Auburn University’s College of Education was established in 1915, 59 years after the Auburn, Alabama-based institution received its land-grant charter. The college serves more than 1,800 undergraduate students in 23 programs and nearly 900 graduate students in 37 programs, including teacher preparation, kinesiology, educational leadership, rehabilitation, counseling and special education. The college’s alumni number more than 30,000 graduates residing in all 50 states and 35 countries.
In the College of Education, students traditionally completed a four-page paper application for internships that required considerable repetition of information such as name, ID number and other demographic information previously collected at admission. Similarly, because applications for admission to teacher education programs were paper-based, they were required to be physically routed across multiple offices as advisors and faculty checked various requirements. The combination of students needing to submit their applications in one location and college personnel needing to perform data entry from paper applications into spreadsheets created a situation that made losing applications more likely.
In spring 2010, the NCATE-accredited college adopted Tk20’s HigherEd™ for assessment data collection and reporting. The college also made a strong commitment to use Tk20’s additional features such as student applications and advising to improve communication and processes. Using the applications and advising features encouraged broad use by students and faculty.
Initially, in addition to the paper-based internship application, the college required students to complete a Tk20-based online supplement. As a result of the system’s integration with the Auburn University student information system, the online supplement did not require students to provide information already residing in Tk20. Additionally, the paper-based application was now successfully reduced to two questions. Students were asked to enter their preferred school systems for internships and to upload their resume as a Microsoft Word or PDF file. The college also took the opportunity to request feedback on areas similar to those included in the National Survey of Student Engagement. In reality, instead of being supplemental, the successful online application contained all the relevant information needed by the college to check if requirements were met and facilitate internship placements. Once the process was verified,the college was able to confidently move to an efficient, online-only application process. With the first benefits realized, the college continued with the next goal of making the paperless applications in Tk20 more meaningful for students.
The college decided to use transition point requirements as a guide for making the online application serve an even greater purpose. Admission into teacher education programs and clearance for internships both require students to earn specific GPAs for all coursework completed, coursework completed in the designated teaching field, and coursework designated as professional studies. Instead of students only relying on an advisor to calculate these various GPAs, the college added sections guiding students on how to calculate and enter their GPAs. Although advisors still perform the official calculation, there has been an increase in students’ awareness of program requirements.
The college also added sections to collect information related to students’ pre-teaching requirements and background check clearance. Applicants receive guidance on how to calculate credits earned in the program, and check and report test scores on both PRAXIS examinations as well as Alabama’s prospective teacher basic skills examination.
The application review process now allows advisors and program faculty to review student entries and attached documents in a single Tk20 system. Furthermore, advisors and faculty complete online review forms that provide feedback to the student.
The college has successfully transitioned all applications for internship, scholarships, and admissions to teacher education programs to Tk20. The usual advantages of converting a paper-based process to paperless have already been realized: students are conveniently able to complete applications regardless of their location; college personnel do not have to perform data entry from paper applications into spreadsheets; and there is significantly less likelihood of missing applications. In addition to these advantages, the college was also able to increase awareness of program requirements among students through a more innovative application process.
The next steps for improving digital applications at Auburn will be to work with Tk20 to develop eligibility reports. These reports will automate the review process, thus freeing up advisors’ time to offer more contact hours with students rather than inefficiently checking and re-checking student eligibility.