Skip navigation

Advising Notes F.A.Q.

What is the SPIRE Advising Notes tool?

The SPIRE Advising Notes tool is an online note-making application for academic advisors, available through SPIRE. The Committee on Advising & Technology and the Undergraduate Deans Council have endorsed the concept of online notes and reviewed the beta release of the product. SPIRE Advising Notes was also used successfully in pilot testing by several departments and by the Undergraduate Advising staff during the academic year prior to general release. Advising Notes will enable those faculty and staff with Advisor access to SPIRE to easily maintain an online record of advising sessions or contacts with advisees in notes about each student. This tool will contribute positively to advising across campus by ensuring that accurate and more complete information about an advisee is available to the advisor, even when students move between departments and across schools and colleges.

Before writing any advising notes, review the Advising Notes Guidelines for writing appropriate advising notes.

How do I get access to SPIRE Advising Notes?

To access SPIRE Advising Notes, you need to have SPIRE for Advisors access to SPIRE. Even if your job is to advise students, you may not have this type of access. If you have never applied for access to SPIRE, see the information posted online about Access to SPIRE. If you already have access to SPIRE but do not see the Advising Notes item in your SPIRE menu, email spire-support@oit.umass.edu for further information.

Should I write the note before or after my advising session with the student?

We recommend following your current practice. That is, nothing has changed except the medium of the note. If you currently write notes during a session, you can continue this practice with SPIRE Advising Notes. Some advisors choose to jot a few crib notes during a session, then type after meeting with a student. Tip: Remember to properly dispose of any handwritten notes pertaining to students, especially when there might be Personally Identifiable Information (PII).

Can I change the date if I don't get to write the note until the next day?

Yes. When you go to write the note by navigating to Advising Notes > Advisor > Write Advising Notes, the Add a New Value tab of the Add or Update Advising Notes page opens. The Contact Date defaults to the current date, but you can change it to a previous date before you begin to write the note. Be sure to change the date on the Add a New Value tab of the Add or Update Advising Notes page before you click the Add button.

Will I have enough time to use Advising Notes in an advising session?

In the selected initial release departments, many advisors were first overwhelmed with the change, but found they mastered the new system with little practice. We encourage you to speak with your departmental colleagues, and your undergraduate dean, about the structure and workflow of advising sessions.

I'm worried SPIRE will time out before I finish my note. What should I do?

If you have been logged on to SPIRE for a while, you may not realize SPIRE has timed out until you go to save your note and lose it. To avoid this, save the note early and often, at least every 10 minutes (since SPIRE may time out after 15 minutes). You can always return to edit the note within 3 calendar days. To update your note later, use the SPIRE menu to navigate to Advising Notes > Advisor > Write Advising Notes and click on the Find an Existing Value tab.

Can I first write the note in Microsoft Word or another word processing program?

Yes. Some advisors have found this to be helpful – they first type the note in Microsoft Word or Notepad (or TextEdit on a Mac), then paste it into SPIRE. Note: If you use Microsoft Word, some characters, e.g., apostrophes and curly quotation marks, will not appear correctly in SPIRE.
Tip: As with handwritten notes above, remember to properly store or dispose of typewritten notes pertaining to students, especially when there might be Personally Identifiable Information (PII).

Am I able to edit the note once I save it?

Yes, as long as it is within 3 days of when you first saved it. You can edit and save as often as you like when you first write the note. In fact, you should save at least every 10 minutes. After you go on to something else, you can return to locate the note by using the SPIRE menu to navigate to Advising Notes > Advisor > Write Advising Notes and clicking on the Find an Existing Value tab. After 3 days, the fields in the note will be grayed out and inactive so that you cannot make any more changes.

Why can't I make changes to a note after 3 days?

The FERPA statute requires that any notes relevant to a student's academic record are preserved and must not be modified after they are completed. However, in beta testing, we found that advisors needed some time after the initial entry to fix errors and make additions. Not having the ability to edit notes was very frustrating and inefficient. We settled on 3 days as enough time for advisors to transcribe written notes and make corrections while complying with the FERPA statute.

What should I do if I need to edit a note after 3 days?

Once the 3-day edit period is over, you cannot make a change to a note. If you need to edit a note after this time, we recommend that you simply write an additional note.

Can I delete a note?

In rare cases that a note needs to be deleted, please contact Kregg Strehorn at strehorn@acad.umass.edu to discuss the process.

How do I let my dean know about a note that I wrote?

Use the Attn. Acad. Dean field when you add or update a note. Filling in this field allows you to send the note to an undergraduate academic dean. This feature will send her/him an email, as soon as you save the note, asking her/him to log on to SPIRE to read your note. For further details, see the Attn. Acad. Dean documentation.

What if the student would like a copy of the note?

After you have completed the note, use the SPIRE menu to navigate to Advising Notes > Advisor > Read Advising Notes. Find the note you want to send, and click the Send Email to Student cc to You button, just below the Comments box. The emails are sent as soon as you click the button. For further details, visit the Read Advising Notes documentation.

What about privacy issues? Should students be reading my notes?

FERPA gives students the right to access and amend educational records kept by the University—this includes all advising notes. This means that students currently have the right to request copies of your handwritten notes or anything else in their advising or dean’s file. We encourage you to speak with your departmental colleagues and your undergraduate dean about privacy issues.

Will other advisors on campus be able to read my notes?

Yes. A goal of this tool is to ensure that accurate and more complete information about undergraduate advisees is available to the advisor, even when students move between departments and across schools and colleges. In terms of FERPA, anyone with access to SPIRE for Advisors is seen as having a legitimate educational interest in accessing or reviewing a student’s educational records to perform a task that is specified in his/her position description and/or performing a task related to a student’s education. Note: All faculty and staff have a legal responsibility under FERPA to protect the confidentiality of student educational records and to access such records only for legitimate educational purposes.

Can I print a note?

While printing is not encouraged, sometimes it is necessary. If you are the author of the note or a dean, you can email a copy of the note to yourself and then print the email. After you have completed the note, use the SPIRE menu to navigate to Advising Notes > Advisor > Read Advising Notes. Find the note you want to send, and click the Send Email to Student cc to You button, just below the Comments box. The emails are sent as soon as you click the button. For further details, visit the Read Advising Notes documentation.

To print directly from your browser, please see Printing from SPIRE. Note: If a scroll bar appears in the Comments box when you are writing or reading your note, the entire note will not be visible if you print from your browser. In that case, use the email option described above, or copy the comments, paste them into a word processing program such as Microsoft Word, and print from that program.

Tip: Remember to properly store and dispose of any printed advising notes or parts of notes, since they are likely to contain Personally Identifiable Information (PII).

Who should I contact with questions about Advising Notes policies and procedures?

For questions about undergraduate advising policies and procedures, or to consult about the use of SPIRE Advising Notes, please contact Kregg Strehorn.

Is face-to-face training available?

Yes. We are offering Advising Notes Help Sessions & Trainings for those who already have SPIRE for Advisors access to SPIRE and want to learn about Advising Notes. Advising Notes will also be covered in the training that is required for anyone the Registrar's Office approves for SPIRE for Advisors access in the future.

Need more help?

See the Advising Notes documentation.

For help with policies and procedures, contact Kregg Strehorn.

For technical assistance with accessing or using SPIRE Advising Notes, please contact
spire-support@oit.umass.edu

For training options, see Advising Notes Help Sessions & Trainings, or email
spire-support@oit.umass.edu