ECAR Study of Faculty and Information Technology, 2019

Student Success Tools

Faculty don't often use them—or see their value. Why?

It's the 21st century! What's in your institution's toolbox for student success? Open it up; check out all the new tools available to faculty. No universal translator or sonic screwdriver, but some tools in here are equally intriguing, if you're focused on student success. Advising technologies for counseling and coaching, education planning, and academic-risk targeting are increasingly being used in many institutions so that students can successfully map out their education paths and graduate.1  For example, early-alert systems have been found essential for an institution's retention strategy2  and have also been deemed most helpful to minority students and students eligible for Pell Grants.3  All this reflects the prioritization of student success, which has remained near the top of the EDUCAUSE annual Top 10 IT Issues lists since 2013.4  When these tools are available, what are faculty's perspectives on integrating them into their advising?

This year we found that, for each tool we asked about, between 27% and 39% of faculty didn't use student success tools, while between 15% and 27% of faculty told us that these tools were not available to them. So how do faculty rate these tools if they (1) make it into their toolbox and (2) are actually used (figure 2)?

Bar graph illustrating faculty ratings of student success tools
Figure 2. Faculty ratings of student success tools

Among faculty who told us they use the four student success tools in fig. 2, a solid majority find them at least moderately useful. And there doesn't seem to be much difference in ratings across tools: all are viewed as at least moderately useful, with early alerts getting slightly higher ratings than other tools. Meanwhile, students rated these success tools even more favorably than did faculty. Perhaps a step toward increasing student success is as simple as promoting awareness and use of these tools among both students and faculty, the latter being in the best position to get them into the hands of students. Faculty have reported that lack of awareness of these systems is an issue, so communication—particularly institution-wide communication to students5 —is key when an institution seeks to implement these tools.6  Another key consideration for implementing these systems and gaining faculty buy-in is to involve faculty from the beginning of the initiative.7  Integrating these tools into software that faculty are already using, such as the LMS or the PeopleSoft platform, may also likely increase buy-in and use.8 

Faculty have always played a key role in student retention. Today, a host of tools are available to support retention, many of which will be more effective if faculty actually use them. Student success initiatives should involve faculty from the beginning, to identify requirements, assess viable options, advise on usability, and generally help support the initiative.

How can we get faculty to use advising technologies?

  • Faculty may not see a need for every available tool.
  • Involving faculty from the beginning of the initiative is a key strategy in gaining faculty buy-in.
  • Integrating student success tools—for example, early alerts—into software faculty are already using, such as the LMS, will decrease the need to jump from platform to platform and likely increase faculty use.

Further Reading


  1. Hoori Santikian Kalamkarian, Melissa Boynton, and Andrea G. Lopez, Redesigning Advising with the Help of Technology: Early Experiences of Three Institutions, Community College Research Center, Teachers College, Columbia University, July 2018.

  2. Hanover Research, Early Alert Systems in Higher Education, November 2014.

  3. Joseph D. Galanek, Dana C. Gierdowski, and D. Christopher Brooks, ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2018, research report (Louisville, CO: ECAR, October 2018).

  4. See the Top 10 IT Issues: 2000–2019.

  5. Alexander Mayer et al., Integrating Technology and Advising: Studying Enhancement to Colleges' iPass Practices, Community College Research Center, Teachers College, Columbia University; MDRC, July 2019.

  6. Dale R. Tampke, "Developing, Implementing, and Assessing an Early Alert System," Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory & Practice 14, no. 4 (April 9, 2013): 523–532.

  7. EAB and University of Alabama in Huntsville, Defining the Faculty Role in Student Success, 2015.

  8. Tampke, "Developing, Implementing, and Assessing."