Registrar announces degree-tracking system

As it works to move all academic records and registration processes online over the next several years, the Registrar’s Office will pilot a new Web-based system next semester that allows students to track their progress toward meeting distributional requirements.

Known as a “degree audit system,” the program is intended to facilitate conversations between students and their advisers by automatically calculating which distributional requirements students have fulfilled, University Registrar Gabriel Olszewski said. Students in Saybrook College will be the first to try out the new program, Saybrook Dean Paul McKinley announced in a Wednesday email to students in the college. The program will be extended to all residential colleges next fall, Olszewski said, and future versions of the program will also allow students to plan how they meet the requirements of their majors.

“Rather than having to spend time counting courses [in an advising session], you can have a discussion about how you’re trying to create a strong curriculum for yourself that meets your intellectual interests,” Olszewski said.

Currently, students receive their academic records as printed forms, and though they list which courses on a transcript can count for distributional or major credit, students and advisers must manually count courses to determine progress towards academic requirements. Dean of Undergraduate Education Joseph Gordon said the automated online system will make advising more productive and efficient by allowing students and advisers to focus on “real advising, not just on accounting.”

McKinley said the new system is “user-friendly” and “doesn’t require a specialist to interpret.” Besides seeing what requirements they have already met, students will be able to use the software to consider “what if” scenarios, McKinley said. For example, during shopping period, students will be able to see how different course schedules could fill their requirements, he said.

“If you look at an academic record [now], it’s neither electronic nor live,” McKinley said. “It’s a static snapshot.”

About a dozen students in Saybrook will be selected to provide early feedback on the program: Next week they will be shown screenshots of the system’s interface and asked to evaluate it for ease of use, McKinley said. The system will go live and be accessible to all Saybrook students around the end of January, shortly after shopping period ends, Olszewski said.

As Saybrook students test out the program’s usefulness this spring, the Registrar’s Office will ask “a handful” of academic departments to volunteer to put the requirements of their majors into the system. Olszewski said he hopes to pilot the program for a few majors by the summer.

Because of the complexity of Yale’s academic requirements, the system will likely take two to four years to fully implement, Olszewski added.

Olszewski said implementing a degree audit system has been one of his main priorities since assuming the position of University registrar in July. He said the system fits into his office’s broader goal of eventually putting all students’ academic records and registration processes in electronic form.

“Down the line, if we can marry the student’s academic record with the [Online Course Information system] into something available for an adviser to see, then it truly becomes a possibility for the registration process to become electronic,” he said.

All five Saybrook students interviewed said they believed an online system to track progress towards requirements would be helpful.

James Mandilk ’13 said he has not had trouble counting up distributional requirements in the past, but that he would appreciate the system having the ability to list major requirements. As a student in the combined mathematics and philosophy major, he said it is complicated to figure out which courses count toward the requirements of each part of his major.

Dartmouth College implemented a degree audit system this fall made by the same company that designed Yale’s, and similar systems are already in place at schools such as Stanford University and the University of Virginia.

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