The software platform that students use to connect with academic advisors and student services staff has shifted to a mobile app starting this fall, making it even easier for students to seek out resources that help them succeed. The move coincides with renaming the system and adding several new features.
"It's really a revitalization of the platform," said Peter Cruz, student success and retention specialist in the provost's office.
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A new name
Called ISU Appointments in recent years and EAB Campus before that, the platform is being rebranded as Navigate as it moves to a mobile-first environment. The system is beginning its seventh year on campus, and while its usage has expanded over that span, naming it ISU Appointments narrowed the perception of the platform's focus, said Cruz, who oversees Navigate. For student users, the main purpose of the system up to this point has been requesting and arranging meetings. But it's much more than a scheduling tool for faculty and staff.
Advisors and other student affairs professionals connected to the platform can access reports detailing students’ contact with other support units, launch targeted data-driven outreach campaigns and monitor analytics that predict which students will need academic help. The goal is to build a coordinated care network, improving student support by simplifying access to resources, sharing information and leveraging data.
"Students didn't really grasp that it was this campuswide system where we can all connect and make sure they don't fall through the cracks," Cruz said.
The app students can use to access the system also will introduce new features beyond scheduling. Navigate Student will be available to students via AccessPlus as the platform was in the past, but making an appointment with the mobile app takes fewer clicks and is likely far more convenient, said Mason Babcock, assistant director of student services for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
"That's where our students tend to live. It's vitally important to be in that space," said Babcock, who sat on a committee for the app's development.
Students will receive push notifications for crucial to-dos such as registering for classes, resolving holds and preparing for graduation. Babcock suspects smartphone alerts will be noticed more than other communication methods.
"Students get a lot of emails. It's too easy for the important ones not to get read," he said.
Another app feature gives students the opportunity to seek out study partners in the courses they’re taking, which makes it easier to form useful study groups quickly, Babcock said.
Starting in the spring semester, students will have access to an academic planning tool on the app that models potential degree program changes, which makes for better-informed students and a reduced workload for advisors, Cruz said.
"They can take on more ownership," he said. "And if they want to do it at midnight in their dorm room, they can."
Changes for staff
While the platform's staff interface remains much the same, accessible via Okta and AccessPlus, the transition from ISU Appointments to Navigate will bring some changes advisors and other support staff will notice, Cruz said.
One of the more significant changes is an adjustment to the predictive analytics model, which was revamped to flag a static 11% of students who have the highest chance of not returning to Iowa State based on numerous factors, including academic performance. Another 25% will be flagged as having a moderate need for support. Cruz said that means more students will be identified for intervention, which addresses feedback from advisors who said the previous model was too conservative in recommending assistance.
"That connects students to resources faster, and we know that leads to student success," Babcock said. "We have great people, but we need to get students connected as fast as we can."
Departments and colleges determine how to intervene when students are flagged, though requiring additional contact with an advisor or other support staff is common. When students are referred to their advisor or another support unit, the staff member making the referral can send an alert to notify the support staff the student has been asked to contact them.
The provost's office is sponsoring some incentives to encourage use of Navigate Student, including raffle prizes to students who download the app and log in and a prize for the advisor in each college who has the highest percentage of their students use the app this fall, Cruz said.
But getting more student affairs units to use Navigate also is an important way to expand use of the platform. Cruz said privacy concerns have been the main reason some units haven't opted in. The "care unit" feature of Navigate launching this fall should address some of those hesitations. It creates groups of similar student services, with varying levels of access to records showing what other services students have used.
"It's better for the students when more units across campus are using this," he said.
Cruz also is aiming to make it easier for faculty to participate in the platform's progress reports feature. In more than 40 of the university's most difficult courses, grade and attendance reports submitted to Navigate beginning in the fifth week of the semester are used to identify struggling students early. For courses with grades recorded in Canvas, Cruz will import the data to Navigate so instructors don't have to take that extra step.
And to help contact students identified by progress reports for intervention, Cruz has two student workers who will be personally following up, even if it means reaching out to nonresponsive students via their Instagram accounts.
"We're trying to take it to the next level," he said.