At Huntingdon College, a four-year liberal arts college in Montgomery, Alabama, administrators and faculty advisors track students’ coursework and academic progress using a tangle of information stored in a shared drive. 

There’s a folder for each major with a spreadsheet. Within the spreadsheet is a tab for individual students. When faculty advisors meet with students once a semester to select courses for the next term, they rely on a paper copy of the student’s record. 

This not only limits faculty advisors’ visibility into multiple areas of a student’s academic journey, but it’s also a labor- and time-intensive process to track a student’s progress toward their degree.

Huntingdon wanted to digitalize the process so data on academic progress, course offerings, and degree and graduation requirements could be centrally accessed. The goal is to improve students’ experience with advisors while also getting a real-time view of their path to graduation. The school turned to Campus Cafe to help devise a solution.

Huntingdon College uses Campus Cafe’s student information system to manage student data.
Huntingdon College turned to Campus Cafe when it had an idea to enhance the student information system.

The Goal: Create Individualized Graduation Pathways for Students

The school already uses Campus Cafe’s student information system to manage its student data. Faculty advisors and administrators frequently use the degree audit tool to build enrollment plans for students. 

Anneliese H. Spaeth, Vice President of Technology, suggested something more structured but also customizable. 

She envisioned a system for plotting students’ educational pathways – from enrollment to graduation – that could be regularly updated and easily modified. The tool would monitor academic progress, coursework completions (or incompletions), and remaining requirements for majors, minors and graduation.

She asked Campus Cafe’s team to develop a system that works in concert with the student information system.

“While the degree audit is great to provide an informal grad check, we needed the ability to individually map out each class our students as individuals would take, and in which term they would take it,” says Spaeth, who is also a professor of mathematics.  

Huntington anticipates launching the plan of study feature for the Fall 2024 semester. Below are the benefits it can be expected to offer Huntingdon’s staff, students and the school as a whole.

I. An Enhanced Academic Advising Process

A plan of study helps advisors steer students to better results. Advisors can create individualized plans that fit a student’s current – or changing – schedule.

The integrated tool also provides more accurate advising opportunities. Faculty advisors can view real-time, updated information before meeting with a student or at any point in the term.  

During the meeting, the plan of study helps advisors work with students one-on-one. Information on courses, grades and outstanding requirements is easily visible. Advisors can check course schedules and availability in real-time, allowing students to more efficiently and accurately plan their studies.

II. Strong Support for Less Typical Pathways

The plan of study tool also helps advisors incorporate transfer credits into a student’s pathway, something that is typically a meticulous and time-consuming process. 

And if a student wants to double major, the plan can easily process the required courses for each major and general graduation requirements so the student has a clear idea of the commitment.

But there’s also a positive flip-side for Huntingdon that helps accommodate students’ unique lives: “It allows for flexibility of tracking students who aren’t on the typical track.”

III. Proactively Identify At-Risk Students Who Need Help

The plan of study can be a lifeline for students who are struggling to meet grade and course requirements. 

If a student fails a required class, withdraws, or falls behind on their major requirements, an advisor can flag the problems to intervene sooner. The plan can be altered to reflect the need to change majors or help the student make future plans.

What’s more, student retention rates can be improved with real-time monitoring and centrally accessible information, because at-risk students can get help before it’s too late.

IV. A Modernized Student Experience

The plan of study supports student success and empowers students to take ownership of their educational journey. Students can see their course completion and grades in real-time in the student portal, look ahead to course plans for future semesters, and check progress toward their major and minor. 

Spaeth anticipates the new feature will provide a better student experience.

Previously, students were handed a printout of their coursework after meeting with an advisor. Now, with an integrated plan of study, students can access their plans in real-time from any location or device.  

“Students will have live access to see their plans of study in Campus Cafe, and not just a printout after advising meetings,” Spaeth says.

V. Easier and More Accurate Reporting

Spaeth strongly feels that the integrated plan of study feature will improve the functionality of reporting capabilities. 

The school uses complex Python scripts to scrape data from every spreadsheet tab that must also be manually cleaned, inspected and verified – a process Spaeth says is arduous and inefficient.

The plan of study will allow Huntingdon staff to pull reports using structured query language (SQL), which she says will save time and produce more reliable reports. 

VI. Better Forecasting and Course Scheduling

Each semester, college registrars must overcome challenges associated with scheduling courses across departments and schools on their campus. The plan of study can make that process more efficient and accurate. 

Registrars can pull information from plans to determine the most in-demand classes and schedule the appropriate number of sections. Conversely, if courses are less popular and under-enrolled, they’ll know to limit those offerings.  

The plans also help registrars forecast for future semesters, and design the course offerings and schedules to reflect those demands. This allows us to be more effective in planning out what courses we offer and how many seats are needed in each course term-by-term,” says Spaeth.

The Bottom Line: A Plan of Study is a Win-Win for Huntingdon College

Because the SIS automatically populates each plan of study with real-time information, it eliminates the need for advisors to manually update student files one by one.

The time-savings for advisors combined with a better and more personalized experience for students will help Huntingdon College improve its graduation rates and the overall student experience.

Explore other Customer Success Stories to see how schools like yours are using our student information system.

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