Everyone in an institution of higher education—senior administrators, faculty members, staff in student services and in information technology—is a stakeholder in the success that its students attain by persisting in their courses and, ultimately, completing their credentials. Happily, these stakeholders are no longer ‘in the dark,’ as institutions’ various digital systems for managing courses and student information can now communicate with one another, providing large amounts of up-to-the-minute data about the progress individual students are making academically – or not making.
How can staff and faculty members interpret and use that data to increase success? This question is at the heart of the work many institutions have been carrying out under the label “IPAS,” an acronym for “Integrated Planning and Advising Services.”
IPAS Frameworks: Innovation in Action
Several research-based and practical new studies and supports for recommended approaches have recently been published, as follows:
Earlier this month, the EDUCAUSE Center for Analysis and Research (ECAR) published the IPAS Implementation Handbook. (The handbook’s release is especially timely, since “increasing student success” rose to the top of the 2014 EDUCAUSE Top 10 IT Issues rankings.) It draws upon the experiences and results among 19 campuses and state systems that implemented 2013 grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for integrated planning and advising services, and in doing so it provides a useful guide for institutions which follow in the footsteps of these early adopters.
Columbia University’s Community College Research Center (CCRC) also released a report and tool based on the 2013 IPAS grants from the Gates Foundation. Taken together, these provide a way for institutions to consider their capacity for carrying forward and sustaining such a student success project before embarking upon it. The report, Adopting New Technologies for Student Success: A Readiness Framework, draws both upon Gates Foundation grantees’ experiences and research on the characteristics associated with colleges’ readiness for technology adoption. The CCRC’s framework delineates and focuses on four student support areas that can be addressed and improved by the successful implementation of IPAS systems:
- education planning,
- risk targeting and intervention,
- counseling and coaching, and
- transfer and articulation.
The framework provides institutions considering the adoption of student success-focused technologies with a fresh approach to tech-based reforms and their effective implementation at the institutional level.
Analyzing Institutional Readiness
More recently, the CCRC has released a self-assessment tool based upon the report, Evaluating Your College’s Readiness for Technology Adoption. This tool offers institutions an approach to the conversations necessary prior to embarking on a potentially broad and demanding project to enhance student success. It includes rubrics for each of four areas necessary, in terms of CCRC researchers’ analysis, for an institution to engage such a project successfully: technological readiness, project readiness, organizational readiness, and motivational readiness.
By working thoughtfully through these rubrics, institutional planners will be able to gain an objective sense of whether the time is right to proceed with a substantial project for institutional change to make a significant difference in its rates of student success – or whether there are more steps to take before launching such an undertaking.
Nancy Millichap, NGLC program officer, supports and advises those who have received grants through the initiative and helps prospective grantees develop their proposals, with a particular focus on grantees in higher education. Her prior positions have included assistant director of humanities computing at Dartmouth College, assistant director with the Indiana Higher Education Telecommunication System (IHETS), director of the Midwest Instructional Technology Center serving 26 Midwestern liberal arts colleges, and director of professional development programs with the National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education (NITLE). She received a B.S. in education at Shippensburg University and an M.A. in English at Middlebury College.