Using the Electronic Advising Record System

Rationale and Goals

The Electronic Advising Records System (EARS) was created for the purpose of making it as easy as possible for faculty advisers to record information discussed and conveyed during advising sessions, regardless of the method of contact. An accurate advising record is essential to the success of the academic advising system. It provides a history and therefore, helps faculty provide advising that is appropriate, relevant, and continuous. In addition, the notes are invaluable for addressing issues that are brought up to administrators by students and parents.

Since EARS is web-based, it is accessible from every office throughout Penn State and does not depend on the student's or adviser's location or method of communication. Ultimately, the goal of EARS is to be a tool that will help faculty members and relevant staff members provide the best possible information and advising to their students.

Confidentiality

Appropriate confidentiality must be maintained. Therefore, three levels of accessibility have been established: adviser level, department level, and college level.

Faculty advisers can only see the full record of their officially assigned advisees. They may and should, however, also enter advising-related notes for any student who is not their official advisee. Advising notes for other College of Engineering students or for non-engineering students could play an important role for subsequent requests or if a request is made to change to the College of Engineering. If a faculty adviser needs to view past records that are not accessible, he or she should contact the adviser who entered the records or the student's department.

Departmental level of access refers to a student's major department at University Park or the student's commonwealth campus. The department head, undergraduate coordinator, and undergraduate staff assistant have access to the records of all students in their major. The faculty advisers assigned to the Engineering Advising Center and the staff of the Engineering Advising Center have access to the records of all ENGR students at all locations, as do the major undergraduate coordinators. The College of Engineering Contact and Referral Faculty Representative has access to all the advising records of the students in ENGR status at his/her commonwealth campus. The Associate Dean for Undergraduate Programs, the Assistant Dean for Academic Support and Global Programs, and their administrative assistants have access to the records of all undergraduates in the College of Engineering.

The College of Engineering recognizes its duty to protect the privacy rights of individuals while balancing the institution's need for information relevant to fulfilling the College's educational missions, and its obligation to abide by University policy and state and federal regulations. The documentation maintained by engineering advisers is consistent with the ethical standards of the advising field:

  • Advisers respect student confidentiality rights regarding personal information;
  • Advisers practice with an understanding of the institution's interpretation of applicable laws such as the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA; Policy AD 11 at Penn State);
  • Advisers seek access to and use student information only when the information is relevant to the advising process. Advisers enter or change information as relevant to the advising process. Advisers enter or change information on students' records only with appropriate institutional authorizations to do so.
  • Advisers document advising contacts adequately to meet institutional disclosure guidelines and aid in subsequent advising interactions.1

1 From the Exposition of National Academic Advising Association Core Values.

Documentation of Sensitive Topics

College of Engineering advisers should be very cautious when documenting topics that contain sensitive subject matter. These include: disability, religious and/or political affiliation, perceived or disclosed sexual orientation, medical diagnoses (including a person's HIV status), or information that could be potentially detrimental to the student if it were revealed to a third party. When sensitive topics are discussed, it is relevant to note if such events affected the student's academic performance. In such cases the wording "personal (or medical) issues affecting academic performance were discussed" is acceptable and sufficient documentation.

Penn State's policy AD-11 excludes records of the Police Services Records Division, records related to an individual's employment, and records made or maintained by a physician, psychiatrist, or psychologist from the educational record. Official documents related to these topics are not kept in student folders or electronic notes, even if necessary for legitimate academic business. Records with medical or judicial content that are included in petitions to the University Faculty Senate should be kept separately from the educational record, in a different location. At University Park, petitions including such information must be forwarded immediately to the Faculty Senate Office, with a copy kept in the office of the Assistant Dean of Student Services.

Personal Files Kept by Individual Advisers

While personal files are not part of the educational record, they may be subpoenaed in court cases or seized under the Patriot Act. For these reasons, The College of Engineering recommends that advisers do not maintain personal files about students. If advisers maintain some data relating to students, these should never be kept to the exclusion of formal records and should never contain information that would be inappropriate for the formal record. The keeping of personal records should be minimized, and a great deal of judgment and caution should be used if personal records are kept.

Complete information about Penn State policies regarding confidentiality of student records is available at Confidentiality and Security of Student Records.

Instructions for Using EARS

EARS Log-on: Go to Electronic Advising Records System and click on "Logon to EARS." To use this website, you must logon with your Penn State Access ID and password. Please note that by clicking on the "Logon to EARS" button, you will be directed to Penn State's central login, also known as Web Access. Once you have successfully logged on, you will automatically return the EARS website.

Finding Student Records: If the student is one of your assigned advisees, you will be able to select the student from your list of advisees that displays after log-on.

