By Matthew Hibdon
The success of the advising system at Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) lies within the integration of people and technology. It is evident in the process we use through our iPASS work. MTSU’s Quest for Student Success laid the foundation for this integration of faculty advisors, college advisors, student success support staff, and technology into a tangible plan for improving retention and graduation rates. Advisors have many resources available in our toolkits at MTSU through both our student information system (Ellucian BANNER) and SSC Campus (EAB). This post will showcase those systems while emphasizing the hard work of the advising staff and the commitment of our whole campus to student success through investing in the proper resources.
As advisors, we have access to historical data about student success in potential barrier courses, and we receive reports about student performance in individual coursework. The predictive analytics we retrieve through SSC Campus tell us about a student’s progress through a particular degree program. Faculty also submit Academic Progress Reports each semester through the student information system (SIS) which allows advisors to search for reports for a particular student or from all assigned undergraduate advisees. These two features enable us to intervene early enough in the semester to connect students with the appropriate support services and advise them how course performance will impact their timely degree completion.
Our advising staff is more accessible than ever to students thanks to our ability to schedule appointments online. The online appointment scheduling system allows students to schedule a time for advising with ease. Students simply access our open times for appointments and find a time that works around their class schedule—all without the back-and-forth of multiple e-mails or phone calls to simply establish meeting availability. This frees up time in an advisor’s day to review student files in SSC Campus, reach out to other areas of campus (faculty, tutoring, financial aid, etc.) on behalf of students, and provide quicker response time for e-mail/phone/drop-in questions from students.
Collaboration through Accessible Student Information
With the addition of SSC Campus, advisors are able to share relevant student information easier than ever. After advising a student, advisors can file a report about the session and attach any related advising documents to the student’s profile. Maintaining an accurate record of student interactions is a best practice in advising, and this system gives us the ability to track students’ movement through the various support services on campus. This allows for greater collaboration between faculty and professional advisors which helps students move more quickly toward graduation.
A training/professional development committee plans sessions to keep advisors updated about changes on campus. Also, our partnership with EAB includes training by our dedicated consultants regarding new updates within SSC Campus and access to exclusive professional development webinars. While some sessions can cover basic navigation of features within our system, others include issues relevant to advisors like maintaining a healthy work-life balance during peak advising times.
Centralized Coordination for Student Success Services
In addition to hiring 47 new academic advisors in fall 2014, MTSU also invested in the coordination of student success services. Although advisors are housed within each academic college, we can refer students to our centralized Office of Student Success in order to help them connect with the University’s resources. The office, headed by Dr. Richard Sluder, has an accurate database of advisors and tutoring resources for students across campus. The creation of “Tutoring Spots” and the enhanced marketing initiatives of these spaces has led to greater student access to the academic assistance needed most among struggling students. The majority of on-campus tutoring actually occurs in the James E. Walker Library, which gets students in the door of the library in higher numbers. Once there, many students utilize the librarians for research help and new cross-curricular collaborative zones like the Makerspace in its Digital Media Studio.
- Integrated Planning & Advising for Student Success: After a Convening, Work Begins
- Beyond Transactions: Office of the Registrar and Student Success
- What We Learned from the JW Marriott Hotel about Student Success Efforts