U of T launches initial Student Advising Service platform

A student sits across from an advisor at a desk in an office

On July 26, the University of Toronto launched the Student Advising Service, a platform set to enhance advising supports and resources for the University’s students and advising staff, increase administrative efficiencies and increase overall student wellbeing, success and retention.

The new platform will serve as a single system for presenting the interconnected student story, helping advisors provide consistent, transparent, timely and comprehensive guidance, and enhance collaboration across and between divisional advising units.

This initial release focuses on functionality for advisors, with all Faculty of Kinesiology & Physical Education (KPE) advising staff and staff working in the Faculty of Arts & Science (A&S) Office of the Faculty Registrar beginning to use the service later this summer. Staff in A&S colleges and academic units will follow in the 2023-24 academic year.

“Given the goals we have for student experience at U of T, we saw a clear opportunity to establish a better wayfinding process and transform academic advising,” says Susan McCahan, vice-provost, innovations in undergraduate education (VPIUE). “This service will allow us to better understand our students’ needs and provide them with the resources and support to succeed academically and beyond.”

The solution, also known as Salesforce Student Success Hub for Higher Education, provides a modern and intuitive user experience and is part of the Next Generation Student Information Services Program. Through this program, the university has made significant investments in technology to create a more student-centered and supportive educational environment.

“Our world-class institution requires innovative and responsive technology,” says Cathy Eberts, director of enterprise applications and deputy CIO with Enterprise Applications & Solutions Integration (EASI). “This platform is an example of how we are leveraging technology to improve the overall student and staff experience.”

In partnership with VPIUE, EASI has worked to implement the first phase of the project with A&S and KPE.

Through the Student Advising Service, advising staff will be able to view, interact with and manage a comprehensive student advising record that is integrated with U of T systems, including the university’s Student Information Systems. In addition, it will bring together relevant student demographic and academic information into a single system to support advisors. As advisors work with students, this record will create a history of a student’s advising interactions, including appointment, note, case, and referral management.

“Advising staff will have real-time access to the information they need to best support students,” says Julian Weinrib, director, innovations in undergraduate education. “They will be able to quickly pull up a record of past interactions and their topics, understand individual student appointment and referral outcomes, and consult a knowledge base for consistent information on policies and procedures. Having this information ready-to-hand in a single system will free up advisors’ time and provide them with powerful data to do what they do best; helping our students achieve their goals.”

The platform will also provide reporting to further improve communication and student support.

Screenshot of the Student Advising Service dashboard for advisors

On the application’s launchpad, advisors will see their contacts, cases, reports, knowledge articles, dashboards and notes. They can easily navigate across the application to view their current student requests, referral cases, upcoming appointments, tasks and quick links.

To ensure U of T implemented an optimal enterprise solution, the university undertook comprehensive external reviews and consulted broadly with divisions across all three campuses.

“In Arts & Science, we’ve long recognized the need for a comprehensive advising service that will standardize, streamline and elevate our student advising culture, practice and processes in College Registrar’s Offices, academic units, and the Faculty Registrar’s Office,” says Lisa Feng, faculty registrar and director of academic services. “We see the Student Advising Service (SAS) as a transformative tool to support consistency in service and enable best practices based on a holistic student advising model. The fact that the SAS is an institution-wide project is very exciting as we’ll be able to improve wayfinding, share notes and easily refer students to our A&S colleagues and eventually to our partners across the university.”

What’s next for the Student Advising Service?

During the 2023-24 academic year, the Student Advising Service team will work with participating academic divisions implement a student-facing portal. Advising functionality will also be expanded to other divisions, and regular product enhancements will be released to improve the overall user experience.

“The launch of this phase of the Student Advising Service is a major milestone, and we’re excited to start development on the student-facing application,” says McCahan. “Ultimately, this platform will advance U of T’s mission to reimagine and reinvent undergraduate education. It will also help to support institutional goals for student success, quality service, and student retention and graduation.”