University evaluates advising

Focus group addresses problems with academic guidance, KAPS reports

Advising at Kent State is getting a technology makeover.

Administration, advisers and concerned students held a technology focus group Friday to discuss problems with academic advising.

The event was hosted by Karli Chaboudy, undergraduate student senator for academic affairs, and Associate Provost Laura Davis. Chaboudy said she wanted to hold the focusgroup to increase the advising process’ efficiency.

“We had heard several horror stories,” Chaboudy said regarding complaints she’s received about advising. “That’s why we wanted to bring up issues with the technology being used.”

She added students had difficulty using Kent Academic Progress System, the online advising program on Web for Students.

“I personally had never seen KAPS before this year,” Chaboudy said. “I think the program needs to be set up and communicated better to students.”

KAPS measures academic progress and indicates what courses students need to take in each major. After filling out the reports, academic departments can utilize resources more efficiently by understanding what classes students are taking.

Some students at the meeting choose not to fill out KAPS reports because they said the program is too confusing.

“Executive Director Bill Ross and I had an opportunity to speak with faculty, and we brought up the issue of technology and how it wasn’t as user-friendly as we would like it to be,” Chaboudy said. “We want to make Web KAPS a better tool for future students.”

Susan Cole, interim university registrar, demonstrated how to use the program and explained KAPS problems are different from person to person.

“We do get feedback from students who think it’s great and those who are completely lost,” Cole said. “That’s because there are colleges on this campus that are more involved using the program than others.”

She said KAPS may be confusing because of its jargon. The program was originally created by Miami University and contains a few terms that don’t apply to Kent State. Cole said changing the jargon to recognizable terms is difficult.

“This is purchased software,” Cole said. “We have to be careful how we change the program because of copyright issues. It makes it hard to take advantage of upgrades the vender provides.”

Several advisers at the meeting emphasized that colleges need to standardize the advising process. Many wanted to adopt advising practices used by the College of Education, Health and Human Services.

In six colleges on campus, students use a program called AdvisorTrac to schedule advising appointments. Instead of using AdvisorTrac, College of EHHS students can schedule advising appointments online.

“We found AdvisorTrac to be kind of cumbersome,” said Charity Snyder, director of the EHHS student services office. “We didn’t think students could get a clear picture how to schedule an appointment.”

Incorporating technology into the advising process to keep students on track was another issue at the forum. Possible ideas include using text messaging to send students important updates via their cell phones.

“The USS is exploring text messaging,” Chaboudy said. “Students can choose what they want to be informed about, and advisers can send out mass messages.”

One drawback to this idea is the cost of receiving text messages.

“It’s a great idea but I’m on a family plan,” said Casey Davids, graduate assistant for undergraduate studies. “Advisers would have to make parents informed on how many text messages would be sent.”

Another idea was the use of streaming video of common questions advisers routinely receive. Students could view the streaming video from the particular school’s Web site.

Other ideas included two-way communication such as instant messaging. Adviser Johanna Pionke said instant messaging is a useful way for her to keep in touch with students beyond business hours.

“Sometimes I’m online at midnight and students instant message me with questions,” she said. “It’s a nice way for students to get an adviser’s answer.”

The downside of advising via instant messaging is the security risk. Advisers would not be able to ask students for important information such as Social Security numbers.

While technology can be convenient, it can also be impersonal.

The forum emphasized the importance of face-to-face interaction and the need to incorporate “high tech” with “high touch.”

“Advising is more than just scheduling,” Cole said. “Advisers talk to students and encourage them. They provide problem-solving and advice that plans futures.”

By technology replacing old advising methods, many advisers at the meeting were concerned not every student would like the changes.

“Not all students have access to the types of technology being discussed here,” said Barbara Miller, adviser at the Student Advancement Center. “I don’t want to take part in a program that could create a technological rift among students.”

Chaboudy plans on a follow-up meeting with Davis and Cole to evaluate feedback given at the meeting.

Contact student affairs reporter Aman Ali at [email protected]. Contact student politics reporter Breanne George at [email protected].