Eric White, NACADA President
A short while ago I was talking with a student about academic advising. I casually mentioned that it is important that students become familiar with the degree audit system at Penn State and use it often. The student first responded by agreeing that the Penn State system was good, but then said (much to my surprise and I paraphrase): But if we encourage students to use the degree audit, they won’t ever see their advisors. And then it hit me—how often advising is confused with scheduling and registration procedures and how easy it is to assume that some form of technology can replace human contact and interaction.
One of the consistent themes I hear from the advising community is how difficult it is to dispel the equation that advising is registration. Once, this was a very natural assumption as often advising occurred only as a prelude to the registration process. Knowles’ (1970) definition of advising makes this connection quite clear when he said that “the task of advising is concentrated in the opening days of registration and enrollment and consists of aiding students in the selection of courses.” For those working under this definition, once registration was over, there was no need to see an advisor again. Add the convenience of today’s technology that allows students to register using a computer in the advisor’s office, and one shouldn’t be too surprised that the impression of advising as a registration process has not totally disappeared from the advising landscape.
What can we do about this? We must educate students about academic advising. A large majority of new students don’t “have a clue” about academic advising. They typically come with notions based on their high school experiences and assume that academic advisors must be like guidance counselors, or social workers, or psychological therapists. The advising community must take the responsibility to help students understand who academic advisors are and what they do. Several institutions have addressed this challenge and the Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources provides links to advising Web sites that help introduce academic advising to students.
Academic advising should be mentioned in the recruitment literature of our schools, our catalogues should discuss advising, and our college Internet home pages should easily link to advising sites. When prospective students visit our campuses, both initially and once they have accepted an offer, one of the first persons they should meet is an academic advisor. Advisors should use this time to orient students to the roles and responsibilities of advisors and advisees. When that happens, then students will know that advising goes beyond registration and clearly see advising as education.We should use this time to encourage early contact with advisors and persuade students not to wait until the last minute to see an advisor to register.
If our institutional calendars are not conducive to such interactions, then we must work for change. In this new world of technology and registration, almost anything is possible. What we must ultimately “teach” students is that academic advising is an on-going relationship; that while scheduling courses is part of the total endeavor, it is not the entire picture. The richness of academic advising lies in helping students grow intellectually and personally, assisting students as they make positive decisions that help them move forward in their lives, challenging students to stretch their strengths and experience new things, and use their time in the college as a learning experience.
The best of degree audits, the most sophisticated of on-line registration programs, and the flashiest Web sites can’t do what a real live academic advisor can. If students only use a degree audit and nothing more as the full measure of their advising experience, then a great deal has been lost. There is much a student can learn from an academic advisor: about themselves, about the value of education, about taking advantage of all opportunities offered by the college, about the nuances of curriculum, and about all course choices—from general education to major selection to electives.
I have yet to see (and I doubt I will ever see) any computer that can have a relationship with a student. I have witnessed the power of successful advising that lead students to make innovative choices, weigh possibilities, take action, try something new academically, take the unfamiliar rather than the familiar, or allow themselves to open up to all the possibilities that higher education has to offer.
We talk about the power of computers and how technology can free us. This is true. What we must now do is take advantage of the freedom that technology provides and deliver on the promises that are inherent in sound academic advising.
Knowles, Asa S. (1970). Handbook of College and University Administration: Academic. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Book Company.
Student and Advisor Responsibilities in Advising. (2005). NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources. Retrieved January 13, 2005 from www.nacada.ksu.edu/ Clearinghouse/Links/student_responsibility.htm
Cite this article using APA style as: White, E. (2005, February). From the president: Some thoughts on academic advising and technology. Academic Advising Today, 28(1). Retrieved from [insert url here]