Enhanced Academic Advisement with Online Learning Management Systems

Article excerpt

Introduction

Often academic advisement is a central role and responsibility for faculty, particularly in programs that are housed in professional schools like recreation and leisure studies. In these cases, many faculty strive to use academic advisement as more than simply scheduling classes for students. For example, proactive advisors use advisement opportunities to teach, mentor, encourage, and motivate students to apply classroom concepts to fieldwork opportunities; and to master specific professional competencies. Moreover, recreation faculty attempt to develop learning communities among their advisees; socialize students into the profession; and ensure the successful transition from student to professional through course work, fieldwork experiences (Smith, O'Dell, & Schaumleffel, 2002), professional student organizations/departmental clubs (Bodey & Schaumleffel, 2008), and academic advisement.

Technology has been a useful tool in the post-secondary setting to facilitate learning and to increase knowledge. However, technology in the university setting can be integrated more fully into the student educational experience in ways other than through course work. One commonly integrated technological advancement in the college classroom is online learning management systems (OLMS) (e.g., Blackboard, WebCT, Moodle). OLMS can be used and adapted to enhance undergraduate academic advisement, but not replace face-to-face interaction.

When establishing and maintaining a learning community to facilitate students' application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation of concepts and professional competencies in recreation and leisure studies, using OLMS to enhance academic advisement can serve as a link between course work, fieldwork, professional student organizations, and face-to-face academic advisement (Bloom, 1956; Shapiro & Levin, 1999; Smith, O'Dell, & Schaumleffel, 2002).

The purpose of this article is to describe the benefits of using OLMS as a tool to enhance academic advisement for the construction and maintenance of a learning community among faculty and students (Shapiro & Levin, 1999; Smith, O'Dell, & Schaumleffel, 2002). An overview of content that one might consider when developing a similar site for their student advisement process, desired outcomes, and recommendations for its use by others will also be discussed.

Conceptual Framework

Learning communities within recreation and leisure studies programs are important, because they stimulate intellectual interaction to promote higher levels of learning (Bloom, 1956; Cross, 1998; Gabelnick, MacGregor, Matthews, & Smith, 1990; Shapiro & Levin, 1999). Cross (1998) defined learning communities as groups of people engaged in intellectual interaction for the purpose of learning. Smith, O'Dell, and Schaumleffel (2002) provided an overview of learning communities in recreation curricula and used Shapiro & Levin's (1999) learning communities framework to highlight the importance of controlled fieldwork sites to promote professional competence in recreation management. This article uses the same framework to better understand the benefits of using OLMS in combination with face-to-face advisement, fieldwork sites, course work, and professional student organizations to more fully construct and maintain a recreation and leisure studies learning community.

The learning communities framework (Shapiro & Levin, 1999) outlines eight basic characteristics for constructing and maintaining a learning community: 1) organizing students and faculty into smaller groups; 2) encouraging integration of the curriculum; 3) helping students establish academic and social support networks; 4) providing a setting for students to be socialized to the expectations of the profession; 5) bringing faculty together in more meaningful ways; 6) focusing faculty and student on learning outcomes; 7) providing a setting for community-based delivery of academic support programs; and 8) offering a critical lens for examining the fieldwork experience. …

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