This fall, the University Registrar’s Office is trying to bring Yale College into the 21st century.
Starting this month, all Berkeley and Morse college students will have the opportunity to pilot Yale Degree Audit, a new online system designed to track students’ progress toward a bachelor’s degree by showing which graduation requirements their classes have fulfilled. Though the pilot program officially began last spring when the Registrar’s Office worked with the Morse and Berkeley College deans and 20 students on an initial version of the software, it was expanded to all undergraduates in both colleges in early October. If the pilot succeeds, University Registrar Gabriel Olszewski said, it may be extended to more Yale College students in spring 2015.
“[The Yale College Dean’s Office] and the [University Registrar’s Office] believe that advising can be enhanced for students and their advisers by providing a shared program to count courses [and] track degree requirements,” Olszewski wrote in an email. “A degree audit system can make this change a reality and could perhaps replace the paper academic record in the future.”
The Degree Works software that runs the online system lists relevant student information including class year, major, GPA and faculty advisors, and even details such as country of citizenship and sports team, if applicable. It also enumerates the distributional requirements for each year and indicates whether these have been fulfilled. One section, called “Course History,” lists every course a student has taken, any distributional credits associated with the courses and the grades the student received.
The system also enumerates any acceleration credits that students may have transferred from summer courses or classes they completed before matriculating at Yale.
The current, first phase of the pilot does not include a system for tracking the requirements of a student’s major.
Though the pilot program did not begin until spring 2014, the University licensed the software several years ago, Olszewski noted, explaining that the implementation has been deliberately slow so that administrators can be absolutely confident in the program before it becomes the system of record for degree requirements.
Dean of Yale College Jonathan Holloway said that the program will greatly improve the college’s efficiency, but noted that it is crucial to ensure that it does not lessen the time that advisers spend with students.
“It would be a travesty if we developed online systems that students felt took the place of advising,” he said. “That’s wrong.”
Olszewski said that one of Yale Degree Audit’s goals is to allow students and advisers to focus on choosing courses and determining goals instead of tracking requirements.
The system also aims to make it easier for directors of undergraduate study and registrars to keep track of their majors’ progress towards completing their degrees, Olszewski said.
Several professors and students interviewed said that the system will be helpful, especially when it begins to track major requirements as well.
Professor Roman Kuc, the DUS of Electrical Engineering, explained that he expects the system will be especially helpful for the engineering department.
“Once implemented, such a system would especially be useful for the DUS in advising engineering majors, who have to take as many as 23 courses to satisfy the accredited program requirements,” he said. “Having an online program would eliminate the many paper forms that need DUS and adviser approvals.”
Assistant DUS for Astronomy Victoria Misenti said that currently, she keeps track of each astronomy major’s progress towards completion manually — a time-consuming system with great potential for human error — and that she would welcome an automated system to compile all the information in a more efficient and standardized way.
An online system listing requirements for each department and how many classes had been completed would be incredibly helpful, Graham Ambrose ’18 said, especially for a freshman exploring potential majors. He added that current method — in which students must refer to the Bluebook or to a department’s website to check a major’s requirements — is inefficient.
Petr Vitkovskiy ’16, a pre-med philosophy major, said that keeping track of all of his obligatory classes would be much simpler with an online system, especially given the specificity and quantity of his requirements.
“For me, the biggest plus is just the convenience of it,” Christian Soler ’16, a Morse College student who has used the system, said. “Rather than having to check transcripts or think back to what your schedule was like freshman spring, it’s all just crammed into one place with nice, bright red letters that point out what requirements you’re missing.”
Berkeley college student Aileen Huang ’17, who has used the pilot, said that as a computer science major, she has felt especially frustrated with many of Yale’s online platforms, which she considers antiquated and not very user-friendly.
However, some students who have used the pilot were less thrilled.
Berkeley college student Eugene Kim ’16 said that other than its online availability, the system does not seem to offer anything more than an unofficial transcript does. Still, he noted that the current system is only a work in progress.
Neyen Romano ’18 said that while the program may be helpful in later years, he thinks it is “not much use to freshmen” whose requirements are relatively simple and easy to track.
The University’s Registrar’s Office has also begun discussing beginning a pilot of the degree audit system for the Law School and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Olszewski noted.
Columbia University students use a similar system called Degree Audit Report to track their progress in completing core requirements.