GW launches pilot program for degree-auditing system

Correction appended

Undergraduate students in two schools within the University will be the first to use a new online degree-auditing system designed to help students track their progress toward graduation.

DegreeMAP – the new online advising system – launches Monday in two pilot programs for undergraduate students in the GW School of Business and the School of Engineering and Applied Science.

“Because of the transformative nature of making this kind of information so readily available to students and their advisors, we felt it prudent to begin the implementation with two pilot schools to work out any issues with the system and to get feedback from students and advisers,” Doug McKenna, an associate in the registrar’s office who heads the degree-audit program, said.

McKenna said the pilot schools were selected based on their curricula.

“The School of Business and the School of Engineering and Applied Science both have fairly structured curricula but with enough flexibility in ways students can fulfill requirements that it is a meaningful pilot for the system,” McKenna said.

Larry Fillian, director of undergraduate advising and assessment, said the automation of the degree-auditing process will remove the possibility of human error and ensure consistency in the application of degree requirements. She added that the system is meant to be supplemental to the in-person advising the school offers.

“It is very important to note that DegreeMAP does not replace academic advising – academic advisors are the authoritative source of whether or not students are meeting their degree requirements,” Fillian said.

The audit system is expected to improve advising by freeing advisers from focusing primarily on graduation requirements and instead creating time for giving students more guidance on choosing a major or a certain class to fulfill a requirement.

“With the ability to ‘map’ their degree progress on-demand, students can spend more time with their advisor talking more about learning outcomes and academic goal setting and allow the majority of our time to be spent focusing on what we call developmental advising,” Fillian said.

GW signed a contract to begin using the online program in January 2010 after several years of complaints by students frustrated with the University’s advising system, especially within the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences.

To improve advising services, the University set up a monthly advisory committee of students and professors from each undergraduate school to gather recommendations for improvement. CCAS also doubled its advising staff last year, though advisers in the school said the services were underused.

DegreeMAP, the name GW has given to online software created by DegreeWorks, will use recently renumbered course codes to monitor students’ individual progress toward graduation via GWeb. Advisers will be able to access the degree-tracking information for their advisees.

Under the program, students can also run “What If…” audits with their advisers to explore the requirements for different programs of study without changing majors.

University Registrar Elizabeth Amundson said in January 2010 the initial cost of the servers and software was approximately $88,000, with an estimated annual maintenance cost of just over $10,000, plus additional costs for staff to support the program.

McKenna said the costs have not changed.

The online auditing system will go live for additional undergraduate schools and programs on a rolling basis beginning summer 2011. Graduate, professional and doctoral programs will begin using the system after gathering feedback from the pilot program.

This article was updated on March 8, 2011 to reflect the following:
The Hatchet incorrectly attributed statements about automated advising to Business School Dean Doug Guthrie. The statements were made by Larry Fillian, director of undergraduate advising and assessment.

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