The LSA Course Guide and the LSA Major/Minor Information and Requirements page are constantly used by faculty, students, and staff to view information about current courses and academic program requirements. As courses and degree requirements change every year, these resources need to be kept up to date with the latest information. Previously, any updates made to a course or a major/minor was done by hand through paper forms. Then, two important online forms were made to help eliminate the use of paper: the Course Approval Request Form (CARF) in 2007 and the Program Approval Request Form (PARF) in 2016. LSA Technology Services Senior Application Architect, Anne Rickert, created the CARF, while her colleague, Matt Olex, also a Senior Application Architect in LSA Technology Services, created the PARF. The CARFs are used to request and approve new LSA courses, or modify/delete existing courses, while the PARFs are used to request and approve new undergraduate LSA majors and minors, or modify existing majors and minors. Since the creation of these two online forms, there have been 10,134 CARFs and 304 PARFs processed—already successfully reducing paper use.
The CARF and PARF are both part of the Course Maintenance Application, but one more piece of the puzzle was needed to nearly eliminate paper use. JoAnn Peraino, LSA Curriculum Manager, requested an additional online form that would allow LSA departments and the Registrar’s Office to update courses associated with degree requirements and audits. Olex began working with Peraino in the spring of 2019 on the Course List Update (CLU) project, and the online form officially launched in October of the same year. This new digitized form combines both term specific and permanent course list update requests from LSA departments and provides an easy way to submit changes to the final destination of the Registrar’s Office. Olex worked closely with Rickert to leverage and parse data from the M-Pathways database. Since the M-Pathways data is pulled directly into the online interface of the CLU, everyone interacting with the tool has all the information they need in one place. Just one month after going live, over 100 CLUs were submitted through the new online form.
The online forms minimize potential errors and time spent referencing course information for all individuals involved in the process of updating course list and program information and requirements. In an email, Katy White, Linguistics’ Student Services Coordinator, said “My favorite feature [of the CLU] is how it pulls data/options for each section [of the form] based on choices from the previous sections. I think this greatly reduces the opportunity for human error and gives me peace of mind when I see the course I’m looking for pull up in the way I intended it to!”
In addition to less time spent in gathering information to submit the form, it also creates an archive that can be queried to display changes made to a particular course list. “[It’s] not just a system for submitting updates, but also shows [departments] all the information they need: access to course lists and what their requirements look like without leaving the screen,” Peraino said.
Now, to make any updates to course list information, LSA departments fill out the appropriate online form which is submitted to Curriculum Manager, Peraino. From there Peraino can create reports within the Course Maintenance System to take to the Curriculum Committee for approval. After approval the Registrar’s Office processes the information. The benefit of having the forms pull the course data from MPathways reduces miscommunications and requires less time for the Registrar’s Office to contact departments for clarification. To ensure the online systems would work as intended, Peraino created focus groups made up of super-users within units that utilized the paper forms frequently. The help text within the CLU was carefully created to incorporate clear instructions for units inputting information.
“The new forms make the degree audit setup more transparent to departments. They help departments better understand how their rules and requirements are presented in an audit/checklist form, and they give departments a more accurate way to communicate to the degree audit team precisely which parts of the audit/checklist should be affected by the approved changes,” Michael Shearon, Assistant Registrar for Degree Audit and Examinations, said in an email.
Improving communication by integrating data from MPathways has proved to be a success in a short period of time. The CLU gives LSA departments the tools they need to minimize errors and decrease work hours spent on the process.
“The Course List Update project made me realize that even a seemingly small and narrowly focused project can have a big impact. Good workflow and tools to interact with complicated data can make a big difference in the daily responsibilities of many different roles across the college. It's exciting to realize that and I feel fortunate to have been part of the project,” Olex reflected.