Revolutionizing Student Advising, Tracking and Intervention

Revolutionizing Student Advising, Tracking and Intervention
Advising support technologies helps institutions retain their students by making tracking and early interventions easier than ever before.
Individual student advising can be improved by the use of data mining and analytics. At Arizona State University (ASU), we developed eAdvisor, a system that requires students to take courses that diagnose likelihood of success in a major early-on so struggling students can be rapidly redirected into a major where they will graduate.

The systematization of the curriculum and advising allows sophisticated enrollment management — providing exactly the seats needed in required courses — as well as easy analysis of degree programs to ensure they meet university requirements.

Use of these tools at ASU led to improvement in our graduation rate of 11.6 percent in four years, increased student satisfaction and success and saved money, all with a very large and diverse student population.

Eight Essential Elements of eAdvisor:

1. Degree Search

The eAdvisor system allows students to search for a major through a computer application termed Degree Search, a search engine focused on keyword queries. A student may enter, for example, an interest in people, and all majors relevant to this interest appear on the screen, along with their requirements. Neither the student nor the advisor has to figure out which of the 290+ majors at ASU are relevant to people — the computer can provide that information if requested.

2. Assigning Majors

Students do best when their work is focused and has an academic direction and structure. Thus, when students enter ASU, they must choose a major including (if desired) a choice among five exploratory majors: arts and humanities, science and engineering, social sciences, health and business.

3. Critical Requirements

eAdvisor lists requirements in the order they must be taken and identifies “critical requirements,” those that must be taken early because they’re diagnostic of success in the major, and any GPA requirements. A student who struggles in a critical course, identified through the eAdvisor system, is unlikely to succeed in that major. It’s better for students to discover this challenge early on and subsequently find a major better matched to their skills and preparedness as soon as possible.

The online tracking system follows students as they progress and notifies advisors and students when a student is not completing critical requirements and is not on track for graduation. If a student doesn’t meet a critical requirement, the student is notified by e-mail that they’re off track and their status is displayed on their My ASU student page, which means the student must see an advisor before registering or adding more classes. In that meeting, the advisor can allow the student to continue in the major if there’s good reason for the student being off track. Perhaps the student had financial trouble or some personal issue, rather than a mismatch of talents to the major. This focuses the advisor’s time on individual counseling and interpretation, which takes advantage of the advisor’s special skills and experience. The computer frees the advisor from the technical management of curricular details, issues for which the computer is especially well adapted.

If students are off track for two consecutive semesters, they may be required to change majors. Students who are missing course prerequisites will also be notified and courses may be dropped if the prerequisites are not met.

4. Progress Reports

All students can track their progress through an online graduation audit and unmet requirement audit available on the My ASU portal. Students can run an unmet degree audit that lists only the requirements they have not yet taken and need to complete in order to graduate or a graduation audit.

5. Enrollment Management

Because all students are in majors, we know the sequence of courses each student must take, which courses will be required for the next semester for all students and which of these are critical courses that must be provided on time.

The university can then do precision enrollment management by working with the various departments and programs to ensure the availability of classes students need, optimizing section size to meet need. Also, courses offered across colleges can be synchronized to avoid scheduling conflicts that are disadvantageous to students.

6. Advisor Tools

A variety of online dashboards permit advisors to monitor the progress of each of the students assigned to them in real time. The dashboards also allow the university to monitor actions taken by advisors.

7. Curriculum Tools

The requirements for each major are in sequence, with critical courses identified, all in electronic form. This allows us to automatically update every major affected if a course is deleted or added to our catalogue, ensure every major’s requirements are consistent with university policy and do data analysis of requirements in our majors.

8. Student 360 and Retention Dashboard

As part of developing data needed to advise students, we created a Student-360 view that captures information from many different databases — financial aid office, police records, residence hall data, academic transcript, advisor notes and student judicial hearings. Data from all of these sources helps advisors and others keep the student enrolled and on track to graduation.

Results of eAdvisor

Implementing the eAdvisor system has been a major success for us. We improved our four-year graduation rate from 33.2 percent for the 2006 cohort to 44.8 percent with the 2009 cohort; a total of 2,024 additional graduates. There was no change in average SAT or high school class rank or entering cohort over these years. This has been remarkably successful especially among underserved student populations who typically need more support from the institution in navigating the complex university bureaucracy and completing their education.

Additionally, the University saw retention rates of first-time, full-time freshman rise to 84 percent, and the number of students deemed to be “on track” toward completion rose from 22  to 91 percent in just three years.

Further, the estimated cost of attendance savings for these graduates was $24,500 per student; approximately one year’s tuition and fees. Finally, the estimated cost saving for ASU was $7.3 million in advising and curriculum management costs, and $6.5 to $6.9 million in instructional costs.

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Readers Comments

Kimberly Neil 2014/07/28 at 10:26 am

eAdvisor is the type of high-touch service students from underserved communities need. It only works because there’s also the face-to-face element with an advisor. It’s a good strategy that frees up the advisor from having to deal with certain logistic details that take time away from individualized advising. It should be implemented at other universities.

Miguel Gomez 2014/07/29 at 9:12 am

I’m interested in this line: “The university can then do precision enrollment management by working with the various departments and programs to ensure the availability of classes students need.”

I wonder how well this works in practice. In my experience, departments have dragged their feet on this, preferring to operate on their own whims, to the frustration of students. If the direction comes from institutional executives to offer certain courses at specific times, I could see faculty raising a fuss about their “lack of academic freedom” and other issues. I wonder if Phillips could give an example of how this type of top-down instruction plays out at ASU.

Tyrese Banner 2014/07/29 at 1:00 pm

Phillips doesn’t make it clear whether students can also access their profiles on the 360 dashboard. If not, it might be valuable to do so to show them how far along they are in obtaining their desired credential. I have found that this helps students to stay on track, when they can clearly see how a course they’re taking fits into their credential pathway.

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