Registrar introduces new course-tracking tool

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Registrar Victor Egitto introduced a new online tool for degree evaluation called the Curriculum, Advising and Planning Program (CAPP), according to an April 2 email. The program is a way for students to see their progress in regard to meeting core, major, minor and graduation requirements. All students and faculty currently have access to the tool through the MyOxy Portal.

Until recently, officials in the registrar’s office did not evaluate a student’s progress toward graduation until senior year. Students interested in their progress previously had to go through “Grades and Academic Records” (GAR) which did not include an analysis of major and minor requirements. CAPP will be more in depth and enable students, advisers and the registrar to see early on in a student’s record if he or she is on track. The program also features a new “What-If Analysis” component, a tool that helps students considering changing or declaring a major to evaluate whether they are on track based on their course history. Egitto explained that the program even determines what elective courses can be used for credit toward a major.

Egitto is optimistic that the program will reduce petitions for special consideration of courses for core or major requirements. With CAPP, he expects students to be able to determine which courses can be credited to fulfilling those requirements.

“[The CAPP evaluation report] breaks down every facet of the degree, the core and general ed courses,” Egitto said.

Because CAPP is still in its infancy, there are defects in the system that have not been corrected. According to Dana Marshall ’09, senior curriculum analyst and degree auditor for the registrar’s office, one of the greatest challenges in the program is the difficulty in determining course requirements, something students have noticed when exploring the new program. The degree report does not always reflect accurate course requirements and can interpret the accreditation of a course incorrectly.

Politics major Zak Buschbach (junior), a research analyst for the Office of Institutional Research, Assessment and Planning is well-versed in Occidental’s integrated system and understands how CAPP functions. He explained that the system queries all the academic requirements and attributes attached to each class to determine the degree evaluation report. He ascribed the inconsistencies in the report’s evaluation of course requirements to an error in the system.

“My biggest problem with it was that there are still a lot of problems with it functionally. It’s not performing operations correctly,” Buschbach said. “It’s getting departmental requirements wrong and therefore giving people incorrect information.”

Marshall explained that she designed CAPP based on course catalogs from the 2010-11 academic year onward, starting with the catalog for current seniors. Students who fulfilled their core based on a different structure than the catalogs currently installed in the software might not be able to see those requirements as satisfied on the webpage.

“It’ll take a few years before all of the things start to fall in place,” Marshall said. “For example, some core requirements, we didn’t have them set up as meeting core requirements back then, so a current senior that took a class in 2010, it might not show that they have met that requirement, even though they really have.”

Taking this into account, Buschbach understands the program is still in its initial stages and is enthusiastic about the program.

“I know that a lot of people have trouble understanding their degree requirements. I think that the idea of it is a great idea because a lot of people have struggled with degree planning, especially students who aren’t yet declared,” Buschbach said.

CAPP can also aid transfer students who may have difficulty determining the courses they need to graduate. Chemistry major Eduard Pey (junior), a transfer from University of Connecticut, plans on graduating from college a year early and needs to be aware of his requirements. Pey said that CAPP will help him double-check his progress toward early graduation.

“It definitely reflects a lot of the existing errors in the system that I have as a transfer. But a lot of the other stuff is useful. I from here know that I need to get a writing requirement filled, which means that I need to talk to the registrar,” Pey said.

Development of the new software program began two years ago when a representative from Banner, a company that produces administrative software, started training Marshall to implement CAPP.

“Starting from scratch, I knew nothing about this, but I think that the huge benefit to having me do it is that I was a student so I had at least a basic understanding of a lot of the college requirements,” Marshall said.

Egitto recalled the extensive amount of research vital to the functioning of the program, which involved meeting with every department chair and going over the catalogs of every academic year since 2010 in order to ascertain the specific requirements for each of the 31 majors offered at Occidental.

According to Marshall, the only way to track requirements previously was through the online catalog, which was confusing to faculty and students alike.

The biggest challenge was actually understanding what the correct requirements were because you could read the catalog, and I could interpret it differently than a student interprets it and the actual department intends for it to come across,” Marshall said.

Testing for the program involved creating a vast number of scenarios to replicate students’ diverse course history and major and minor combinations. The scenarios help ensure that a report is correctly released to accurately reflect graduation requirements.

“You can imagine how much data there is in there and testing to make sure that what we put in to meet requirements comes out in the report correctly,” Egitto said.

Egitto emphasized his desire for students to come into the registrar’s office with a printed copy of their degree evaluation report to directly point out any inconsistencies. Marshall agreed with Egitto, explaining how being able to study real reports from students will help improve the program.

“If students do have a problem, or an issue, the best thing to do would be to have them actually come in and print out the evaluation for us so we can see in writing on paper what’s not working and then start to make adjustments,” Marshall said.

Egitto and Marshall both stress that students should be aware of the catalog year when evaluating degree requirements to ensure that the report accurately reflects the requirements of their graduating year.

Once they have worked out the glitches, Egitto and Marshall believe CAPP will facilitate the course planning and registration process.

“It’s a tool that will help all of us — advisers, students, departments, our office — get the complete picture,” Marshall said.