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Integrating Technology and Advising: Studying Enhancements to Colleges’ iPASS Practices

By Alexander K. Mayer, Hoori Santikian Kalamkarian, Benjamin Cohen, Lauren Pellegrino, Melissa Boynton & Edith Yang
Integrating Technology and Advising: Studying Enhancements to Colleges’ iPASS Practices

Integrated Planning and Advising for Student Success (iPASS) is an initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to support colleges seeking to incorporate technology into their advising and student services. In iPASS, such technology is intended to increase advising’s emphasis on a student’s entire college experience, enabling advisors to more easily:

  • intervene when students show early warning signs of academic and nonacademic challenges,
  • regularly follow up as students progress through college,
  • refer students to tutoring and other support services when needed, and
  • provide personalized guidance that reflects students’ unique needs.

MDRC and CCRC partnered with three institutions already implementing iPASS—California State University, Fresno; Montgomery County Community College; and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte—to study how technology can support advising redesign, employing a randomized controlled trial research design. The three institutions increased their emphasis on providing timely support, boosted their use of advising technologies, and used administrative and communication strategies to increase student contact with advisors.

The enhancements generally produced only a modestly different experience for students in the program group compared with students in the control group, although at one college, the enhancements did substantially increase the number of students who had contact with an advisor. Consequently, it is not surprising that the enhancements have so far had no discernible positive effects on students’ academic performance. Nonetheless, some staff members indicated in interviews that implementing and enhancing iPASS has enabled their institution to take steps toward a stronger system to support students and help them succeed.