Could colleges and universities in North America soon provide academic counseling to their students electronically?
That is the question posed by Donna Randall, Albion College’s chancellor. In her most recent blog entry for the Huffington Post, Randall puts the spotlight on Degree Compass, an electronic course recommendation system that has gained notoriety in higher education circles.
Desire2Learn, a Canadian education software company, currently licenses Degree Compass. The company’s website describes Degree Compass as a web-based tool that, “Uses predictive analytics to guide students’ course selection in a way that not only enhances the rate of academic success but also drives on-time completion of their degree.”
The program can identify courses that will fulfill a specific academic requirement. It can also rank classes on a scale of one to five based on how effectively each helps students accomplish their academic goals. Degree Compass can even provide students with a prediction on what their final grade would be in a certain class.
Such advanced technology should have a tremendous impact on the quality of academic counseling available to students. However, as Randall points out, human advisors are far from obsolete. This is especially true for students at liberal arts institutions like Albion College.
“Advisers can challenge students to seek academic offerings that cultivate their intellectual growth, rather than settling for the ‘easy A’ courses,” Randall points out. “These insights on a course of study can best be provided by a human adviser.”
Achieving a diverse and well-rounded academic experience is a key principle of the liberal arts education model. It is the reason why I begrudgingly completed a course in geology, despite my social science background. It also led one of my close friends to abandon his political science major in favor of theater, upon realizing that he preferred being onstage to sitting behind a desk.
Randall smartly suggests that Degree Compass is a tool that students AND advisers can use to their advantage. The improvements achieved by this technology allow them both to shift their focus towards academic development, and away from the complicated scheduling process.
“We don’t need or want to replace human advisers,” Randall said. “But rather we need to consider whether such tools can enhance the student advising experience.”
New electronic technology will likely improve both the efficiency and effectiveness of academic advising. In an increasingly competitive market for higher education, Albion College should stay ahead of the curve by incorporating such technology into its own academic advising process.