If the student is not an assigned advisee, or if you have a long list of assigned advisees, you can use the "search" box in the top, left part of the page to find a student record. Enter the student ID number (e.g., 911112222) or a Penn State Access ID (e.g., abc123) to find the student record.

If you prefer to always search for the student ID or email address, you can hide your list of advisees. Use the "Hide list" button on the ENGR Advisees or Personal Advisees (lavender) bar to the right side of the page.

Review the Student Record Prior to Meeting with a Student: Prior to your meeting with a student, look in EARS for notes from previous meetings. Knowledge of information that was provided in previous meetings can help inform the meeting you will have with the student. Note what major was under consideration in the previous meetings, and what issues were discussed. You can use the buttons on the left of the toolbar to view a student's New Student Orientation Summary, Transcript, and Current Schedule.

Entering Advising Notes: Enter advising notes as soon as the student contact is complete. Because the record will be open after viewing it and prior to the interaction, it is easy to enter the required information and complete the advising record using the process described below. Each open record stays active for two hours.

  • At Office, By Phone, By Email: Choose the venue in which you communicated with the student.
  • Actual Date of Appointment: The current date is the default. If you are entering your notes on the same day, you do not need to make any changes to the date. If you interacted with the student on a previous date, click the date box and type the date you actually interacted with the student. When you save the notes, the date you entered will show in the turquoise bar next to Meeting Notes for (date of meeting). The date you actually entered the notes will also show as part of the record.
  • Reason: There is a list of common reasons for students to seek advising. At least one reason must be chosen, but choose as many reasons as you need, including entering a reason in the (Other) Reason text box.
  • Major: When you communicate with an ENGR student or one considering a change, always find out what major the student is currently considering and include it in your notes. This is important because the major under consideration may affect your advice to the student. If the student is considering more than one major, choose one major in the Intended Major drop-down menu and list the other majors under consideration in the Advising Notes portion. Note that UND (Undecided) is also an option for the intended major. If the student is considering majors outside engineering, list them in the Advising Notes section and keep N/A (not applicable) in the Intended Major drop-down menu.
  • Advising Notes: All communication with students about what courses to schedule and why those courses are the ones to schedule, selecting a major, entry to major, referrals should be entered into EARS. When you review repetitive topics you do not need to include every detail. For example, when you cover entry to major, you do not need to include all the GPAs and name the four entry-to-major courses. Just note that you did explain entry to major (ETM). When you discuss General Education, a 9-6-3, and US/IL, just mention that you reviewed all General Education information. Examples of other items to include are: Employment opportunities, progress toward graduation, Internship or Co-op, rationale for major choice(s), timeline for graduation, any long-term scheduling suggestions. Entering the topics that were discussed during the contact allows advisers to know what information has been communicated to students and any previous concerns expressed by the student.
  • Self-Check Questions When Entering Notes:
    Assume others will read your notes.
    Ask, "Is this something the student would want other people to know?"
    Ask, "Is this something another adviser would need to know ... why?"
    Ask, "Are the details in my notes based on fact or observation and personal perspective?"
    Check notes for accuracy before saving them.
  • Referred to: If you referred the student to another office, adviser, website, etc., please make a note of it. It will remind you to ask the student at future appointments what s/he learned at the referral person/office.
  • Save Advising Notes: When all information is entered, click on Save Advising Notes to complete the advising record.

Recording Advising Email in EARS: All advising email correspondence should be put into EARS. Enter the correct information for the radio buttons, check off the reason(s) for the email, if the student mentions the major of interest include that in the Intended Major choice, copy your reply (the student's request and your response) and paste it into the advising notes section, and then click on Save Advising Notes. If you include an attachment in the email to the student, indicate it in the note or attach the document, if it is not standard, to EARS. A document can be attached to EARS by going to Advising Notes at the top of the record, and clicking on Add or View Advising Documents. If the student sent an attachment follow the same process.

Recording Advising and Attachment Documents: Follow the instructions for uploading new documents. Petitions include College of Engineering Petitions and any petitions or exceptions entered for students by a major department. Other is for all other advising documents. Examples include the attachments that students include in email, documents given to you by the student that are relevant to the academic record, and attachments you send to students by email or fax. Provide a brief description of the attached document to allow future viewers to have some idea about the content of the document. This description is also an easy way to track the contents of documents without opening each individual document. If at least one advising document exists for a student record, there will be a note on the Advising Notes part of EARS.

Amending Notes (add or correct my entry): The Amend Notes button allows you to add to or correct the information you have already entered into EARS. Maybe after you entered your notes, you realize that you forgot information that you discussed or mistakenly included incorrect information. Click on the amend notes button and type in the correction or addition. You will need to reenter the major, reasons for the appointment, etc. as well because some of the changes make may occur in those areas of the advising record. This process does not change the original entry; it only adds the correction into the original record.

