Ana Borray and Nancy Millichap
Six months ago, EDUCAUSE announced the selection of colleges and universities for the iPASS grant program. Project teams are now gearing up their planning and embarking on the changes needed to integrate their planning and advising systems--both technology systems and direct services. We captured some early insights from their efforts which offer a glimpse into the complex task these institutions are taking on and some strategies that are likely to lead them to success.
The organizational transformation and internal realignment that iPASS requires is a significant challenge for colleges to navigate without assistance. This observation emerged from the first phase of iPASS before the current group of grant recipients was identified. We knew going into the second phase of grants that additional help with change management would be critical to its success.
Enter Kotter International and its “Change Essentials” program.
A team from Kotter International conducted a full-day change leadership program in October for the four-person teams leading each college’s project. The Change Essentials program is based on eight steps to organizational change that emerged in research by Dr. John Kotter of Harvard. Following this is an on-campus full-day Kotter “Change Essentials” program for up to 24 participants per campus, in conjunction with a half- to full-day site visit. A group of trained facilitators from both EDUCAUSE and partner Achieving the Dream lead the “Change Essentials” on-site programs. These are happening now.
While it is too soon to know the full effects of the Kotter Change Leadership Training, what we are clearly seeing is an opportunity to elevate the need to work across departments, address barriers to success, promote the urgency of this work, and allow the campus participants, working together, to build messaging and alignment in how they will transform. So far, each institution’s participants have commented on how helpful it has been to them. We are witnessing conversations taking place that represent true moments of awareness of all the parts it takes to set in motion and move forward the transformation to which each institution is committed.
Each iPASS institution is completing an action plan. They are still coming in and it is therefore too soon to provide comprehensive comments on them. As they flesh out their plans and pilot-test the systems they will implement, we see a focus on advising reform:
- iPASS is creating an opportunity for advisors to use more of their time with students in meaningful discussion rather than on the clerical functions of registration.
- Grantees are creating new job descriptions for academic advising that signal a move to a more holistic and well-informed advising process as well as a more mature career.
- Leadership roles and advising positions are evolving significantly.
- Grantees that are early in their advising reform efforts are leveraging the experience of those institutions that have already started their transformation.
- Campus stakeholders recognize the need to change current practice and engaging in conversations to develop workflows that support student completion rather than allowing practices to remain as barriers to student retention and persistence.
Many project teams have identified a clear need and focus on building workspaces, or dashboards, for both advisors and students to use the new iPASS technologies. This is of great concern for most grantees, most of whom have either envisioned or begun the creation of such spaces and all of whom are interested in effective models. No comprehensive and full-featured model has yet emerged, but we expect significant work and developments in this area in the coming one to two years.
In addition, grantees are learning about the value of predictive models and considering, across their roles and campuses, how to best use and leverage them. Most grantees are rolling out solutions that will enable them to incorporate the information from predictive models into the ways that they are holistically looking at and providing supports for their students. We are excited to learn more about the specific uses they make of predictive models in their advising transformation as they complete their initial roll-outs.
Vendor interoperability remains a thorny challenge. Grantees are seeking to integrate a number of different technologies in order to achieve their desired outcomes. But they are confronted with ongoing challenges trying to integrate systems that still do not work together or communicate well.
Community of Practice
Grantees are engaged in learning through iPASS from each other and from our advice on best practices. We have observed grantees adopting phased approaches to deployment and strong communication plans as well as instituting some clear measurements that will help to provide evidence of early wins as a result of the advice they are getting through the grant program. Furthermore, many grantees are implementing closely related systems or confronting similar process challenges. We are working to help them to connect and leverage lessons learned from each other.