Some undergraduate schools to begin using new advising system Winter Quarter

Peter Kotecki, Campus Editor

Three undergraduate schools will begin using a new advising system Winter Quarter, piloting software that aims to improve communication between students and advisers.

The new system, AdviseStream, is intended to help with information exchange and advising appointments, said Ronald Braeutigam, associate provost for undergraduate education. AdviseStream allows advisers to share notes with each other, keeping a record of all communication between students and advisers.

Kris O’Brien, associate vice president of administrative systems, said AdviseStream will be used by SESP, the Bienen School of Music and Medill. The system is currently used to a limited degree by the Office of Fellowships and the University Academic Advising Center, O’Brien said.

Braeutigam said he hopes the new system will make communication with advisers more efficient, as students won’t have to elaborate on their academic backgrounds each time they make an appointment.

Administrators chose to launch AdviseStream in three of the smaller undergraduate schools as they do not currently use an advising system, University registrar Jacqualyn Casazza said.

The Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and the McCormick School of Engineering will not participate in the pilot Winter Quarter because they use separate advising platforms, Casazza said.

“Since those schools already have systems in place, it’s a more complex process to change from one system to another in the middle of a year when they’re already advising students,” she said.

Ultimately, Braeutigam said, AdviseStream can help create a student-centric portal called for by the 2015 Faculty Task Force on the Undergraduate Academic Experience.

In January, the task force released a report that included several recommendations for the University to improve the academic experience of Northwestern students. Among them is the recommendation that NU increase the cohesiveness of academic advising. One adviser can rarely address all questions students have, the report said, and students struggle with the complexity of navigating advising options.

The implementation of AdviseStream is a “huge enterprise,” Braeutigam said, and it requires collaboration among all six undergraduate schools and Information Technology. All six schools have agreed to use the platform, he said, but each must decide which functions to adopt.

“What we are doing right now is designing the system that has the switches in it that allow people to decide how and when the advising notes will be shared,” Braeutigam said. “As the system actually becomes implemented and people learn how it works, then people will turn on the switches in whatever way makes sense.”

Casazza said there are plans for Weinberg and the School of Communication to begin using AdviseStream. Administrators will work during Winter and Spring Quarters to make sure the two schools are ready for the transition, she said.

“The idea there is to have the system available for advisers to begin to get familiar with it probably around June, and then we would see implementation for the Fall Quarter for those two schools,” Casazza said.

Although McCormick currently uses its own system, there are plans for the school to adopt AdviseStream, too, Casazza said. It’s too early to know how the two systems would fit together, but McCormick will likely use both platforms in the future, she said.

Casazza said AdviseStream will also allow students to keep track of non-academic activities that may not be recorded as NU courses. For example, she said, the system allows users to include information about research opportunities and part-time jobs.

Weinberg senior Ashley Wood, Associated Student Government vice president for academics, said advising is currently difficult for some students, especially first-year students who may not be matched well with their advisers.

For example, she said, Weinberg advisers who teach biology may not be able to provide enough information to students interested in literature. AdviseStream can help resolve this issue, Wood said.

“That can be really positive for students in addressing the area of maybe a lack of expertise based on the matching with advisers … and it’s something that not a lot of students know about,” she said.

Braeutigam said the University is making faster progress on the new advising system than he thought possible.

“We’re getting the IT programming capability put in place, and we are moving full speed ahead,” he said.

Correction: A previous version of this story misstated which undergraduate schools will begin using a new advising system Winter Quarter. The system will be used by SESP, Bienen and Medill. The Daily regrets the error.

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