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Megan P. Wuebker and Angela Cook, NACADA Advisor Training & Development Commission Members

Megan Wueber.jpgAs with any profession, academic advising requires training, but institutions Angela Cook.jpgoften struggle to identify a centralized resource or approach for implementing advisor training.  With obstacles of limited financial support, workloads stretched beyond capacity, and autonomous centers with disparate advising structures, advisor training has been a challenge for many institutions.

Some examples of new advisor training programs exist.  For example, Utah Valley University (UVU) offers a comprehensive in-person training plan that includes technical competency, best practices, and effective student interaction (Moser, Nuttall, & Wade, 2014).  The University of Wisconsin-Madison provides a face-to-face training series for their new advisors (Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System, 2013).  Other institutions utilize new advisor checklists to help advisors become acclimated to both the institution and the profession.  As the Advisor Training and Professional Development Staff at the University of Cincinnati, we completed a thorough search for online advisor training programs, but we were unable to find an existing model that met our institutional needs.  So, we built one.

At the time this training was developed, our job responsibilities included dedicated support to advisor training and professional development for the entire undergraduate advising community at the University of Cincinnati (UC).  Though we have different professional backgrounds—student affairs and instructional design—together we possess a combination of knowledge and skills that creates a perfect storm of online training development.

Theory

Our approach centered on NACADA’s (2017) Core Competencies for Academic Advising, which includes three components: conceptual, informational, and relational.  The conceptual component provides advisors with ideas and theories of advising, while the informational component includes institution-specific knowledge for accurately advising students.  The relational component connects the conceptual and informational components to effectively communicate and build rapport with students (NACADA, 2017).  It is worth mentioning that the NACADA model is reflective of Habley’s (The National Center for the Advancement of Educational Practices, 1987) framework for effective advisor training.  Our training development process at the University of Cincinnati also utilized Knowles’ (1973) theory of andragogy, which posits that, for adult learners, information must be timely, relevant, and contextually appropriate with opportunities for reflection, self-evaluation, and application.

Course Development

As the Advisor Training and Professional Development Staff, we knew the desired framework for our New Advisor Training (NAT) would be based on the NACADA Core Competencies (2017) structure; we also needed to address where it would be located online.  The logical solution was to build the training in Blackboard, our learning management system (LMS).  This afforded the opportunity to monitor enrollment and activity in the training course while also ensuring that advisors have an easily accessible resource.  Using the LMS also provides access to collaboration tools (e.g., discussion boards) to facilitate engagement with the training and other new advisors.

The development of the training itself began with a general outline of eleven modules, ensuring they aligned with the Core Competencies framework (NACADA, 2017).  Table 1 shows these modules and their descriptions.  The next step included creating learning outcomes for each module to guide content acquisition, which included book chapters, NACADA articles, institutional websites, and public resources.  Each module includes a Training Materials section of text-based materials and a Media section for video- and audio-based materials.  Some modules include a More to Explore section, where advisors can access optional resources for further engaging with the topic.  Several modules provide a Resources section for specific on- and off-campus resources.  Each module concludes with a Theory to Practice section, where advisors complete a journal entry to reflect on the module content and integrate it into their daily work with students.  This reflection process adheres to Knowles’ (1973) theory for adult learning, ensuring that new advisors immediately apply the content to their advising practice.

Table 1
NAT Modules and Descriptions

Module Title

Description

NACADA Competency

Student Development

Learn more about theories related to student development in college.  An understanding of student development theory will serve as important context for our work with students.

Conceptual

Relational

Theories and Philosophies of Academic Advising

Learn more about the research foundations that inform academic advising.  Different advising philosophies and approaches exist, so find the ones that work best for you!

Conceptual

Relational

UC Context and History

Understanding UC's history, reputation, mission, and values will not only help you as an academic advisor, but also help you to connect to and understand your students' experiences.  This module will assist you in fitting your daily work into the bigger picture at University of Cincinnati.

Conceptual

Informational

Advising as a Profession

Learn more about local, state, and national professional organizations for academic advising.

Informational

Academic Advising at UC

Learn about UC advising tools; program, college, and degree requirements; and UC academic resources.

Informational

Interpersonal Skills in Academic Advising

Develop communication skills and apply counseling strategies to your academic advising practice.

Conceptual

Relational

Enhancing Your Professional Development

Take personality assessments to better understand your personality traits, communication style, and work preferences.  Use these resources, along with the material covered in previous modules, to begin articulating your professional advising philosophy.

Conceptual Relational

Informational

Tools and Resources for Your Daily Advising

This module is your toolkit for many advising resources: organizational skills information, daily resources, tips and strategies from experienced advisors, advice on working with parents, and more.

Conceptual Informational

Diversity and Inclusion Toolkit

Combining what you have learned about student development theory and advising techniques, this module will explore the role of identity in a student's experience.  The module provides tools and strategies for approaching advising with inclusion in mind.

Conceptual

Relational

Crisis Management

You might occasionally face a student who is in distress or crisis. You might also encounter a student who is belligerent or hostile.  This module will help you recognize warning signs and give you the tools to address students’ needs effectively.

