Labour of Love

Degree Explorer for Students goes Live on Valentine’s Day

Student Face of Degree Explorer impresses early users and student testers

Last month, we looked at a powerful new web tool called Degree Explorer that had recently been released by NGSIS to administrators at the University of Toronto in the Faculty of Arts and Science and at the University of Toronto Scarborough to manage student graduation eligibility and confirmation process.

At that time, we alluded to another side of the Degree Explorer, one intended for students to use in tracking and planning their degree and programs.  This remarkable tool combines a student’s unique program information (marks, courses taken, transfer credits) with the rules and requirements built into the application’s administrative-end. The exceptions and confirmations logged in the administrative side of Degree Explorer are immediately available and visible to the student when looking at their degree assessment.

This convergence of data streams results in a tool that can tell students what requirements they still need to meet in order to be able to graduate. Furthermore, it allows them to propose hypothetical course of study and chart out their degree. A student considering a switch in their major or minor can add a hypothetical program- and see what additional courses they’d need to pursue it (and whether courses they’d already taken were applicable).

On February 14th, the student face of Degree Explorer went live to fourth year students in the Faculty of Arts and Science, the first stage in a staggered release to all students in the Faculty of Arts and Science and the University of Toronto Scarborough.

The tool has three main features: Current Status, Academic History and a Planner:

Current Status displays the student’s current degree and program as well as their estimated progress towards completion. Students can drill down to see all degree requirements for their program or degree and see which ones they’ve fulfilled.

Academic History allows the student to look at past courses, marks and comments as well as display advanced standing courses and transfer credits (if any).

The Planner enables students to see courses they have taken in the past on a year-by-year calendar and allows them to plan for hypothetical courses to take in the future. The student can use the planner to create up to five hypothetical academic plansas well as see whether  they meet  pre-requisites for courses they are interested in.

Degree Explorer allows students to visualize their academic trajectory in a way that was previously only possible with great amounts of paper and perspiration.

The tool proved immediately popular amongst students, at one point logging fifty unique student users within the first twenty-four hours of being online.

One early Arts and Science student user was enthusiastic enough about the new tool to send in the following feedback:

“This may be one of the most useful things that U of T has introduced to me. As a student who had an error in counting credits and almost not being able to graduate, this tool is super handy.”

Several student testers noted that their favorite aspect of Degree Explorer was that it was “comforting” to be able to see if they were on track to graduate.

Degree Explorer’s lead programmer, Blair Thompson, could not be more proud of what has been achieved:

“I believe that this is the best application I’ve ever worked on. We’ve had really good people working on it, a really good team of users and testers and very supportive management. This is a very advanced application both in terms of usability, look and feel and functionality.”

Small wonder that Degree Explorer is one of the brightest jewels in the suite of NGSIS applications being released this year.