Research into student's experiences with academic advising shows their biggest complaint is getting inaccurate advice. Enrollment management studies also show a link between student retention and positive academic advising experiences. As technology shapes how we find information, I wanted to know what social media says about academic advising. In September 2022, The New York Times reported TikTok as Gen-Z’s preferred search engine.
I did a quick search on TikTok of #Academicadvising to see what Gen-Z students were likely to find. The top five videos were students describing personal negative experiences with academic advising. These five videos had over 563,00 views, 93% of all views of the top ten videos.
Maybe my search was too narrow, so I looked at the top 50. The main theme continued to be negative: students receiving course selection advice from advisors that was incorrect and delayed their graduation.
Six creators with videos in the top fifty views had been employed as academic advisors in the past. They confirmed these experiences and criticized the lack of training and support they received in their employment. Most went on to recommend students do their research before and after meeting with an advisor or talk with their faculty about their plan. While studies show social media is full of misinformation, the stories I found reflect the research. Both point to a need to include academic advising development in strategic enrollment management.
Top 10 most-liked TikToks from #Academicadvising search results (as of October 6, 2023):
Strategic enrollment management often looks at improving processes and enabling evidence-based decision-making for internal planning purposes. For some, it might be a new idea to apply the same concept to students: invest in technology to empower students to make evidence-based decisions. Improve processes to enable academic advisors to be better prepared to support students in this learning. Artificial intelligence, chatbots, and scenario-creation tools support student decision-making and improve information access. Additionally, they empower academic advisors with detailed information about the student, program progression, and pathways to graduation.
Institutions investing in program planning and scenario-building tools empower student decision-making. A planning tool which pulls data from the academic calendar and student record can reduce misinterpretation of program requirements, eligible electives, and manual degree audits by advisors. These tools not only empower students, but create low-barrier access to advising, increase service use, and change the nature of advising appointments. They enable undecided students and those considering changing programs to create many scenarios and see how their completed courses would fit into and change their path to graduation. When students send scenarios to an academic advisor, the advisor can leave feedback in the tool, and request a follow-up meeting with the student when necessary. Additionally, collecting back-end data from these services can improve an institution’s understanding of student behaviour, enabling them to design targeted service initiatives or proactive communications campaigns to support students exhibiting particular use of the tool.
An institution can leverage its historical student information and retention data to empower advisors to assess the ability and likelihood of success of a student in various program and course scenarios. Decision trees which show common program paths and course difficulties help inform advisors of actual student behaviour and outcomes. Pairing this with semi-generic student profiles, a dashboard which highlights the common pathways similar students succeeded in, can improve student course choice and success rates. This combats implicit bias and assumptions with evidence. Advisors can suggest alternatives, including more balanced course schedules and appropriate pre-requisite order when they can see which courses similar past students have struggled with.
Post-secondary institutions can also take advantage of artificial intelligence technology to support advising. Many customer-oriented industries already use chatbots. They respond to frequently asked questions and redirect customers to forms and resources. Chatbots come in many levels of sophistication. Some can hold conversations and schedule appointments, parse complex questions and suggest course selection, while others provide basic calendar, dates, and policy information. Chatbots can support all advising models, but particularly decentralized or split models. They act as a virtual information and referral hub for students. Some chatbots translate and respond to conversations in multiple languages. Institutions with large international and online student populations may want to consider such a tool, to enable off-hours, multi-lingual advising. For students who are unfamiliar with email, and appointment booking procedures, or are uncomfortable or unable to make phone calls, a chatbot with both voice and text capabilities, can book appointments for them. Chatbots can be more than an information-providing technology, but also a key accessibility tool.
Academic advising has always played a long game, helping students determine how to get to where they want. But academic advising as a sector, and within institutions, needs to be part of a strategic enrolment management plan to ensure it uses advising methods best suited to its student community. Integrating technology into an academic advising model improves service capacity, confidence in the institution, employee professionalism, and ultimately the student experience.
At Plaid Analytics , we're building the world's leading enrollment planning platform. Designed for active collaboration, we can help you plan for the future allowing you to compare different scenarios instantly, increasing your forecasting accuracy, and making sure you have accurate information at your fingertips in real time. Curious to learn more? Connect with Andrew!
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