by Heidi Church

Does the transition to the new SIS have you feeling uneasy? Review this list to remain focused on the future benefits and opportunities for growth.

First off, what is an IPAS?

A quick google search may lead you to believe it’s a delicious hoppy beverage, but alas I am not talking about the benefits of drinking beer to improve your advising practice.  No, I am talking about Integrated Planning and Advising Services, which is defined by EDUCAUSE Center for Analysis and Research as an “approach to student success that promotes shared ownership for educational progress among students, faculty, and staff through holistic information and services that contribute to credential completion”¹.  Many of these systems offer online self-service tools that assist students with long-term academic planning and maintaining progress towards completion of a degree.  They also leverage education data analytics that enable institutions to make data-driven interventions, such as identifying and sending targeted messaging to students that show early signs of academic difficulty².  These systems are often integrated with existing data and course management systems, providing a central point for students to access information about courses, advising, financial aid, and enrollment³.

Additionally, IPAS holds the potential to streamline administrative actions, allowing decisions, approvals, and waivers to be more easily recorded and shared, saving time for advisors as well as students who may have previously trekked across campus to receive form endorsements from multiple offices.

If this is all sounding eerily similar to something you’ve heard before, that’s because it is.  The SIS Project is Berkeley’s own version of IPAS.  After several years of research, planning, and designing the new SIS, we have now reached the implementation phase.

Transitions aren’t always smooth.

As my colleague, Amy Azuma, put it, “Transitions to new systems are challenging. There will be functions you and your students need that people who designed the system weren’t aware of. And there will be systems you need which aren't ready on time. In order to keep your head calm in the transition, envision the benefits of future advising, for you and your students. Look to the future, and put out the fires in the present.”

To help keep this perspective, I’ve put together this list to share how I believe that Integrated Planning and Advising Services will transform and improve advising practice.

1. IPAS equips students with academic planning tools and information they need to make important decisions about their education.

This is huge!  A single place where students can find all of the most important enrollment, financial, and course information they need to help them make informed academic choices.  Many IPAS feature multi-semester planning tools that guide students towards educational goals, while data captured within these tools gives institutions information about student learning objectives, helps advising staff monitor student progress towards completion, and gauge demand for particular courses².  

When used effectively, these features and supports help students gain a complete view of their requirements, secure the courses they need, and graduate on time.

2. IPAS doesn’t replace or eliminate the need for advising.

Even though IPAS provides students with powerful self-service tools that support academic planning and tracking progress towards degree, this doesn’t replace the value of the human dimension in advising.  

Some things that IPAS cannot do include: engaging students in reflective conversation that helps them in make meaning of learning experiences, providing guidance when setting priorities and goals, and motivating and inspiring perseverance in moments of academic failure.  Rather, when used in conjunction with traditional face-to-face advising,  IPAS hold the potential to enhance the advising experience.

3. We can use this transition as an opportunity to create space for more transformative advising.

The switch to IPAS marks the beginning of a transition that gives students capabilities to take care of transactional advising tasks online, effectively opening up time within the advising appointment for more meaningful, transformative advising conversations.  This invites an opportunity for advisors to take a more learner-centered approach to their advising practice, utilizing more active forms of advising.  Advisors can use this time to engage discussion about a student’s interests, strengths, and developing identities, and guide students in evaluating priorities and setting goals.

While varying roles and responsibilities may mean that some advisors experience a reduction in their transactional task advising burden more than others, overall I think this is a move in a positive direction.

4. IPAS supports “flipping” the advising appointment.

One way that advisors can leverage IPAS to transform the advising conversation is to flip the advising appointment.  Borrowing a pedagogical approach from the teaching and learning sphere, a flipped advising approach would ask students to complete advising-related tasks in advance of their appointment, so that the appointment time can be spent working with the student to analyze and evaluate their choices and develop or revise plans.  For example, an advisor may ask a student to utilize the academic planning tool and access course information within IPAS prior to their appointment.  This approach promotes student development by giving the student the opportunity to consider multiple course possibilities and practice making important decisions about their academics in a supported environment.

5. This is an opportunity to shape the future of advising.

Even though the language of the SIS project has largely centered around the improvement of services that students access and utilize throughout their college career, UC Berkeley’s new student information system provides increased opportunities for advisors to move beyond service-provider and prescriptive advising approaches.  With thoughtful and strategic integration of new technology-mediated advising tools into advising practice, I predict that advisors will become better equipped to support student success and pave a new direction forward for advising that is more holistic, developmental, and learner-centered.

When implemented successfully, Integrated Planning and Advising Services (IPAS) have the capability to streamline a lot of disjointed processes and information resources that typically inconvenience students, staff, and faculty, and generally promote a campus culture that doesn’t feel student-centered.  Additionally, these new tools give institutions and educators the capability to make better-informed, data-driven interventions and coordinate cross-campus efforts to support student success. As we rely more heavily on tools powered by data analytics and give students a more autonomous role in planning their education, careful consideration will need to be made by administrators and staff as to how these tools will be woven into advising practice and support student development.

References

  1. Yanosky, R., & Brooks, D.C. (2013) Integrated Planning and Advising Services (IPAS) Research. Retrieved from https://library.educause.edu/resources/2013/8/integrated-planning-and-advising-services-ipas-research

  2. Yanosky, R. (2014). Integrated planning and advising services: A benchmarking study. EDUCAUSE Center for Analysis and Research.  Available from http://www.educause.edu/ecar.

  3. Kalamkarian, H., & Karp, M. (2015). Student Attitudes Toward Technology-Mediated Advising Systems (Working paper No. 82). Community College Research Center, Teacher’s College, Columbia University. Available from http://ccrc.tc.columbia.edu/publications/student-attitudes-technology-mediated-advising-systems.html

Heidi Church spent two enriching years at Berkeley International Office as an International Student Advisor. In July 20016, she left her position to pursue an M.Ed in Technology, Innovation, and Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. As a multi-passionate learner, she's curious about the intersections between international education and learning experience design.