When Jay Flynn assumed the Registrar position at Sweet Briar College in May 2021, one of his first priorities was to modernize the paper-based processes that were the status quo in the Registrar's Office. Taking stock of the forms and processes currently in place, he identified degree audit as the natural starting point, and sought to implement a digital solution that would best suit the needs of students and institutional staff at Sweet Briar College.
In about five months, Sweet Briar successfully transformed their degree audit, planning, analytics, and reporting processes through Stellic. Below, we share their journey with Stellic and the transformation they've experienced one year into a full launch.
“The whole experience with Stellic has been a blessing. From implementing, to watching our campus be excited to use Stellic - it has brought Sweet Briar College lightyears into the future.” – Jay Flynn, Registrar, Sweet Briar College
The Previous Landscape
Relying on 20 various paper forms, it was clear that Flynn and his team needed a more efficient way to carry out the many functions in the Registrar’s Office. One of the largest functions was degree audit and tracking, where multiple paper forms would need to be either used or revised to reflect curriculum changes or track student progress for various core and program requirements. This also made it difficult for students and staff to keep track of factors like GPA, as well as multiple majors/minors. Once a student withdrew from a class, for example, there would be no degree audit available for her or staff to view. As a result, students were not effectively taking ownership over their academic journey.
Time for a Change
Though there had been some past considerations about a degree audit system, Flynn recognized it was high time for change at Sweet Briar College. Bringing over 15 years of experience as a Registrar, he was quick to propose a path forward.
As the search for a degree audit system began, three requirements were especially critical in adapting to Sweet Briar College’s needs and goals:
- The solution needed to be easy to implement and maintain. It could not require additional staffing resources to implement the technology, or make changes to the curriculum within the system
- It had to be student-friendly – making it easy and engaging for students to run their own audits, map their path ahead, and ultimately take their educational experience into the own hands
- It had to use clear and familiar language to build and maintain audits. They needed an intuitive tool that didn’t require learning a new technical skill to do this
Shortly into Flynn’s exploration of Stellic, a couple of things caught his attention. First, he was drawn to how students could manage their entire academic journey all in one place. The platform would contain all the information on degree progress, which would allow his office to seamlessly track students. Second, Stellic was able to fit within Sweet Briar’s key parameters. With “drag and drop” audit building, it would be easy for their current staff to make curriculum changes that would update in real-time. The audit building interface was intuitive and written in plain English, meaning they wouldn’t need months of training to become proficient.
Sweet Briar College began implementing Stellic in October 2021; by March 2022, they had all their degree audits in the system, along with course information, and student records. The transition away from manual audits has been fully realized – today, all processes for degree audit and progress tracking are carried out through Stellic.
“Implementation was smooth sailing. The process thoughtfully addressed our parameters and it was overall very straightforward and flexible. Students were in the platform in less than 6 months.” – Jay Flynn, Registrar, Sweet Briar College
Results from one year in
Having a user-friendly platform at their fingertips, Stellic has become a student favorite on campus. Since Fall of 2022, 91% of students are using Stellic to track their degree progress in real time, consider and map routes to their degree, and discuss upcoming plans with their faculty advisors. The digital transformation is empowering students to pilot their academic experience in a way that wasn’t possible before.
The transition has been key to helping faculty advisors guide students and communicate across campus in a more effective way. Whereas faculty advisors used to depend on paper forms to advise each individual student, Stellic provides them an avenue to see student degree progress information in one place - for both individuals and clusters of students. During advising sessions, faculty are taking notes on students and saving them directly in Stellic. They have the option of sharing those notes with the appropriate stakeholders, which has eliminated the reliance on email as the sole method of communication between various academic units on campus. As a result, 94% of faculty are using Stellic across Sweet Briar.
“All the notes on students are in one place, all the time. What’s more, faculty are using them instead of email.” – Jay Flynn
In the Registrar’s Office
On top of students and faculty, Flynn and his team in the Registrar’s Office are enjoying a number of significant impacts. Ease of use and maintenance being a major priority from the beginning, they’re able to build and make changes to audits in 10 minutes or less, which are pushed out to students and faculty in real-time. Not only has this saved time manually updating forms, but has greatly reduced confusion from students and faculty when curriculum is changed.
Improved collaboration has been another key benefit at Sweet Briar. Faculty can request a substitution or exception directly in Stellic, and the Registrar’s office can manage the request in the system, without having to rely on email and forms to track and process the requests.
Moreover, a modern degree audit has brought radical transparency about student progress to Flynn’s office, and has provided a host of data from which they can make informed decisions. They now have clear visibility into student plans and progress, courses, sections, and programs. With reporting and analytics tools at their disposal, their office is able to make strategic use of this data. They can easily filter for students based on certain characteristics, such as remaining requirements and planned courses. For instance, registrar staff can find “all juniors who haven’t taken XYZ course” or “all the students who are planning to take XYZ course next Fall”. Such tools have made it extremely valuable to forecast which courses they should offer and when to offer them.
“The filtering feature really allowed us to think ‘Hey, students need this class that’s typically offered in the Fall, we should offer it again in the Spring too’. That transparency was just not there before to make those informed decisions.” – Jay Flynn
Still ahead on the Stellic journey, Sweet Briar is excited to start using Pathways in Stellic. These tools will guide students along the natural progression of a program and allow them to have a framework as to how their academic journey will unfold. Though Pathways will be helpful for students across Sweet Briar, they will be especially helpful for first-years and sophomores to visualize their overall class progression at Sweet Briar upon entering.
Though transforming degree audit is only the beginning of Sweet Briar’s journey toward modernization, Jay Flynn has (deservedly) acknowledged the strides that Sweet Briar has made toward positive impact and change. The success of Stellic has set the tone for more strides and further progress toward their goals. In Flynn’s own words:
“Change is going faster than I ever thought it would be.”