Academic journal article College Student Journal

Student Advisement: Applying a Web-Based Expert System to the Selection of an Academic Major

Academic journal article College Student Journal

Student Advisement: Applying a Web-Based Expert System to the Selection of an Academic Major

Article excerpt

Academic advisement is unevenly provided in many high schools and colleges. Academic advisement appears to be an appropriate domain for an expert system. This paper describes a web-based expert system, which provides advice to high school students and to college freshmen that are seeking a potential major. The on-demand consultation gathers information about a student's grades, interests, test scores, interests and aptitudes. It assesses student qualifications for a variety of majors. The expert system recommends six majors for them to consider and provides further information sources about the major.


Many college students do not know what they wish to major in. Effective major advisement is important because students who are clear about the match between their needs and the institution's offerings (majors) and resources are (a) more likely to enroll, (b) less likely to take classes that don't contribute toward graduation, (c) more likely to enjoy college, and (d) more apt to persist to graduation (Walz, 1984; Novak & Weiss, 1988). Major advising is labor intensive, because it generally requires at least one hour of counseling time for each student. Often several sessions of this length are required. High school counselors provide counseling as well. The process is important, however, because it educates students about the considerations they should use to select a major and identifies majors appropriate for students seeking such information. Research on the predictors of success in academic majors is sparse and uneven across curricula and in particular majors (Noel, Levitz,, & Saluri, 1985). Consequently, human advisors use their accrued knowledge to fill in significant gaps in the research. For most colleges and universities, however, the large number of students who require assistance limits the major advising by the small number of available advisors. Winston (1996) also indicates that advisement is complicated by the fact that advisement is traditionally given to department faculty who are not trained to give advisement outside of their area and who often do not have counseling skills. Lowe and Toney (2001-2002), after their review of the literature, indicate that academic advisement is often considered a minor activity at most colleges and universities, that it is an inconsistently administered process, that the needs of many students are not met by the systems in place and that failure to provide adequate advisement can lead to early drop out of students. They also note that academic advisement should begin in the early stages of a student's academic planning in order to be effective.

This paper describes an expert system designed to improve the ability of colleges and universities to offer student advising. The system provides a basis for designing other advising systems and for conducting research on the role of computer-based systems in major counseling.

Computer-Assisted Advisement Programs

Computers have had limited value in college student counseling. A common application is college and university database searching aimed at identifying potential colleges for students based on student-selected criteria such as location, tuition, ,majors offered, and other relevant information. Because these programs used database technologies or crude tree-pruning techniques, students must know which majors they wish to pursue. Given the same criteria, the programs list the same sets of institutions for students of widely different backgrounds and aptitudes. They also assume that the student is qualified to succeed in that major without acquiring information about their high school achievements.

There are career guidance systems, which are not identical to major advisement, since it is not always clear which major is required to lead to a career. More importantly, most of the instruments available are based on psychological instrumentation that makes quite large inferential leaps from students' expressions of their interests and aptitudes. …

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