Degree auditing system opens to all students

All undergraduates will gain access to the new online degree auditing system beginning Sept. 12 in the next phase of the technology’s introduction.

The online system designed to help students track their progress toward graduation, known as DegreeMAP, launched on a rolling basis starting March last year in response to ongoing complaints from students frustrated with inadequate advising services across the University.

After pilot programs in the GW School of Business and the School of Engineering and Applied Science were deemed a success, the auditing system was released in the School of Health and Health Services and the College of Professional Studies over the summer.

Doug McKenna, associate registrar for degree audit, said from a quantitative standpoint, “the remarkable number of logins” to the online system the day it launched showed that students were interested in the new technology.

“Giving students and advisers the ability to track progress toward a degree in such a clear and easy way is transformative to the culture here at GW,” McKenna said.

The University signed a contract with software creator DegreeWorks to begin using the online system in January 2010 in an effort to curb years of advising grievances, especially within the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences.

As the program expands to the University’s remaining schools and colleges, the degree audit team in the registrar’s office has been working closely with academic representatives to review degree programs, code requirements into DegreeMAP and then validate that the requirements are accurately reflected and that the system is applying courses appropriately.

“It’s a time-consuming process and each program has to be looked at both individually and in the way that it relates to other programs of study,” McKenna said.

Graduate programs roll out after the system’s full undergraduate launch.

Under the program from software creator DegreeWorks, students can run “What If…” audits with their advisers to explore the requirements for different programs of study without changing majors. Advisers can also make personalized notes in the system for students to view later.

During the trial run, McKenna said the automated application of degree requirements using the recently renumbered course codes was “overwhelmingly” accurate.

He admitted, however, there were a few minor issues related to transfer credits and instances of students either not knowing their degree required a course or realizing a particular class didn’t fulfill a particular requirement.

The registrar’s office is open to feedback from users as they interact with the program, McKenna added, and will conduct a survey about the application in the spring.

Ilan Gordon, a sophomore in the business school, said the system’s statistics base made for a learning curve, but he values the utility of the program.

“I feel more informed when I go in to talk [to my adviser],” he said. “The charts make it understandable once you learn how to use it.”

SEAS adviser Kristin Pallister, said the online system lets students take a “more active role in their advising experience.”

“I think it will help to demistify degree requirements and make for better informed students,” she said.

The response from faculty and senior administrators has also been “overwhelmingly positive,” Larry Fillian, director of undergraduate advising and assessment in the business school, said.

“With DegreeMAP, we are now able to focus more on developmental advising, which means that we can focus more on helping students discern their educational goals, and plot out the paths by which those goals can be met, rather than simply going over a degree plan,” Fillian said. “We are also able to work on success plans with students based upon their inherent strengths, which I’m confident will help us take our advising to the next level.”

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