Transforming Academic Advising to Increase Student Support

The University of Baltimore (UBalt) enlisted Attain Partners to implement Salesforce’s Advisor Link and reimagine student services for the institution. This digital transformation dramatically increased engagement between UBalt academic advisers and students by 1) facilitating easy communications between students and advisers; and 2) allowing advisers to spend less time on manual processes and more time interacting with students.

Nontraditional Education at The University of Baltimore

Today, nontraditional education is quickly becoming the new “traditional” education model. Nontraditional students are often financially independent from their parents, are attending school part-time, have a child or full-time job, lack a traditional high school diploma, or have delayed postsecondary enrollment. Due to the increasing cost of college coupled with the pressure for a degree in the information economy, approximately 75% of undergraduate students now fall into at least one of these nontraditional categories. UBalt is an exemplary model for how to excel in this new educational paradigm. Its mission is to provide innovative law, business, and applied liberal arts education to serve the needs of this diverse population of learners.

The nontraditional UBalt student population consists of 5,000 commuter students with a median age of 32, half of whom attend on a part-time basis. Although students are on campus for day, evening, and weekend classes, the evening classes have the highest enrollment. To meet their students’ unique needs, UBalt had to modernize their technology to enable their staff to efficiently deliver the best possible services

Adapting to Student Needs

UBalt identified the need to improve and modernize student academic advising, recognizing that nontraditional students need nontraditional support. Specifically, UBalt’s students need:

  • To consider the availability of required and elective courses and how they can best fit into their schedule and long-term degree plan,
  • To balance family, employment, and budget pressures on the path to graduation,
  • Proactive and creative support to stay on track, and
  • Professional customer service tools that provide self-service appointment scheduling and improved communication channels to accommodate their busy schedules.

The team of nearly 15 full-time academic advisers wanted to deliver personalized service, but the effort was very manual. They spent too much of their time pulling information from disparate systems, spreadsheets, and email to prepare for meetings. They simply could not meet the support requirements of their students without improved technology or more staff.

Creating a Solution That Works for Students and Staff

UBalt distilled their challenges and came up with three overarching goals: 

  1. Advisers needed to see all the information in a single view and have the ability to enter and track notes and tasks and create action items and student checklists.
  2. Students needed a better way to receive and reply to communications and easily schedule appointments that fit into their busy lives.
  3. Executive staff needed better visibility into staff activity and alerts and student appointments.

To achieve these goals, UBalt enlisted Attain Partners to plan and implement their Advisor Link project in April 2020.

After critical analysis, Attain Partners developed a solution focused on a 360° view of student data, easily allowing advisors to view comprehensive, prioritized student information. To be most effective, we utilized a holistic approach that consolidated information, expanded the existing integration with PeopleSoft, and transformed advising processes using Advisor Link best practices. Salesforce’s Advisor Link was the perfect solution as its design places the most important data in the adviser’s highlights panel allowing them to quickly identify the most pressing topics to discuss with students. This view also provides current and past enrollment information, bio/demo data, tracking of notes and tasks and two-way SMS messaging. A streamlined integration with Outlook added visibility of email communications and calendars helping facilitate essential communication with students.

Sample Adviser screen with relevant information on a single pane

Streamlining Communications for Students

To achieve the student focused goal for UBalt, Attain Partners designed and delivered a “Student Success Hub” built on Salesforce Experience Cloud that provided a self-service ability for students to view their advising teams, view and update their tasks, and most importantly schedule appointments with their adviser at a time that fits their busy schedules. Leveraging the native integration capabilities of the Salesforce platform, UBalt was able to pull content from their website directly into the Hub for consistent branding and easier ongoing maintenance.

Attain Partners designs Adviser Link screen of UBalt
Sample studen view on Student Success Hub Advising Portal

“I am so glad to know that interacting with my advisor will be so much easier now.”

– UBalt Student at the launch of the Student Success Hub

Results that Increase Student Engagement

Attain Partners completed this exciting project with UBalt in February 2021 and the results have been dramatic for students and staff, resulting in:

  • Streamlined appointment scheduling through an integration with each Adviser’s Outlook calendar and appointment scheduling on the Student Success Hub.
  • Less time preparing for meetings with data consolidated in Salesforce.
  • Seamless tracking of email communications through Outlook integration—4,500 emails were tracked in Salesforce in the first 3 months.
  • More effective communications through SMS and targeted emails to different cohorts using native Salesforce emails.
  • Easy-to-digest information via a graphical interface for staff and management to quickly see upcoming and open activities and utilization trends to proactively address underlying issues.

Before Advisor Link, tracking communications with advisees was a chore and notes and activities were buried deep in PeopleSoft. With Advisor Link, our advisers can easily log emails to a student’s case, and other advisers can access them without clumsy copy/paste and multi-step attachment uploads…Advisers are taking advantage of other efficiencies such as streamlining appointment scheduling, tracking tasks and alerts, and access to real-time reports.

Stacey Marriott, University of Baltimore Project Manager

Learn more

Attain Partners has successfully worked with public and private colleges across the United States to streamline operations and increase student engagement. For more information or to speak with one of our experts, please contact us here.

About the Author

Leidy Smith is an Associate Business Development Director at Attain Partners. Leidy has spent his career providing innovative solutions within higher education and has been part of the Salesforce ecosystem since 2013. Leidy’s focus is demonstrating the value of the Salesforce Platform and Attain Partners’ services to higher education clients in areas of student success, recruiting and admissions, corporate relations, and executive education.