Many students coming from undergraduate studies are used to having degree audits, planning apps, and hands on advising - but are greeted at graduate schools with paper and spreadsheet audits.
Program administrators at the graduate level are of course also often forced to work with these static tools, which make audit processes like degree clearance extremely cumbersome and time intensive.
So, why don’t institutions use a modern degree audit for graduate students?
Even at the undergraduate level, many traditional audits still require users to manually track degree progress on spreadsheets or through their Student Information System - sometimes a hybrid of the two. While updating degree audit systems is a popular topic of conversation at the undergraduate level, less attention has been paid to the graduate school audit.
This is likely because graduate schools are often much more complicated to track as each program has a very unique pathway with different requirements. These requirements are also not limited to courses, but a variety of things including internships, theses, projects, labs and so on.
Challenges faced when there’s no degree audit
When graduate schools don’t have a modern degree audit, not only does it hinder the student experience, it also negatively impacts institutional efficiency and accuracy. Typically, graduate schools are siloed with different programs having different requirements and processes. When several different programs within an institution are processing degree audits through inefficient, manual tracking, it makes the record’s office processes like degree clearance resource intensive and fraught with errors.
Then there’s students who aren’t confident of where they stand in terms of degree progression and non-course based requirements (such as internships or certifications required for graduation) until they apply for graduation. Not proactively checking on these milestones can have a detrimental impact on a student's persistence and time to graduation.
Must-have components of a graduate school degree audit
Excellent student user experience: To have a high adoption rate and engagement from students, a graduate school audit needs to speak their language. With social media platforms and apps, students are used to aesthetically pleasing and instant information at their fingertips. When technology feels outdated, the rate of adoption drops significantly.
Flexible requirement tracking: The graduate school audit must be adaptive to different types of degrees, multiple programs, and non-course requirements such as labs, internships and projects.
Enhanced visibility and usability: Lastly, the audit needs to have a centralized, holistic view to give students, faculty, and admin one source of truth. Collating data in one platform allows transparency to all parties without discrepancies or last minute surprises. This means the audit must have a simple, visual interface, unlike traditional audits that require experts and/or coding that only allows for a few individuals to actually use it.
How to get started
Typically, graduate schools adopting a modern degree audit like Stellic are starting with one program before expanding to multiple programs and schools. The modern audit being in the cloud, with extensive integrations into existing systems makes implementation possible much quicker than traditional degree audits. Most importantly, the great thing about a visual, modern interface means there’s a short learning curve before student and staff adoption.