TECHNews

The Office of Information Technology's blog.

Communicating Academic Structure Changes

Posted on: May 10th, 2013 by TERRIE THOMPSON

I have always enjoyed a good mystery. It probably started when my parents subjected me to Murder She Wrote and Magnum PI when I was a kid, but the satisfaction of solving a puzzle stuck with me and has served me well in my first few months here, as I’ve had to do some digging to figure out why departmental curriculum sheets say one thing, the catalog says another thing, and Degree Audit has yet a third version. How does this happen? Which is correct? Let the mystery begin!

Making a course change in a program of study’s requirement list may be as easy as using the “find/replace” tool in a document, but not so in an online system. For example, in Degree Audit and our online catalog, a course may be used in several different places and housed in separate tables in the database. Or, there may be a use case where it’s changed in one area, but needs to stay the old way in another. Keeping the course requirements current in Degree Audit and the online catalog is kind of like a game of pick-up sticks. The goal may be to remove a blue stick (or, update a sub-requirement), but because that one blue stick is touching all the other sticks, care must be taken to ensure that none of the others are altered in the course of the extraction.

Students can access information about their degree program requirements from three sources: the various academic departments, the printed/online catalog, and Degree Audit. We want to help ensure that the student is getting consistent information. The tool we use to do that is the Academic Council Workflow. Properly using Academic Council Workflow ensures that all offices & personnel who interact with students get the same information.

Degree Audit rules mirror what appears in the online catalog. Therefore, if a change does not go through the Academic Council Workflow system, it will not be added to the online catalog or to Degree Audit. For example, here are some typical discrepancies I’ve seen over the last 3 months:

• A student’s degree audit showed a “red light” when the administrator knew it should be green. A check of the requirements and a brief discussion uncovered that the school would accept more courses to satisfy that requirement than were listed in Degree Audit. The school had made the additions in their own documentation, but since they never went through Academic Council Workflow, we never received that information.
• In a different degree program, we compared the school’s advising sheet against the requirements in Degree Audit and the online catalog. The online catalog and Degree Audit were the same; however, the school’s advising sheet was different. The advising sheet had been changed to reflect recent updates to the department’s curriculum.

Academic Council Workflow is used when a school or department wants to add, change, or delete a course, program of study, minor, or to make an Academic Request (such as a change in a policy). The process starts with “Initiate a Request” through the myOleMiss portal in Academic Council Workflow, and is then automatically forwarded to the appropriate office or council: from the originating department, to Graduate/Undergraduate Council, to the Chancellor, to Publications, to the Registrar, then finally to Information Technology (IT). From start to finish, getting a change approved usually takes between 4-6 weeks.

Whew, that’s a lot of steps!
Think of your Request as the equivalent of Bill in the Schoolhouse Rock video entitled “I’m Just a Bill.”

The key to remember is that we build our Degree Audit rules based on the degree requirements listed in the online catalog. The way to ensure the program and degree requirements are correct in the online catalog is to go through Academic Council Workflow. Each of these changes affects multiple departments at the University, and the Academic Council Workflow system was designed to ensure each department gets the information it needs. The system was built so we’re all communicating. We just need to use the system, so those Requests can become Requirements!

For questions about or assistance with Degree Audit, email terriet@olemiss.edu.

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