Temple Times Online Edition
    APRIL 7, 2005
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Advising system gets major upgrades

Helen Robinson, director of undergraduate student services for The Fox School, counsels senior human resource management major Sparkle Wisdom. A Temple adviser since 1977, Robinson expects the introduction of a sleeker DARS interface and electronic session reports to strengthen the University’s undergraduate advising system.

An academic adviser at The Fox School of Business since 1977, Helen Robinson remembers a time when students waited in line — not online — to register with bulky Scantron cards in hand. She witnessed subsequent advising revolutions when Temple added telephone and, later, Internet registration.

Robinson is now seeing another upgrade in technology that will streamline the advising process for students.

In February, an enhanced Degree Audit Reporting System (DARS) interface, which can be accessed by all undergraduates on OWLnet, debuted. In April, select advisers will pilot a system that enables them to produce permanent, electronic session reports of student visits. Finally, online registration forms now use further safeguards to prompt students to register only for courses for which they have fulfilled the necessary prerequisites.

“Providing these tools to students makes it easier for them to make progress toward their degrees,” said Robinson, director of undergraduate student services for The Fox School and herself a Temple graduate.

“It frees students to come and talk to advisers about things that go beyond registration,” she said. “Theoretically, they’ll have more time to meet with us about goal planning, careers and internships — things that advisers are well-prepared to talk to students about.”

DARS offers an overview of an undergraduate’s academic progress. It enables students to see what core courses they have completed and what courses remain in their academic majors.

In the words of Vice Provost for Undergraduate Studies Peter Jones, the old DARS “looked like something out of the dot-matrix era, with huge blocks of triple-spaced type.” By adding color, condensing information and highlighting important data, Computer Services enhanced DARS’ readability.

“The new DARS setup makes the same information simpler to understand,” said Koya Frye, a junior theater major from Boston. “You know immediately if credits are missing in any area. It makes my entire degree report easier to read at a quick glance.”

Frye said the sleeker DARS helped her plan for her senior year.

“The farther along you go in school, the more difficult it is to stay on top of what credits you need in which department,” she said. “Since it was redone, I’ve had an easier time planning my remaining year.”

Session reports, expected to be introduced for all undergraduate degree programs on May 1, will enable advisers to quickly generate a record of an advising conversation with a student. The student can then access the report through OWLnet. If the student changes majors, her new adviser will be able to view the report.

Robinson, the Fox adviser, is looking forward to using session reports.

“Each interaction with a student will be formally recorded and can be called up at any point in the future,” Robinson said. “Before, it was up to the adviser or student to make some notes, and miscommunication was possible. These reports will give students and advisers a more concrete sense of what was discussed.”

While the technological upgrades make for a more efficient advising system, Temple officials hope they are a means to a larger end: enhancing the adviser-student relationship.

Jones, whose office is overseeing the upgrades, said he expects the changes to alleviate student frustrations.

“The old system put the onus on students to seek out the information they needed to make responsible decisions about their academic careers,” Jones said. “While these enhancements still require the student to play a role in the process, they also allow the University to be more proactive in reaching out and helping students.”

– By Ted Boscia