Enhancing degree audit: What the "new normal" should look like

July 11, 2020
  • AACRAO Annual Meeting
  • Degree Audit
  • Records and Academic Services
  • Webinars
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by Kimra Schipporeit, Former Registrar at University of Nebraska at Kearney

It’s been over 25 years since we implemented the first degree audit system for our campus. We’re now on our third implementation and while some of the features have changed, the basic functionality remains much the same as the systems from years past. I concede that the premise of such software is to provide a path or a checklist of degree requirements to help students stay on track and complete the chosen credential in a timely manner. However, I believe we should expect more.

Academic advisors, either faculty or professional staff, typically have a full slate of students needing their assistance.  Without timely access to critical information on each student’s particular situation, they spend valuable time searching through records and systems, tracking down relevant data so they can provide the best guidance possible.

A more helpful and efficient degree audit system would intuitively present information pertinent to the student’s unique status and therefore allow the advisor to focus on issues regarding career paths, advanced education and building a relationship with the student.  Advisors should be able to see reports in real time that show those students who lack certain requirements or those with academic performance concerns. Institutional leaders are looking for data to help them manage enrollment, improve student success and make more fiscally prudent decisions.

Degree audit systems are ripe with information to address such needs but the trick remains how to make it available in a useful format. Most degree audit systems fail to provide “one click” access to summary data on student populations such as, “How many juniors have not yet completed their required Math sequence?” or “How many seats will be needed in Advanced Accounting a year from now?” Having answers to questions like these would allow better allocation of resources and would provide for targeted communication to individual students about issues affecting their degree progression.

At the center of any degree audit system is the student.  They are the ones who benefit most from having critical program information available. While some systems provide pathways that the student and/or advisor can create, most do not include smart technology that takes into account when classes are offered, prerequisite course sequencing, elective choices based on student interest or pre-emptive messaging designed to alert students when their choices may delay degree progression.

Helping students achieve their educational goals is the reason our profession exists. Having the right tools available can make our jobs and the lives of students easier. The degree audit of the future -- with on demand course and student data, and proactive system prompts -- will play a critical role in our success. 

to learn more about improving your degree audit systems, join me in the conversation with Emily Ho, Assistant Dean of Students at UChicago and Tim Ebner, Registrar at University of Utah for the July 23rd webinar How to turn degree audit into your most effective retention tool