get more faculties involved in the release of the Academic Advisement module for students.

Image for Post

Sheena Moore — Communications Writer, Information Services and Technology (IST)

Sheena is a Communications Writer with Information Services and Technology (IST). She strives to inform the university community about cybersecurity, G Suite, business transformation, and IT initiatives across campus. You can often find her roaming the halls of GSB, searching for grammar mistakes to correct.

Note: This article has been updated to include the 2014 introduction of online academic advisement in Bear Tracks at Augustana, where academic advisement reports have been used in Campus Solutions since 2007.