Demonstrated by efforts like the Excellence in Academic Advising program or the Integrated Planning and Advising for Student Success (IPAAS) initiative, the question of how to improve advising to ensure student success is gaining traction at colleges and universities.
A key question these efforts must answer is how best to offer advising throughout the twists and turns of the student journey. Students must navigate course registration and choice, course prerequisites, and degree requirements, all while trying to balance career needs, tuition costs, personal commitments, and the pressure to complete their degrees with minimal wasted time.
This area of advising—degree planning and auditing—is not only crucial for the student journey, it is critical for both institutions and taxpayers. An effective degree planning and auditing approach allows institutions to design their programs and allocate their courses in ways that maximize the availability of space and faculty. Likewise, as a recent report by Complete College America shows, taxpayers who subsidize higher education waste more than $11 billion on unnecessary courses—mainly due to course selection that does not count toward majors, the lack of availability of required courses, and class withdrawals or repeats.
As a result, many institutions have turned to degree planning and auditing solutions for help. The marketplace for such solutions, however, is messy. To start, there is a wide range of demands for these solutions, such as registering for courses, planning for a degree, checking degree progress, managing the allocation of instructor and seats, and meeting the scale of student and institutional use. Notably, vendors have not focused their solutions on addressing the full range of demands but have instead limited their capabilities to satisfy a subset.
We dedicate today’s Wake-Up Call—part of our quarterly review of technology solutions—to helping institutions sort through the marketplace for these solutions. We highlight a handful of companies we believe are the strongest performers in the subset of demands they aim to satisfy:
Course Registration, Degree Planning, and Degree Progress
Civitas (Degree Map): Long known as an analytics vendor, Civitas has extended its capabilities to the field of advising and student coaching. Its product, Degree Map, is part of the company’s effort to become a complete student success vendor. We like how this solution helps students ensure that they are on the right track toward graduation through progress tracking and planning a term-by-term path toward graduation. Likewise, with its Schedule Planner, students can create a schedule and enroll in specific courses.
EduNav (EduNav): Founded in 2013, EduNav has been gaining significant exposure in higher education institutions. It offers four solutions, which together touch on different aspects of degree planning and auditing: registration (Registration), establishing degree pathways (SmartPlan), developing an efficient degree plan (Optimize), and degree auditing (Completion Analysis). We like how SmartPlan allows students can to see the impact of the decisions they are considering—whether to take a course in a semester, for example—and view alternative pathways.
AcademyOne (AdvisEd): Focused on the needs of students at four-year institutions and those at two-year institutions seeking to transfer and complete their degrees, AdvisEd by AcademyOne may not resemble other degree planning and auditing solutions. Most appealing to us is how it helps students cross the often tricky junction between two- and four-year schools by enabling them to codify their courses and align them with the requirements at the institutions to which they intend to transfer.
Managing Instructor and Seat Allocation
Ad Astra Information Systems (Ad Astra): While other solutions focus on how students navigate and manage degree planning and course choice, we like that Ad Astra extends this functionality to allow institutions to allocate seats and plan programs more efficiently. Its three products—AstraSchedule, Platinum Analytics, and Strategic Scheduling Checkup—enable institutions to explore ways to manage programs and space to meet student needs and operational capacity. Using these solutions, institutional teams can work together to determine whether the sequence, attendance, and timing of courses are helping student progress toward their degrees. They can also help determine whether the institution is losing money through an inefficient process of offering courses, programs, or use of classrooms.
Handling Student and Institutional Scale
Ellucian (DegreeWorks): One of the market leaders in the course degree area, Ellucian’s DegreeWorks balances the operational (course substitutions, waivers, etc.) and the strategic (what-if analyses for degree choices, degree audits, etc.). While its functionality is impressive, what stands out most is its ability to scale across institutions of different sizes—its client base includes institutions like LaGuardia Community College and larger systems like the State University of New York. Any institution looking to select a solution that handles hundreds of thousands of users across many departments (advising, etc.) would find this solution appealing.