Today on Teaching & Learning Champions, we’re joined by Kathy James, Director of Advising. We’re talking about the impact of student advising on Guided Pathways.

Thanks for listening to TLC @ ACC!

Episode Transcript

[ Music ]

[Matthew Evins:] Welcome to another episode of “Teaching and Learning Champions.” I’m Matt Evins, director of instructional technology and digital resources in the Teaching and Learning Excellence Division at ACC. Today I’m joined by Kathy James, director of advising, as we talk about the impact of student advising on Guided Pathways. Kathy, thank you for joining me today.

[Kathy James:] Well, it’s my pleasure. Thank you for the opportunity.

[Matthew Evins:] What can you tell us about the purpose and goals of advising at ACC?

[Kathy James:] Okay, so one the primary purpose and goals of advising at ACC are to engage with students in a way that’s meaningful, purposeful, and humanistic. ACC students are people who are trusting this college to meet their needs, their goals, whether it be personal enrichment or quality of life improvements. So advising are a resource from entrance to exit. And hopefully will meet their goals anywhere in between. A lot of our responsibilities really involve providing guidance to help them make informed decisions, develop a plan of action that’s attainable. That could be anything from course selection, to the job selection, to the college selection. And everything in between.

[Matthew Evins:] Great. You mentioned you know, everywhere in between. At what point does an ACC students start meeting with an advisor? Is it those students that are going through you know dual enrollment? Is it once you matriculate into the college in a degree program? When do advisors start getting involved with the students choices at the college?

[Kathy James:] From the moment the student completes the application for enrollment, they can have involvement with advising. You know, in the onboarding process there are enrollment advisors that help guiding them towards making some informed decisions about the programs or majors that they’re going to pursue. And then from that point, once they are ready to register for classes, they can meet with an advisor to again confirm that they’ve chosen the area that they think is going to help them meet their goals most. And then from that point they can get advising and registration assistance. They could be referred to faculty departments for specific information. But any time and all the time students are available to see students. And students are actually assigned to an advisor from the point of entry. Once it’s determined which campus, they’re predominantly going to be taking classes, every student at ACC is assigned a contact person that’s there and available to assist them in their journey at ACC.

[Matthew Evins:] If a student does happen to change primary campuses throughout their tenure at the college, do their advisors change? Or how does that work with that type of relationship?

[Kathy James:] Well, there is potential for their advisors to change. In that case, it’s for the convenience of the student. If it’s, you know we want them to be able to see someone wherever they are. When they do their application, they identify the campus that they think is going to be where they want to go. And then we know, the nature of ACC, things may change. It could change because of the actual program they want to pursue. For example our applied sciences and our nursing programs are at specialized campuses that students don’t know or aren’t aware of when they first do their application. So, for those reasons they may change campuses. And there’s a multiple of reasons. But anytime a student develops a relationship with a specific advisor, they certainly have the option to stay with that advisor. They don’t always have to go to campus to see that person. Our advisors are available to speak with them on the telephone, they can email them, you know there are multiple methods that if they’re going to maintain that connection that they will work through how to stay engaged. So and, again, students will sometimes just need to see who’s available to meet what their specific need is at that time.

[Matthew Evins:] Okay, great. Let’s move into specifically a Guided Pathways mentality. What role does student advising have in supporting the Guided Pathways framework at the college?

[Kathy James:] Excellent. So, our framework for Guided Pathways is very holistic in nature. I mean, we’ve redesigned Guided Pathways to have full wraparound services for all students from the moment they choose a program, or what we always called they choose their major. With the Guided Pathways model, all of our advisors and counselors have been assigned to an area of study based on those selection, so that those students can identify people that are experts in those areas. And can really guide and navigate them through the program requirements, course requirements, transfer requirements. If they are internal programs that have an admissions process, then they’re there to help those students do that. So for the most part our advisors are assigned by area study. And the expectation is that they’ll develop relationships with faculty, deans, and department chairs in those areas so that we can really be able to identify and help the departments as well as the students increase persistence and ultimately get credentials. So that of course it reflects on the services and opportunities that students do have at the college.

[Matthew Evins:] And has there been any type of feedback that you have received or that your advisors have received around the change in approach for student advising as it relates to Guided Pathways. So, have a specific AOS advisors, do students find it to be more helpful? Are they confused by it? What types of feedback have you received by students?

