By Chris Casey | University Communications
DENVER - Accessible. Accurate. Useful.
Those are the key objectives that drove significant improvements to CU Denver's Degree Audit Reporting System (DARS) and the academic catalog.
Both the catalog and DARS, a web-based software used by advisors and students to track students' degree progress, have been updated and aligned. These improvements mean students will find a user-friendly experience when they check on how credit hours apply to their degree program and look up the courses they need to graduate.
The effort to streamline DARS has evolved over the years, but work picked up steam the last two years when the Office of the Registrar developed an implementation plan to go along with updated DARS software. It has been a collaborative project, with Registrar Ingrid Eschholz and Associate Registrar Martina Juarez Lopez leading efforts from the Registrar's Office and collecting input from campus-wide academic units and advising teams.
"Everything we're doing is to assist our students," Eschholz said. "We want to do our part to allow students autonomy in planning out their education career, but we also want to be here to assist them. Our vision is to make sure that whatever they need for degree planning is accessible and useful."
And accurate. In the first phase of the DARS upgrade, Lopez and her team worked to ensure that each incoming student's degree audits were accurate. "Everything aligns to the catalog. It's a dynamic, interactive system," she said. "When a student registers, they can pull up their degree audit report and see how the courses they've taken apply to their degree program."
Eschholz noted that DARS can be used as a recruitment tool as well. For example, a prospective transfer student can run a degree audit to see how previously earned credits apply to CU Denver. The student will get a clear picture of what courses he or she still needs for degree completion.
Lopez's team used student feedback and research into best practices to guide improvements to the online academic catalog, which includes links to tuition, fees, financial aid, registration, records and other essential student information. "We just want all students -- whether it's a student thinking of coming here or a continuing student who needs to look up a policy or a degree requirement -- to be able to quickly and easily find the information they're looking for. That's the vision: Information that's accessible, accurate and useful."
While improvements to DARS and the catalog give students greater tools to map out their university careers, they also translate into enhanced experiences when they meet with academic advisors. "Advisors can use the information along with the students, with the result being more meaningful advising," Eschholz said. "We're hoping these tools will lessen the load (on advisors), so students get even more enriching advising sessions."
The progress is a key part of CU Denver's goal of improving student success.
"With the improvements to our Degree Audit Reporting System and the academic catalog, we are providing our students with the necessary tools to effectively plan and track progress toward earning their degree from CU Denver," said Provost Rod Nairn. "We are making the process more accessible and user-friendly than ever, with the goal of ensuring that students make the most of their time at CU Denver and efficiently prepare for graduation and career."
Eschholz and Lopez credit university senior leadership for providing the resources that allowed these initiatives -- game-changers to the student experience -- to be achieved.
"We all want what's best for the students," Eschholz said. "We want their experience with CU Denver to be positive, enriching and fulfilling. We want them to look back and smile."
(Photo: Registrar Ingrid Eschholz and Associate Registrar Martina Juarez led an effort to upgrade DARS and the academic catalog to assist students in their academic planning.)