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Strategic Directions | Feature

Integrated Academic Planning Tools Pave the Way for Student Success

A Q&A with Jill Yetman on UW’s MyPlan

Useful tools geared toward promoting student success — online advising programs, intervention systems, degree audit software, and others — are cropping up in various places within your institution's IT infrastructure. But often, these powerful tools become siloed, and valuable academic planning resources for students are scattered throughout campus. At the University of Washington, however, developers are making sure that UW's "MyPlan" will be integrated with other relevant tools and data. Jill Yetman, MyPlan project manager at UW, talked with CT about the strategy.

Mary Grush: What was the original motivation for UW to begin work on MyPlan?

Jill Yetman: Part of the motivation for starting work on MyPlan came from hearing feedback from students at UW, that they found it very challenging to go about academic planning, and that it was difficult to get access to the information they need in order to make some of their academic planning decisions. Another key piece is, with the recession and lowered state funding at the University of Washington — and I think this is similar across the country — tuition prices have been going up significantly. The cost of having to stay on one more quarter for degree completion has become exceedingly expensive. Providing tools for students to be able to proactively map out their completion to graduation, is critical. So there is certainly an imperative there. Those are two of the key factors in the motivation to start on MyPlan in 2011.

Grush: Who on campus supported the effort?

Yetman: One of the things that our leadership did was to approach our Student Technology Fee Committee and ask them to sponsor this effort. They now have sponsored it for the last three years, and we are waiting for their decision about the fourth year. Their sponsorship has really given us the ability to emphasize the students' needs. We've also looked, certainly, at what advisors want to accomplish in MyPlan, and we've tried to provide advisors and students with really solid communication, to help them achieve a plan more fully. But because it's been student-funded, we've had students on our team, and we've reviewed student feedback to shape the tool. We've really been able to focus on students: What is the student experience, and what are their needs?

Grush: I understand that UW is a Kuali partner institution, but what were the reasons developers chose to build MyPlan in the Kuali Student framework?

Yetman: As far as why we built MyPlan in the Kuali Student framework, that was really a decision around the future of the University of Washington's student information system. UW is highly invested in Kuali Student, with the other modules — there's Curriculum Management, which allows administrators to edit the course catalog information; as well as Kuali Student Enrollment, which is more focused on what courses are available, the time schedule, and what students are enrolled in. So efforts to build those other modules are going on and we realized that in time, they will also be implemented at the UW. So, building out MyPlan in the Kuali Student technology stack allows us to be ready for the future and really see this as one major, integrated system.

A key goal is to get away from the idea of something like 17 separate applications to do your work. Instead, we want to see one single system where there's a more seamless experience.

Grush: What are a few of the aspects of MyPlan's functionality that integrate with other systems on campus?

Yetman: Here's a quick sketch: MyPlan displays academic record information; what the student has already completed. It also shows the course catalog and brings in scheduling information and course section information. Each of those data sources is brought in through Kuali Student web services. We have our underlying legacy information in the mainframe, which goes through a web service layer, which then goes through the Kuali Student web service layer. Students, upon deciding which courses they are interested in taking, can now send that set of courses off to our registration system, as a handoff. Once the Kuali Student Enrollment module is implemented at UW, it will replace our registration system.

Grush: How long has UW been using MyPlan on campus?

Yetman: We did our first release at UW in 2012. We've been releasing updates to that anywhere between one to two months — every 6 to 8 weeks we release new features.

Grush: Is it also UW's intention to offer MyPlan code to the Kuali Foundation for inclusion in Kuali Student?

Yetman: As I mentioned, we started building out MyPlan in the Kuali Student technology framework. But we had the need for MyPlan's functionality before that functionality was actually on the Kuali Student roadmap. So, we had a review of the deep technical layer with those who were well versed in Kuali Student. This way, it can be, in the future, integrated into Kuali Student.

Once we released MyPlan at UW, Indiana University approached us. They basically took our code and released it at Indiana University. Since then, UW and IU, through the Kuali Student consortium, have been collaborating on turning MyPlan into the "Kuali Student Academic Planner". This work is moving toward a founders' release of Kuali Student Academic Planner, a limited release that supports other partner institutions with a code base and a set of features for academic planning. We expect the founders' release sometime this coming fall. Subsequently, a KSAP 1.0 full release will be made available to a broader set of institutions. At that point, any institution should be able to obtain open source licensing of the Kuali Student Academic Planning software as part of Kuali Student, through the Kuali Foundation.

About the Author

Mary Grush is Editor and Conference Program Director, Campus Technology.

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