Campus Implementation of DARS

Degree Audit - increases accuracy, objectivity, efficiency and timeliness of student degree progress. Much of the matching of student's course history with degree requirements is done manually during a student's career by advisors, counselors, registrars, and students themselves, especially as they approach graduation. Audits provide real time analysis of courses (local and transfer) and petitioned exceptions so as to facilitate academic planning, eliminate surprises and need to take additional courses to graduate. By automating this advising analysis, counselors/advisors can focus on more substantive issues like career planning, student development issues, mentoring, etc. Students can also self-monitor their degree progress. Degree auditing does require more upfront work to encode programs. But benefits will be reaped by fewer errors, consistent application of degree requirements and less manual work by staff. Many schools have also noticed an increase in retention due to the use of degree audits.

Course Transfer/Articulation - increases accuracy, objectivity, efficiency and timeliness of transfer evaluation reports. Many students will shop around until they find the answer they are looking for in transferring courses. They will shop different schools, different departments in a school or sometimes different staff in the same office. Automated transfer speeds up the equivalency process so those students can do better planning. It also results in the same rules being applied uniformly for each student. Most schools provide course transfer information to students before they enroll. Some may do this manually but others utilize some form of electronic database. In the future, electronic transcription may result in paperless transfer and increase automation. However, the equivalency tables and rules must be accurate and up-to-date.

  1. Campus Implementation
    1. Commitment & Support - from top down including campus and system office including administration and faculty; need commitment at all levels to keep focused on project
    2. Establish Implementation Team
      1. Key personnel in records, academic affairs, counseling/advising and admissions
      2. Need lead person for encoding
      3. Need lead person for transfer equivalencies
      4. Computing staff for connections/printers
      5. Students
    3. Establish Implementation Plan
    4. Review Implementation Team & Plan with System Director for Transfer Information & Degree Audit
    5. Complete DARS Allocation Form
    6. Attend DARS Training
    7. Utilize support system: MnSCU DARS Project Director. DARS Listserv, national listservs or forums
  2. Degree Audit Encoding
    1. Determine Scope
      1. On-line or batch
      2. Which catalog year to start with - current? Since semester conversion? Go back several years?
      3. Audits for students starting this year or for all students
      4. Distribute to all, selected majors/programs - by mail, email, pick-up
      5. Use for advising, graduation checks, program admissions
    2. Encoding centralized or decentralized on campus
      1. Who has responsibility for changes?
    3. Need accurate inventory of degrees/majors/minors/diplomas/certificates
      1. Some academic policies are unwritten - need to be encoded
    4. Decide which degree requirements to check: residency, GPA totals, elective credits, program admission, etc.
    5. Need to build tables: COM, Grade, Convert, Repeat, String
    6. Determine layout of audit and begin coding
      1. use uniform language
      2. internally test encoding rules - use test students
    7. Test audits with advisors, students, and staff
      1. Clean up encoding errors
      2. Creates interest and acceptance
    8. Promote use of audits
      1. Advertise benefits of audit
      2. Use as registration permit
      3. Market to academic departments, students groups, administrative councils, counselors/advisors
    9. Release audits to students in pilot programs
      1. Select an easy major or program and take to classes or advising sessions
      2. Be prepared for questions (transfer credit, course history, petitioned actions, catalog term, etc.)
    10. Incrementally encode the rest of the programs
    11. Add academic exceptions (petitioned actions) to degree audit
      1. How are these handled/stored/recorded now?
      2. Who should encode them for the degree audit?
    12. Keep current
      1. Monitor curriculum changes (helps for campus to implement changes each fall - number changes, pre-reqs., required courses, etc.)
    13. Continue to improve encoding - make changes if you discover a better way
      1. Ask for enhancements/feedback on audits for improvement
      2. Attend statewide DARS updates/training/conference
    14. Plan for the future
      1. Keep record of hints and solutions so that you can use again
      2. Keep record of unique codes used so don't lose track of their purpose
      3. Keep promoting use of audits
      4. Have more than one person knowledgeable in encoding
      5. Expand capabilities/uses of DARS (major search, program admission requirements, athletic eligibility, research)
  3. Course Transfer/Articulation
    1. Determine Scope
      1. Online or batch?
      2. Determine volume of transfer feeder schools
      3. Distribute automated transfer evaluations to all, selected group of students
      4. Majors/programs by mail, email, pick-up
      5. Transfer equivalency by general requirements and/or program/major
    2. Transfer equivalencies centralized or decentralized on campus
      1. Who has responsibility for changes?
    3. Need accurate inventory of transfer equivalencies for major feeder schools
      1. Some transfer equivalencies are unwritten - need to be coded
      2. System office facilitation vs. campus role
      3. Role of articulation agreements
    4. Need to build transfer tables
    5. Test transfer evaluation reports with advisors, students and staff
      1. Clean up encoding errors
      2. Creates interest and acceptance
    6. Promote use of transfer evaluation report
      1. Advertise benefits of report
      2. Market to academic departments, student groups, administrative councils, counselors/advisors
    7. Release transfer report to students in pilot programs
      1. Select an easy major or program and take to classes or advising sessions
      2. Be prepared for questions
    8. Incrementally establish and update transfer tables
    9. Keep current
      1. Monitor curriculum changes
      2. Monitor transfer policies, procedures
      3. Attend statewide DARS updates/training
    10. Plan for the future
      1. Keep record of hints and solutions so that you can use again
      2. Keep record of unique codes used so don't lose track of their purpose
      3. Have more than one person knowledgeable in encoding

u.select is a national transfer network that provides students and advisors with on-demand course equivalencies, program requirements, and applicability of coursework when transferring between schools. u.select builds on DARS tables and audits for use by students anywhere and anytime. u.select (formerly CAS - Course Applicability System) was implemented at the beginning in the new millennium.

Final word: a quote from Jack Southard, DARS author, on the process of implementing degree audit and transfer evaluation, it is an "Incremental approach to perfection".