Wednesday, October 09, 2013
Advising and Registration
Wise and worldly readers, have you seen or worked with a system like this? Is there anything we should know to expect?
We have a system where it is very difficult, if not impossible, for faculty to do that kind of micromanagement of scheduling. Only the students can select class slots. That said, advising during the last few weeks to days before the start of the next semester often does devolve into what you describe. They log in on their laptop or phone and ask for exactly the kind of help you describe.
Our advising period starts a few weeks before registration does, but students can be advised at any time until classes start. We have a walk-in center for them to meet with those assigned there, but they can also meet with any professor or in special groups (like honors, pre-nursing, STEM, etc). The latter work really well, by the way.
I rather like the idea of giving them a PIN. That would be about the only thing we haven't tried! We click on a little flag that allows them to register, but only a subset of students have mandatory advising.
I do have a couple of advising talks with undergrads. The most recent ones had to do with startups: "should I quit school and start/join a startup?" They are fairly uncommon, though. I probably have fewer than 10 such conversations in a semester, and I advise about 400 students.
We don't have any mandatory advising; we assume that if they're in an engineering program they know what they want. This isn't completely true, but probably pretty close.
Advising is usually before the registration period. Some meetings include some big picture. Others focus on "will class X fill slot Y in my program". That is at least somewhat better than "find an open slot", especially when class X is a technical elective and I can relate it to a discussion about what the student wants to do in their career.
We have a separate advising system for first year and transfer students. This system involves more formal (and easy-to-schedule) meeting times, and advisors expect more new-student questions. I think the same advisor hold button system is used to ensure a meeting prior to class registration.
During my undegraduate days, I had to have my classes pre-approved by my advisor. We didn't have a PIN per se, but registration was separate from advising. The system worked really well; there definitely was no "Is there a seat at 9.00?" discussion.
Also, each program had lists of courses you could take. There were mandatory courses, "program electives" (a list of courses relevant to the program, pick a subset), "arts electives", and "open electives" (very few of these). Having these lists definitely helped move the discussion along.
Most academic have been in academia for quite a while, and the working world has changed in that time. Fields, especially technological ones, have also changed.
Even within an institution knowledge can be surprisingly lacking. For example, at a local university one of the biomedical programs requires incoming students to have biology and chemistry; physics is recommended but not required. The professors teaching the program know that over 80% of students without the recommended course drop out or fail, yet students are still advised to drop physics to raise their average, so they get admitted.
To my mind, a real 'big picture' look at the situation would either make physics a requirement, or inform students of the odds, but the university does neither. Instead, the advisors look at the requirements to get into the program and 'game' the system to raise the average while meeting all requirements.
Also, sometimes scheduling issues point to systematic issues that an advisor would do well to know about - e.g. these two departments always hold their intro classes at 10, so double-majors in those departments are going to have problems. So I'm not above looking up schedules in my advising meetings to make sure there won't be conflicts, but students are encouraged to do that themselves.
I will say that we do have a chance to talk about what kinds of electives students *should* be looking for and other sorts of priorities, without the distress of classes rapidly filling up as we speak.