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Academic Advising Management System

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One of the topics that is frequently making the rounds in my head is the need for an academic advising management system in higher education. SunGard Higher Education’s DegreeWorks appears to offer a comprehensive platform for academic advisors. However, DegreeWorks, like most of the products that SunGard offers, seems to be about as user-friendly as Banner ;-) and it costs a lot of money. AdvisorTrac can be used for appointment scheduling and appointment tracking. Unfortunately, AdvisorTrac was not originally created with academic advising in mind. It’s a scheduling platform that has “advisor” in its name and is thus an industry leader. This is mostly due to the extremely empty sphere that is the world of academic advising management systems.

I would love to have an academic advising system that is extremely functional, user-friendly and aesthetically appealing. Something like Survs, Flickr, or anything from 37signals, but for academic advisors.

At the recent NACADA National Conference, Joshua Barron, a super tech savvy advising colleague, debuted an open source academic advising management system. I wasn’t able to attend the conference, but it turns out that Joshua is looking for collaborators for this new system.

My dream academic advising system would include: integration with university student information system, note taking, built in credit articulation, appointment scheduling, assessment functionality, degree audits, future course planning/forecasting, and more!

Basically, I am fed up with paper-based advising systems. And, please note that document management is not the solution. Scanning in a bunch of paper files is not my idea of high-tech.

Here are some notes regarding the system that Joshua presented at NACADA:

On Saturday, Joshua Barron from Texas Tech presented a full advising management system that they wrote in PHP and MySQL that they are open sourcing under GPL.

Texas Tech University has an advising management system that they call AXIS. Joshua Barron demoed parts of the system and I was quite impressed. It has the following features currently:

  • Check in system
  • Set of questions that most advisors ask to every student
  • Quality Assurance Checks
  • Early Warning System
  • Automated Email Communication to Students
  • Referral System
  • Automated Drop in Notes System (pre-written notes that can be dropped in when being asked general questions i.e. how do I drop a class?)
  • Assigned Advisor
  • Student View of their Records
  • Advisor Dashboard with SIS data
  • Scanned Documents
  • Email Appointments Automated

They also have online scheduling coming soon. They also want to add the ability to suggest schedules and basically remove as much redundant and scriptable work from the advisor as possible so the advisor has as much time as possible to actually communicate with a student. The entire system is built from the ground up with an emphasis on assessment. Everything is a data point and can be queried. It was quite refreshing after seeing and using several companies’ solutions. They have recently decided to share their code with other universities and make the code open source. They are looking for partners to continue development of this tool.

Conference notes courtesy of Nathan Byrer

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  • Paul Cox

    I was excited as well when I heard about this in San Antonio. In as much as it is possible, I think roll-your-own systems are the way to go. Prefab solutions always demand time and money to modify so that they will work for your particular situation, and even then feel like wearing clothes one size too small or large. Software should meet my needs, not force me to work within its limitations. Rah Rah Joshua and Texas Tech for the decision to open source their work.

  • http://techknowtools.wordpress.com/ Laura Pasquini

    I would agree with you, Paul & Eric, in the sense that most advisor management systems do not have the individual institutions in mind. In speaking with the vendors, who were present at the NACADA conference, many programs were not flexible and adaptable to current management systems. I also inquired about the vendor’s basic knowledge of advising/higher education needs, and I was not surprised to learn that most had little involvement or experience in the field.

    The resistance to leave paper-advising behind is not the fear of technical change, but rather the headache which develops while implementing online management systems. Many concerns arise about accessibility and usability to meet the needs for the students, staff and faculty.

    Sign me up, Josh et al. I’m interested in joining the collaborative team to develop & work with an open-sourced advising management system. Kudos for those advisors who are stepping up to the innovation plate. I applaud you!

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