[Kathy James:] We’ve got pros and cons. One of the other changes that came with the Guided Pathways model is that our advisors went to an appointment model. And for many, many years we operated with students on a walk-in basis, first come first served. And we just sort of turned them out as crowd collected. With the appointment model we can really spend some intentional interaction with the students. So being able to have an identified advisor, or an advisor that is at least in that area study to be able to sit down with and talk about those specific programs, have certainly enhanced our students’ experience. It’s no secret that a lot of our students take classes that don’t count ultimately to their major. And it seems to be a sense that it’s because they’ve been advised to do that. Well, it’s very difficult for advising to tell a student to take an incorrect course if we’re following the program. So, with the Guided Pathways model, if they stay in the same area of study, at least, we can at least eliminate those circumstances where they take courses that no longer fit for the new degree plan. So, the confusion is not necessarily in who they can see or when they can see them. It just has a lot to do with the model changing to an appointment model. Our resources become much more streamlined in that matter. Which means students need to take some responsibility and plan accordingly. And really deliberate in what they want to receive when they come in to see an advisor. So, and it’s you know, now that we are two, three years into that process I think students have gotten accustomed to its not a cafeteria. We’ve got to spend some time and be deliberate about the engagement that you want. And then advisors, in turn need to be fully prepared for that student when they come into the office. And be able to meet their needs in a timely manner. Because most of the appointments are anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes. And can be scheduled longer, but if planned for in advance. So, it’s you know, it’s been a culture change for us, but I think it’s been a positive culture change. And it has absolutely made us much more efficient and effective now in the information that we’re being able to provide to students. Really being able to spend the time to dialogue with them about what it is they’re really there for. To assess any obstacles or barriers that they may be encountering. Be able to refer them to some services that can assist in trying to address whatever concerns the students might have. So, the entire focus with Guided Pathways have been to really try to address the needs of the student and understand where they are and what their circumstances are. And an effort to really give them the best opportunity we can for them to achieve their goals. And the goals vary for the students. Some are here for just personal enrichment. Some are here to get degrees but determined along the way that they can actually get certificates that are stackable towards the degree. Some of them are here to take some classes to transfer. And we want to make sure they know the requirements of the transfer institutions they’re going to. And then, sometimes they’re just confused. They think they want to major in something, they have no idea what the career opportunities are going to be. And that’s where faculty comes into play for us. We are, you know, we know through Guided Pathways, we’ve develop mentors, faculty mentors. We have great relationships with the faculty in the departments to be able to send the students to say you know you can talk to our career experts. But it’s good for you to talk to a faculty person that’s in your related field, because they can give you a much more broader understanding of the opportunities you’ll have once you complete the degrees.

[Matthew Evins:] That’s a great segue into the next question. What tools are available for faculty to help support advising as it relates to Guided Pathways?

[Kathy James:] Well, the first tool that we need to make sure faculty have is who the advisors are, and especially the ones that are assigned to their areas of study. And so in Guided Pathways we redesigned a lot of our websites. The advising’s website right now only does list predominantly the advisors and counselors that are assigned to the specific areas. So that faculty do have a quick, easy access to who a person is on a campus that they can refer student to. Additionally, we have enhanced our technology, so that students have a student face in technology to assist them and be able to access resources that can keep them on track. Faculty where we’ve been working on a joint technology that the faculty advisors that anyone at the college can see and understand what outreach has been to students. You can look at it immediately and see what their student status is, their GPA, their major, their progress. And in the past three years or so, there’ve been many more opportunities for the faculty and advisors to meet and collaborate on concerns and issues. We’ve had a lot of dialogue about whether advisors are appropriately advising students, what resources or contact people are on the faculty side of things to assure that the advisors have the most up-to-date and accurate information so that we don’t mis-advise students. And we get changes quite frequently. The programs change, prerequisite change, course requirements change. So, it’s a lot for advisors to keep up with because it’s not just one major, it’s all the majors. And as you know, all the various studies have multiple programs within them. But we highly rely on the program maps that have been designed by the departments that identify the courses and the sequence of courses that are recommended for the students to take. And you know we all work together to try to follow that as closely as rationally and pragmatically as possible, given the nature of our students. And of course, we know a lot of our students are part-time students. And trying to navigate that completion to credential is a little bit more challenging for them, as well as for our full-time students who have the same issues as part-time students. Working constantly, trying to juggle 12 credit hours, four classes. And given the resources they need for time management to be able to successfully achieve that goal. So, faculty has become very integral with our processes. And you know our dream and goal coming in the future is that we have what we refer to as early alert systems that the faculty can do an automatic notification to an advisor if a student is not attending class, not performing successfully in class, or if in general they are raising some concern and the faculty wants someone to reach out for them. So, we’ve got some systems in place that can happen. It’s our inspired for advisor system that does pull some information from Blackboard if it’s there. So, I think that’s our next step in Guided Pathways and our collaboration with faculty, is to try to identify early on, students that are experiencing some academic you know, challenges. And that we can work together to try and address what those are, in an effort of course, our goal as a college is retention and completion.

