How a next-gen degree audit helped Duke University’s graduate school centralize program tracking and improve student services


Duke University was searching for a way to track graduate student progress in a centralized manner across multiple independent graduate schools. Duke’s tool for undergraduates, like many traditional degree audit systems, has a steep learning curve for degree audits, which wouldn’t work in a graduate environment with varying degree types and decentralized structure. In the absence of a degree progress tool, each school used static lists and spreadsheets to track and advise graduate students relative to their degree progress. 

That’s when Duke discovered Stellic, a flexible, next-gen audit designed to support the unique implications of grad schools by simplifying course, non-course and milestone requirement tracking for multiple degree pathways. Through Stellic, Duke has been able to improve curricular data accuracy, save time for program administrators and empower graduate students to track their own degree progress in a modern, holistic way.

The Background

Given the nature of audit systems at the undergraduate level, Duke recognized that those tools wouldn’t be as effective in a graduate, decentralized environment. With hybrid, siloed, and non-course requirements and milestones, the tools they were using weren’t flexible or comprehensive enough to capture and track the multiple aspects of a graduate student’s journey.

The absence of a student-facing system meant that students were relying on their advisors to track and input their progress, which took up valuable time that could be spent on career advice and mentorship. Another difficulty for Duke administrators was departmental collaboration. With different departments processing degree audits in different ways, there was no central system to rely on for accurate student data. 

Ready to improve the student and faculty experience, Duke evaluated new systems and discovered that Stellic’s intuitive audit system had the capacity to bridge these gaps and service their graduate students in a way that still allowed for flexibility within different schools and departments.

“Stellic has helped us to start focusing on having a centralized tool that 1) keeps the data in one place and 2) still allows for the different schools and departments to keep their autonomy and manage their own curricula.” - Frank Blalark, Associate Vice Provost & University Registrar, Duke University

The Approach

With Stellic’s audit, Duke was able to immediately start adding in courses and non-course-based milestones in one system that could be shared across multiple roles and different divisions. Shared notes and progress visibility simplified departmental collaboration, while student plans enabled leadership to predict course scheduling. Even though Duke is tracking and accessing data all in one place, each school and program still has the autonomy to build out specific requirements as needed. 

Another huge advantage during implementation was the minimal lift needed by IT to make the transition in technology. Leadership was looking for a tool for which they wouldn’t have to intervene heavily. Duke’s registrar office was able to accomplish 85% of the implementation work within their office, making the process much more efficient.

As many schools think about how to onboard the tool itself, it’s important to know that the technical requirements aren’t as steep as one might think.” - Frank Blalark, Associate Vice Provost & University Registrar, Duke University

The Impact

With adoption levels at multiple schools reaching over 88%, students can plan ahead, understand what opportunities are being offered term by term, and determine exactly when they’ll need to complete important milestones and satisfy various requirements. 

Administrators are now able to pull reports and quickly determine which students are planning to graduate but may be missing requirements, and deal with those situations proactively. This was a process that used to take months of data collection, but users are now able to obtain accurate results in a matter of minutes, leaving more time for proactive follow-up with students.

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