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Voices of the Global Community

David Bucci, Mary Gabrielsen and Amy Shannon, East Carolina University
Sarah Eberhart, University of Florida

Editor’s Note:  The following article was developed from a presentation given at the NACADA Annual Conference in Orlando, October 2010.

DavidBucci.jpgMaryGabrielsen.jpg“Technology” and “going green” have become prominent buzzwords for today’s academic advisor. Academic advising conferences and listservs are inundated with technology-based techniques and suggestions aimed at assisting advising, easing financial burdens, and minimizing environmental impact. With the current economy directly affecting higher education funding, and today’s tech-savvy student population, the implementation of technology has become important not only for the advancement of the field but for advisor survival. However, the implementation of technology in advising can be likened to giving advisors two sticks and expecting us to eventually make a fire: through trial and error a fire may eventually start, but it will happen sooner with guidance.

AmyShannon.jpgSarahEberhart.jpgSome advisors find it difficult to change work habits. Maintaining the path we know is easier than exploring new ways to approach work responsibilities. Nevertheless, the combination of increased student caseloads and declining operational budgets necessitates change for many advisors. Research has examined the importance of technology integration in advising through lenses focused on students (Wilson, 2004), faculty and staff, and the academy (Paulson, 2002). However, the vastness of information on the topic provides a strong case for information overload and contributes to uncertainty among advisors. Though the advent of technology has provided new avenues for advisors to reach our students, a holistic approach to best technology practices in advising (e.g., the “how to”) often is lacking.

Advisors may want to implement change through a “baby-step” or individualized approach to incorporating technology and green practices in our jobs. The first step is to “know thy enemy” -- decide whether change is worthwhile. When “going green” through the use of newtechnologies, advisors can reduce expenses, lessen the need for physical storage space for files, and reduce our negative impact on the environment. All of this can be done while meeting student expectations and reducing advisor stress. Conversely, advisors must be aware of the consequences instilling technology can have on our daily operations. These consequences include time and expertise needed to set up technology, the time and energy needed to train staff, what must be done to address privacy concerns, and how best to confront and overcome staff fear of change.

Successful implementation of technology in advising hinges on access to available and reliable resources and advisor willingness to seek means toward a positive end. A well-funded institution may provide campus-wide resources and technologies that enhance the advising experience but advisors at lesser-funded institutions may be required to “fend for themselves” to install new technologies. Simple technological endeavors (e.g., e-mail and e-folder based advising) offer results that can be as effective as more labor intensive technologies found at larger, well-funded institutions. The prominence of free cloud technologies (e.g., use of online applications, such as Google™ Docs rather than proprietary software such as Microsoft™ Word) has further increased resource availability and provides other avenues for cash-strapped advisors.

Before worrying about the finer points of “green” resources, advisors should seek basic information that will allow them to take the first step towards a paperless world.  We suggest three basic considerations for advisors seeking effective methods for “going green”:

Know the institution and the budget.  Simply stated, advisors must become aware of the resources provided by their institutions. Before recreating the wheel, advisors should research the availability of campus programs and personnel that may be readily available. This may also require a realistic understanding of funding limitations. For example, an advising group will likely be unable to purchase a $20 million system, although it may be possible to use existing programs in new ways (i.e., institutional e-mail, social media, and standard documents).

Consider the challenges. When considering the implementation of a “green” technology plan, it is important to broach the topic of challenges. Beyond initial costs, resource needs, the fear of change, and the daunting task of developing green practices, technology integration must address records security concerns. With implementation of third party sources (e.g., Google™), it is common to fear a loss of privacy. Before implementing third party technologies, advisors must be aware of their partnerships and the security levels of these applications and programs. Advisors must be cognizant of who has access to electronic records; e-files must meet the same security standards as paper files.

Advisors must consider both institutional challenges and challengers. Are advisors completely restrained by the institutional budget?  Are advisors within a department against this change? Is the administration supportive of this effort? Careful navigation is required at each level; effective leadership is needed to find common ground that will allow for the enactment of new procedures.

Take the first step. The first step is often the most difficult. Just as each advisor employs technology in an individualized manner, so too will implementation glitches require modifications to a plan. Advisors should be prepared for backlash if an idea does not initially succeed. Keep in mind that initial steps do not require a huge leap; it may be best to simply implement small and slow changes. Small changes can help minimize staff fears and provide sufficient time to effectively train personnel who need more guidance. The integration of small pieces of a plan provides a testing ground for detractors and may bring a balance between growth and the continued satisfaction of all involved parties.

Despite a variety of concerns about the implementation of technology, green advising methods are becoming prominent fixtures on college campuses. It is important that advisors embrace new technologies and understand the benefits of these technologies while remaining cognizant of concerns. When we are open to change and are willing to explore new options we can take the first steps towards “going green.”

David Bucci
College of Technology & Computer Science Advising Center 
East Carolina University
buccid@ecu.edu

Mary Gabrielsen
College of Technology & Computer Science Advising Center
East Carolina University
gabrielsenm@ecu.edu

Amy Shannon
College of Technology & Computer Science Advising Center
East Carolina University
shannona@ecu.edu

Sarah Eberhart
College of Health & Human Performance
University of Florida
seberhart@hhp.ufl.edu

References

Paulson, K. (2002). Reconfiguring faculty roles for virtual settings. Special Issue: The Faculty in the New Millennium, 73(1), 123-140.

Wilson, E.V. (2004). A standards framework for academic e-advising services. International Journal of Services and Standards, 4(1), 69-82.

Cite this article using APA style as: Bucci, D., Gabrielsen, M., Shannon, A., & Eberhart, S. (2011, September). Save green by going green: Technology to the rescue. Academic Advising Today, 34(3). Retrieved from [insert url here]

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