Trending Now: Postsecondary

This month we’re focusing on student success.

ECAR, the research arm of EDUCAUSE, just released findings from its benchmarking study of Integrated Planning and Advising Services (IPAS). This study is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The report can be found on the ECAR Research Hub website along with a helpful infographic.

ECAR defines IPAS around the following functions:

  • Integrates an institution’s approach to student success
  • Promotes shared ownership for educational progress among students, faculty, and staff
  • Provides holistic information and services
  • Contributes to the completion of a degree or other credential

The services of IPAS include advising, counseling, progress tracking and early alerts.

Technologies can support and enhance those services by:

  • Documenting and tracking students’ educational plans
  • Improving data analysis
  • Offering self-service resources that reduce advisor workloads
  • Trigger interventions based on student behavior or faculty input

The benchmarking study itself focused on of a cohort of 36 institutions, mostly community colleges. Each is highly invested in student success, and the benchmarking study sheds light on how planning and advising services (that is, IPAS) fits into their student success agenda. It dives into the challenges behind effective integration; what students, faculty, and student services staff want in their systems; and what tech-based systems the institutions are using.

Here are 12 IPAS system types and how study institutions are using them:

I was most intrigued by the different perspectives about the integration of technology into the work of faculty and staff. For example, students participating in the study’s focus groups didn’t assume that IPAS technology would involve a loss of contact with an advisor, but they identified connecting with an advisor as an important aspect of their success and didn’t want to lose that.

I encourage you to dive into this benchmarking report and check out the different capabilities that the services utilized by participating institutions have in terms of education planning, advising and counseling, and early alerts (starts on p. 21) as well as the use of analytics in services of student success. The report ends with advice for the selection and deployment of IPAS:

  • Mobilize institutions – IPAS should be an institution-wide initiative
  • Take the time to plan and communicate – extensive communication slows things down but is worth the time and effort in the long run
  • Fix problems before deploying IPAS – rethink academic pathways, student support services, and other institutional processes BEFORE jumping into IPAS because process and tools should be aligned not added on top of each other
  • Expect customization and shop accordingly – recognize that a magic bullet solution does not exist in the marketplace so you will need to customize; also, balance vendor claims with institutions that use their product
  • Keep it simple for the user – enough said

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