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Life before and after launching EduNav SmartPlan, as experienced by a Norco College academic counselor

Erin Spurbeck is a counselor at Norco College, a two-year public institution that’s one of three in California’s Riverside Community College District. Through her role in the Student Services Office, Erin helps Norco’s 16,000 students pursue their higher education goals online to achieve career success. She’s driven to realize Norco’s mission of “helping create the next generation of leaders, entrepreneurs, and game-changers.”    

When I started as a counselor at Norco College six years ago, we needed a new way to create and maintain electronic education plans, but the technology wasn’t where it needed to be to make that a reality. So, we stuck with our Excel spreadsheet-based system, manually creating plans for each student. It worked well enough, but these plans didn’t include course descriptions, we couldn’t clearly play out what-if scenarios and, perhaps most frustrating, we couldn’t edit them since they were saved as PDFs. If a student couldn’t get into a particular course or needed to make a change, we had to create a whole new education plan. 

Enter EduNav SmartPlan. Just seeing a quick demo of the platform made me do a double take. It honestly seemed like it was too good to be true!  

A GPS for higher ed? A planner that actually planned? This was the future of student success!  

Some of my fellow advisors weren’t so sure. They wondered — if this technology handles planning for students, what are advisors supposed to do? 

I heard their concerns. After all, I’d also spent such a large percentage of my time building ed plans for students, because making sure each student was on track was how institutions got funding.  

Flash forward to now — did SmartPlan make me an advisor who doesn’t advise? No.  

With SmartPlan, I spend about 10 minutes at the end of my hour-long advising sessions doing course planning. The other 50 minutes? Well, first, I get to start with the most important “whys”:  

  • Why are you in college? 
  • Why is your goal to earn a degree?  
  • Why do you want to become a [fill in “dream” job here]? 

So many students have never taken a moment to think about these questions, let alone their answers. By saving time with SmartPlan, I have time for these deeper conversations. I’m truly helping students make more informed decisions earlier in their careers and making sure they’re making these decisions for themselves — not for their mentors, their mothers, or their grandparents. For them.  

During my advising sessions, I explore students’ goals at Norco. If they want to transfer, I recommend specific courses they might not know they need to successfully transfer to their specific institution of interest.  

SmartPlan doesn’t try to do what advisors do. SmartPlan gives me more time to do what advisors are meant to do. 

Not only am I spending more time with students, but I’m also developing relationships with other stakeholders, like faculty. In fact, I recently chatted with all of our faculty department chairs to make sure my team understands not just what’s required, but what’s preferred: Do they prefer one art class over another for a business major? Do they prefer that a student take an intro class during their first semester instead of a later one?  

So, not only does SmartPlan mean I still get to do the student advising and support that I was hired to do. It means I get to do more of it — honestly, I feel like SmartPlan has helped me reclaim time for my students and, it’s giving me more time to make more of a difference.  

At the end of the day, who wouldn’t benefit from having more time?