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Kohle Paul, Valdosta State University

Kohle Paul.jpgThe Student Success Center (SSC) and the Office of Academic Student Instructional Support (OASIS) at Valdosta State University recently merged into one decentralized department. The SSC/OASIS employs 27 graduate assistant advisors who are dispersed throughout 13 different departments on campus. The initial perception of the SSC/OASIS staff was that there may be a lack of inter-advisor communication and collaboration because of the decentralized advising system.

The communication and collaboration efforts of the 27 graduate assistant advisors were assessed to determine the frequency of inter-advisor communication and collaboration. It was found that when there were changes in departmental/university policies and procedures some graduate assistant advisors were the last to be informed. For example, when one graduate assistant advisor inquired about undergraduate course audit policies it was found that the majority of graduate assistant advisors were unaware of the necessary process and procedures for auditing classes. To help bridge the communication and collaboration gap, we decided to investigate different mediums for enhancing advisor communication and collaboration. It was agreed that the use of an advising wiki could help alleviate the communication and collaboration gap among graduate assistant advisors.

Wikis are defined as a collaborative Web space where users can add and edit content (Richardson, 2006, p. 8). Wikis can be used to write, discuss, comment, edit, reflect, and evaluate information and material from a myriad of sources. They offer a shared environment where advisors can actively participate in the integration and co-creation of knowledge (West & West, 2009; Solomon & Schrum, 2007; Richardson, 2006). Because some graduate assistant advisors also teach a freshman seminar class, a wiki could also enhance communication and collaboration about research projects, advising related material, class material and grading.

Wikis have both benefits and drawbacks. The benefits include:

  • Most offer a free version as well as a “sandbox” or test wiki for user practice.
  • All users are required to register for an account before they can add and edit content.
  • Information stored on a wiki is stored by topic rather than chronology.
  • Wikis can help enhance organizational communication as well as group and interdisciplinary collaboration (Clark & Mason, 2008; Glogowski & Steiner, 2008; Raman, 2006).

The drawbacks include:

  • Training on how to use a wiki is necessary before it can be utilized.
  • Lack of free time can impede training demands and use of a wiki.
  • Wikis lack “real-time” collaboration so two users cannot post and edit within the same wiki page at the same time (Clark & Mason, 2008; Glogowski & Steiner, 2008; Raman, 2006).

Wikis can be used as informational mediums for advisor training and development. They can act as a discussion board where advisors can interact about a variety of educational topics. Wikis provide a location to store and maintain institutional and departmental policies and procedures (Clark & Mason, 2008; Glogowski & Steiner, 2008; Raman, 2006). They also provide a digital space where departmental and university calendars can be posted and updated on a daily basis (Glogowski & Steiner, 2008).

The Valdosta State University advising wiki is used as a digital advising manual where advisors can post, edit, and discuss information about departmental / university policies and procedures with other advisors. The wiki postings are used to set topics for monthly advising focus groups, webinars, and professional development opportunities. For instance, ethics in advising was brought up on the advising wiki and multiple advisors expressed an interest in this issue, so a focus group was called to address this topic. Focus group members suggested that advisors should attend an ethics training course offered by the campus Employee Development Office for further professional development.

Staff from the SSC/OASIS conducted one-on-one graduate assistant advisor interviews and focus groups to elucidate their perceptions on the use of the advising wiki. Preliminary results showed that all the graduate assistant advisors read the advising wiki on a weekly basis. They agreed that the advising wiki increased advisor communication and collaboration across campus. However, a little more than half of the graduate assistant advisors posted and edited wiki content on a weekly basis. Advisors identified their advising load and lack of time as their main reasons for not committing to the intent of the advising wiki.

To encourage more use of the advising wiki, we have made several improvements. Each advisor schedules a 15-30 minute block each week to review the advising wiki. The advising wiki is linked to the SSC/OASIS appointment scheduler page, making it more visible and easier to access. Weekly email reminders are sent to each advisor and monthly focus groups have also been helpful in promoting wiki use.

We plan to continue using the advising wiki as a collaborative manual for training discussions and workshops. The wiki, in conjunction with monthly advisor development workshops, allows us to enhance advisor knowledge of the conceptual, informational, and relational issues so important to effective academic advising (King, 2000). The Valdosta State University advising wiki can be found at http://vsuadvisingstories.wikispaces.coml

Kohle Paul
OASIS Center for Advising and FYP
Valdosta State University
wkpaul@valdosta.edu

Additional NACADA Resources

Ford, S.S. (2007). The essential steps for developing the content of an effective advisor training and development program. Retrieved from the NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources Web site: www.nacada.ksu.edu/clearinghouse/advisingissues/AdvTrng-Steps.htm

French, B. (2010).  Advising 2.0: Utilizing web 2.0 resources in academic advising. Academic Advising Today, 33(1), 12, 24.

Little, T. (2010). Understanding knowledge management: Developing a foundation for future advising practices. Retrieved from NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources Web site: www.nacada.ksu.edu/Clearinghouse/AdvisingIssues/Knowledge.htm

References

Clark, C. J., & Mason, E. B. (2008). A wiki way of working. Internet References Learning Services Quarterly, 13(1), 113-132. DOI: 10.1300/J136v13n01_07

Glogowski, J., & Steiner, S. (2008). The life of a wiki: How Georgia state university library’s wiki enhances content currency and employee collaboration. Internet Learning Services Quarterly, 13(1), 87-98. DOI: 10.1300/J136v13n01_05

King, M. (2000). Designing effective training for academic advisors. In Gordon, V.N. & Habley, W.R., & Associates (Eds.),  Academic Advising: A Comprehensive Handbook (p.289-97). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Cite this article using APA style as: Paul, K. (2011, March). Enhancing advisor development through the wide world of wiki. Academic Advising Today, 34(1). Retrieved from [insert url here]
Posted in: 2011 March 34:1

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