Accessing Information About Students Not on Your Advisee List: After entering the student number or Penn State Access ID and selecting the student record, you will see a list of people who had previous contact with the student. The date and the name of the adviser will show for each contact as well as the reason for the meeting. If needed, contact the adviser(s) who entered advising notes for any background that will help you provide appropriate information to the student. If there are no advising notes for a student, the statement "There are no previous Meeting Notes on record" will appear.

For Which Students Should I Enter an Advising Note? Notes should be entered for an advising contact with any College of Engineering student, regardless of the student's official adviser, or about topics that relate to College of Engineering programs and issues for non-College of Engineering students. Advising notes for non-engineering students could play an important role if a request is made to change to the College of Engineering. If a faculty adviser needs to view records that are not accessible, he or she should contact the adviser who entered the records or the student's department.

The Record is Designed to Stay Active for Two Hours: If you have been away from an open advising record or a partially completed advising record entry for more than two hours, you will need to re-select the student prior to completing the advising record entry.

Exiting EARS: When you are finished using EARS, please use the LOGOFF button in the red bar at the top-right of the page.

Print Notes (in the Advising Notes section, on the left side of screen): When an engineering student changes his/her major to another college or to DUS, you may receive a request to print the student record and send it to the new college or major. To maintain student confidentiality, records should not be printed for any other reason. If a student requests a copy of his/her advising record, please refer the request to Assistant Dean Christine Masters.

Have a problem while using EARS? For help with technical difficulties contact Shan Karimushan at shan@engr.psu.edu. Error messages when entering notes or attempting log-on are considered technical difficulties.

Examples of Acceptable and Better Advising Notes

  • Acceptable: Student wanted to discuss his Spring 2011 and Fall 2011 courses. He is also planning to take a second major in CMPEN in addition to AERSP. I discussed with him the course requirements of both departments. He will prepare a 9-semester plan for his double major activity.
    Better: Student wanted to discuss his Spring 2011 and Fall 2011 courses. He is also planning to take a second major in CMPEN in addition to AERSP. I discussed with him the course requirements of both departments. For spring, recommended MATH 141, MATH 220, PHYS 212, EDSGN 100, AHS. For fall: MATH 230, EMCH 210, CMPSC 121, ME 201. He will prepare a 9-semester plan for his double major activity.
  • Acceptable: Form 48.
    Better: Reviewed his ROTC form* up to this semester. This spring he is taking MATH 141, PHYS 212, EDSGN 100, ECON 102, and AHS. What he has scheduled and has taken so far will keep him on track.
  • Acceptable: Reviewed Spring 2011 course schedule -on track. Encouraged student to organize and continuously update an academic plan. Reviewed ETM process and emphasized importance of high academic performance. Discussed possible change to a commonwealth campus for next year.
    Better: Reviewed Spring 2011 course schedule - CHEM 112, ENGL 15, MATH 141, PHYS 211, GS. Encouraged student to organize and continuously update an academic plan. Reviewed ETM process and emphasized importance of high academic performance. Discussed possible change to a commonwealth campus for next year. Student may need to be closer to home for family reasons.
  • Acceptable: Student had questions about entry to major and scholarship opportunities.
    Better: Student had questions about entry to major and scholarship opportunities. Referred student to engr scholarship webpage. Explained ETM deadlines and course and GPA requirements.
  • Acceptable: Student had questions about the Study Abroad program as well as getting a minor in EME.
    Better: Interested in energy developmental and impacts on the environment. Likely through CH E. Maybe energy engineering minor and/or environmental engineering minor. Gave contact info for CH E Energy Option faculty and Energy & Mineral Engineering dept. faculty. She should meet with as many folks as she can to try to develop an academic program that suits her interests and talents. Will head towards the CH E degree plan for now. Student interested in study abroad referred to Global Engineering Website and study abroad faculty adviser for CHE.
  • Acceptable: The student is petitioning for retroactively late drop math 141. He is also applying for reducing course load for SP11 because he is an international student. Discussed the difficulty he encountered and the issues faced. Signed the reduced course load form for him.
    Better: The student is petitioning for retroactively late drop math 141. He is also applying for reducing course load for SP11 because he is an international student. Student is having difficulty studying – referred to PSU Learning and suggested he attend instructor’s office hours. Student also finding it difficult to connect with other students suggested he consider joining an engr student organization. Signed the reduced course load form for him checked difficulty adjusting to US teaching methods*

*Forms completed and signed for students like the ROTC schedule form or the permission for international students to go below full-time should be scanned and added to the EARS.