College to invest in new advising software


Kaitlin Hetterscheidt

Most students currently use the OASIS academic advising guide in combination with pen-on-paper templates to plan out their graduation path.

By Campus Reporter

Columbia will invest in new technologies to support the college’s advising services beginning as early as the next academic year, according to the college’s Strategic Plan. 

As part of the plan’s goal to ensure student success, new technologies will include degree planning, degree audit and advising software that will provide students and faculty with tools to manage student advising as well as facilitate students’ own management of curricular and course registration decisions. 

“It will give college advising much better tools to work with in terms of identifying issues that students are having early on rather than last-minute,” said Stan Wearden, senior vice president and provost. “It will make the whole advising meeting with the student much more meaningful and effective.”

Wearden said the decision to invest in degree-planning software was made to give students the opportunity to make the best possible progression toward degree completion. A big part of this is knowing which classes to take and when to do so, which could be handled effectively through the combination of faculty advisors and the appropriate technology, Wearden said.

“What’s being referenced in the Strategic Plan is looking at the different softwares and tools that we might want to explore as a better way to help students understand where they’re at in completing requirements and planning more than one semester at a time,” said Brian Marth, director of College Advising.

Some programs provide students with degree-planning templates, but they are not tailored to individual students, and there is no standardized method throughout the college, Marth said. Oftentimes, students come into advising meetings with two- or four-year graduation plans written with pen on paper, he said.

“The software would be customizing [degree planning] to each student, which would help a lot of students in understanding where they’re at and what they need,” he said. “It also would improve advising because it wouldn’t be recreating that same form every time a new student comes in.”

Presently, the college uses OASIS to manage course schedules, registration and advising guides, but the system has its limits, Marth said.

“[The advising guides] are more like checklists,” he said. “They’re not really a planning software where a student could say ‘I plan on taking these courses, in this semester, in this sequence.’”

Marth said the current system has caused problems for students in the past, especially when it comes to long-term planning.

Leora Ben-Ze’ev, a sophomore theatre major, agrees. She said the OASIS advising guide is not straightforward and does not always accurately reflect information.

“Even the advising guide is like an unofficial thing,” Ben-Ze’ev said. “If you wanted to really get a comprehensive list of what you have completed and what you need to fulfill for your major, it would be a lot easier if it was all in one place and it was official.”

Wearden said many other colleges are already using similar technology to aid in advising. Kent State University in Ohio, where Wearden previously served as Dean of the College of Communication and Information, is one of them.

“I come from an institution that has used these kinds of tools and used them effectively,” he said. “Dr. Kim also came from an institution where these kinds of tools are used effectively, so both of us agreed from the start that these tools could improve the advising experience.”

Wearden said the college is considering a variety of different software options. Columbia recently joined a student success collaborative composed of other colleges and universities, which has regular meetings to discuss possible solutions for issues facing colleges, including ways to better support advising for students, Wearden said. 

“The collaborative has software tools that work very effectively, so we’re beginning to investigate those tools,” Wearden said. “Their cost is less than $100,000 annually, which is a really low cost for technology.”

Wearden said the college would begin to explore other options this summer and into the fall, engaging advisors and faculty in the process. The college also plans to test the new software with students to make sure that it works for them. The goal is to have the software chosen and implemented within a year, he said.