Student Success Insights Blog

3 lessons from the Gates Foundation's 2014 IPAS Meeting

by Ed Venit

Ed Venit

Ed Venit, Senior Director
Student Success Collaborative

Last week, I had the privilege of attending the annual meeting for recipients of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Integrated Planning and Advising Services (IPAS) grants.

The IPAS program partners 19 select higher education institutions with half a dozen leading student success technology providers with the goal of accelerating the pace of innovation through focused sharing of information. The three-day event brought together key stakeholders from around the country to discuss the rapidly evolving market for better student support technology platforms and aligned business processes.

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Representing SSC was grant-winner Southern Illinois University (SIU). Grantees were asked to report on the successes and challenges that they faced in implementing their IPAS systems. SIU was unique among participants in highlighting the critical importance of their Dedicated Consultant, Erin McDougal, in ensuring not only a smooth technical implementation, but also in helping them think through the larger issues of campus communication and process integration.

It was fascinating to hear from other universities and vendors about what has (and hasn’t) worked as part of their IPAS implementations. I was particularly struck by three takeaways.

1. Good technical implementation must be accompanied by good process implementations

The schools that faced the most challenges in getting their technologies up and running were the ones that focused exclusively on technical implementations. The more successful institutions (including SIU) spent equal time and mindshare on understanding how their new system would fit with already existing advising processes and already existing technologies. It's not enough to provide advisors with a new system if you don't also provide support and training for integration into their daily workflow.

2. Implementing an IPAS system inevitably requires excellent change management leadership

Most schools are still getting comfortable with the paradigm shift related to adopting technology-enabled advising. Targeted campus communication is absolutely essential. Stakeholders around the university will have important questions about the technology, why it was purchased, what it's supposed to do, and what it means for their jobs. Institutions that get in front of these questions and engage with all levels of stakeholders will get the most out for their investment.

3. There's a lot of noise around consolidating technologies, but little action so far

Participants expressed a consistent concern about the proliferation of technologies on the advisor desktop. One institution pithily shared that they "solved" the problem by simply buying their advisors additional monitors. Vendors, for their part, are keen to build the "one system to rule them all"—so why isn't this happening yet? My own observation was that, while everyone could express the need for system integration, few schools have really thought through what that would look like for their specific campus.

Recommended Next Steps

I encourage you to seek guidance from your Dedicated Consultant to address the first two takeaways outlined above. Use our partnership to develop an effective change management strategy that fits the needs of your institution, focusing on strong communication to all stakeholders and intentional integration of the SSC platform into your advising toolkit.

As for the third takeaway, we want to hear from you! What would effective consolidation of advising technologies look like for your campus? We welcome any feedback as we continue to consider how best to serve our members.


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