Conceptual

Relational

Informational

Legal and Ethical Issues in Advising

Academic advising is subject to the same legal and ethical guidelines as the rest of higher education.  Learn more about how these regulations may influence your work with students.

Informational, Relational

 

The LMS journal feature was utilized to promote reflection and communication in the course.  This feature provides space for individualized writing without relying on other participants (a replacement for discussion forums which may not be successful without a substantial number of participants).  The training encourages new advisors to discuss their journaling with their supervisor, and likewise encourages supervisors to ask probing questions.  To help facilitate this, a supervisor section in the training program offers a high-level overview of the training content, list of the journal prompts, and additional discussion questions.  Table 2 provides an example of a journal prompt and its corresponding supervisor questions.

Table 2
Sample Journal Prompt and Corresponding Supervisor Questions

Module: Interpersonal Skills in Academic Advising

Journal Prompt

Reflect on the following in your journal entry:

  • What was your own experience with academic advising when you were a student? What were the positives and negatives of your experience? How did interpersonal skills influence your relationship with your advisor?
  • What is your communication style? What do you see as your comfort level with talking to new people, responding to sarcasm or humor, and building relationships with challenging students?
  • What are your strengths and potential challenges in interpersonal skills? How will you work to grow in this area?

Supervisor Questions

  • What do you see as the most important interpersonal skills for your advising practice?  
  • What do you consider to be your strengths in this area?  
  • What goals do you have for improving your interpersonal skills, and how can I support you?

 

Deployment and Assessment

At UC, we developed the NAT online course over 6 months.  At the time of deployment, the university had two new advisors who could pilot the training.  As part of our training role, we also met individually with the advising administrators in each college so that we could demonstrate the NAT, gather buy-in, and solicit feedback.  When new advisors join the UC advising community, we meet with them in-person to explain the training and to conduct a pre-training self-assessment.  The self-assessment questions, modeled after the learning outcomes in each module, use a four-point Likert scale (strongly agree, agree, disagree, strongly disagree).  After the advisor completes the training, we meet with them for the post-training self-assessment.  The results from both self-assessments will be used to evaluate the training’s effectiveness and identify any needed improvements.

We as the program’s developers have met with the advising administrators and have received overwhelmingly positive feedback about NAT.  While we had anticipated that new advisors would benefit from the training program, we also received consistent feedback that experienced advisors and even advising administrators would find the content very helpful in their professional development.  Some advising units have also started using selected content and journal prompts as discussion topics in their weekly staff meetings.

At UC, we anticipate that NAT will continue to progress as both advising and the university evolve.  As the Advisor Training and Professional Development Staff, we are regularly adding new materials and features, including a section on collaborating with parents and a keyword search for ease of navigation.  We will also continue to collect the pre- and post-training self-assessments to determine the effectiveness of the training, making revisions as needed.

Conclusion

Prior to the creation of NAT, each advising unit developed their own approach to onboarding new professionals, leading some advisors to feel underprepared for their new roles.  Now, our advising community at UC has access to a university-wide tool that not only helps prepare new advisors, but also enhances the knowledge and skills of experienced advisors, alleviates the responsibility of advising units to create their own trainings, provides consistency across independent advising offices, and enables advising administrators easy access to resources for staff development.  We hope that our UC advisor training can serve as a model for other institutions.

Megan Paxton Wuebker
Instructional Designer
University of Cincinnati
wuebkemp@ucmail.uc.edu

Angela Cook
Assistant Director, MBA Program
University of Cincinnati
cook2a6@ucmail.uc.edu

References

Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System. (2013). Advising resources for faculty and staff. Retrieved from https://advising.wisc.edu/facstaff/?q=content/training-new-advisors.

The National Center for the Advancement of Educational Practices (ACT). (1987). Academic advising conference: Outline and notes. Retrieved from www.nacada.ksu.edu/Portals/0/Clearinghouse/advisingissues/documents/AcademicAdvisingConferenceOutlineandNotes.pdf

Knowles, M.  (1973).  The adult learner: A neglected species.  Houston, TX: Gulf Publishing Company.

The Global Community for Academic Advising (NACADA). (2017). NACADA Academic Advising Core Competencies Model. Retrieved from https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/About-Us/NACADA-Leadership/Administrative-Division/Professional-Development-Committee/PDC-Advisor-Competencies.aspx

Moser, C., Nuttall, S., & Wade, O. (2014, October). The ultimate adventure: Developing an advisor training and certification program. Pre-conference workshop presented at the Annual Conference of the Global Community for Academic Advising (NACADA), Minneapolis, MN.  

Cite this article using APA style as: Wuebker, M., & Cook, A. (2017, September). Online training for new advisors. Academic Advising Today, 40(3). Retrieved from [insert url here] 

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Academic Advising Today, a NACADA member benefit, is published four times annually by NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising. NACADA holds exclusive copyright for all Academic Advising Today articles and features. For complete copyright and fair use information, including terms for reproducing material and permissions requests, see Publication Guidelines.

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