[Matthew Evins:] Sure. Okay. You have mentioned a couple sort of in passing, but are there any projects or initiatives within advising that would be beneficial for faculty and staff to know as it relates to Guided Pathways? Are there things that are currently happening? That are coming up. Or things that you’re planning on for the near future?

[Kathy James:] Well, one of the thing is good to know, just you know for a long time advisory had the reputation of being very transactional. You know, students come in, this is what I want. Okay, here’s what you need and go on back to business. So, it’s good you know college-wide we’ve sort of taken on a much more holistic approach to working with students. In that we have some much deeper conversations with them about what it is that they really want to accomplish. We are very much trying to connect them to either internships or job opportunities for the majors that they intended. Because if students can clearly identify and experience the potential of what the majors and programs can provide, then we know and it’s been documented that they are going to persist because they know what the end goal is going to be. So you know, we are just working to perfect our knowledge of the programs. Making sure that we stay abreast. We train all of the advisors in the coaching methodology which is just a general engagement methodology on how to be much more inquisitive when you’re meeting with your students to try to identify any obstacles. We are constantly trying to upgrade our technology to be able to not spend time writing and typing, but that it can give us the information we need so we can spend more attention to the student. But all in all, our next highest and greatest endeavor is our online advising. So, we have had opportunities for students to do virtual advising through WebEx, or maybe through Google Chat. But we are actually in the process of launching actual virtual online advising, where students can log into the website and if there is an advisor available they can click and they can be advised via chat. Or they can go straight into the video conference. We want to make that experience as similar so if they were sitting in the office with the advisors. So they still can have that face-to-face interaction. And advisors online will use the coaching methodology to assess students as if they were in the office as well as meet their immediate needs. So, that’s the latest thing that is coming up. We have had ongoing early alert pilots to just really just get an assessment of our services, overall. We piloted some services with our distance education advisors to really try to address. That is the largest population of students we have, students taking classes online. And some that are completely online learners. And how do we provide those wraparound services for them that students on campuses can receive? So, our management, our leadership, our deans in those departments are really trying to strive for ways to incorporate the information, making sure the students are aware and how to be able to provide it to them in an online environment. So that is certainly a program in process. So beyond the online advising, which is currently right now as we speak in pilot, our distance education services, wraparound services, and you know again, including clinical counseling. Because some of our students that are online learners are experiencing some personal traumas that may need to be addressed so they can be successful online. And, again, trying to identify early on, any issues students might be having are certainly going to allow us, as a college, as a community really identified and try to work with those students, exactly where they are. And learning what their situations are.

[Matthew Evins:] Excellent. So, the last question I have for you is not related to Guided Pathways at all, but is there anything that’s particularly giving you Riverbat pride this week?

[Kathy James:] This week, my Riverbat pride is that we have made it through our peak registration period. We have survived yet another systematic change in the pay-as-you-go process for students. It is, you know, I think that it has gone as smoothly as any systematic change we’ve had. And students have adapted and adjusted to it. So, we are now gearing up for our assignment of our new students to ACC. They will join other students on our advisor’s case management load. So we will immediately begin outreach to them. And seeing where they are, how their experience at ACC is going thus far. We will send them emails periodically throughout the semester, letting them know things that are going on. Touching base with them. And also, we are now at a point after we worked through our inspired for advising technology to be really able to go and immediately identify our students who are on a sort of sat progress issues, and be able to reach out to them immediately to try to assure that they can get themselves back in good academic standing. So, we’ve got a lot constantly going on. But we think we have all the systems in place right now to be able to efficiently and effectively address them. And we certainly have our processes in place from the start of the semester to be able to introduce ourselves to our students and start trying to do outreach to them so that we can see them through to the end of the semester.

[Matthew Evins:] Great. Well thank you very much, Kathy, for joining me today, I appreciate it.

[Kathy James:] You’re very welcome.

[Matthew Evins:] Well, that wraps up another episode of Teaching and Learning Champions. Don’t forget that you can view blog posts reach episode on the TLED website. I also encourage you to subscribe to the ACC district podcasts on any of your preferred podcast apps. Or, listen to individual episodes on the TLED website. Thank you for tuning in and we’ll chat next time on TLC at ACC.

[ Music ]