Mapping the Student Journey through an Academic Planning Tool


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What if there was a way to see a holistic picture of a student’s academic progression and understand how this fits into their desired career path? Bellevue University, which serves a large online community, recently shared their journey and learnings from rolling out Degree Map to their students. This work ultimately changed the conversation on how they advise students and began to prepare them for life after college.

To get the technology in the hands of students quickly, Bellevue took the following steps:

  • Organized a small group within IT and the Registrar to initiate implementation
  • Incorporated a student success mobilizer (intersecting IT and advising) who was eager & energized to be included in the initiative
  • Engaged teams across the institution – including faculty and advisors
  • Collected direct student feedback

Recognizing the Need

During peak registration periods, Bellevue University students would be lined out the door to visit their advisors. Advisors printed off lengthy degree reports and spent most of their time deciphering which classes each student needed while identifying pre-requisite holes in degree program progress, instead of having time to dive deeper into conversations with students about career plans or life-and-logistical challenges.

Figure 1: This is an example of the type of degree report a Bellevue advisor would use to help advise students.
Figure 1: This is a sample of the type of degree report Bellevue advisors previously used to help advise students.

While visiting Austin Community College, Bellevue University’s President and CIO saw how using Degree Map could streamline the student experience by improving visualization for degree interpretation, simplify advisor reporting, and improve career/degree alignment for students. Intrigued, they decided to send team members to Summit in order learn more about implementing the technology.


Identifying The Initial Team

Like many colleges and universities, Bellevue University was faced with limited resources to support new projects and initiatives. In fact, their IT team was also in the middle of a CRM deployment at the same. To get started successfully, leadership knew they would have to create a lean team with specific internal subject matter experts, including the registrar’s office and IT. These initial team members were connected directly with experts from the Civitas Learning team — including a project manager and data engineers.

It was also critical to connect the internal Bellevue implementation team with perspective on how the technology would solve challenges for institutional stakeholders — like advisors and faculty — and also, how it would help students. They worked closely with the Civitas Learning team to understand this, which helped to accelerate campus enthusiasm for the initiative. Upon seeing the technology for the first time, James Sellars, Technical Systems Analyst at Bellevue University, said — “Degree Map shows term-over-term in one shot. I immediately knew it would make advising appointments and conversations a lot easier, because the information just flows over in a fluid, more graphical view.”

This was a learning moment for Bellevue. Getting the right people involved and making sure those people were excited about the value the technology would provide immediately — and was critical to ensuring a successful launch.

Engaging Faculty for further Development

In the next phase of the project implementation, Bellevue University prioritized faculty perspectives. Even though Degree Map was purchased to support academic planning, they realized that it could be folded into career management and professional plan development as well. It would benefit both full time and adjunct faculty, as they could incorporate more accurate projections for on enrollment and opportunities for integrating enhanced career information into the curriculum. By involving additional stakeholders, Bellevue uncovered additional value and opportunities to support a more robust institutional adoption.

Receiving Initial Student Feedback

Bellevue knew that while this was an advising tool, Degree Map was ultimately selected to improve the student experience, facilitate academic/career decision making, and give them agency on their plan. If the tool wasn’t adopted and loved by students, it wouldn’t help. So, they decided to involve students in the pre-deployment phase.

While they were initially reluctant to talk about a technology with students before it was rolled out, Bellevue’s curiosity and commitment to successful launch pushed them past their hesitation. They knew they needed to watch and understand student perspectives with the technology. So, they set up informal meetings and workshops with students to view Degree Map. They asked questions and collected student feedback about their experience with the tool, which gave them deeper understanding how students might use the tool more broadly.

Students expressed immediate excitement and proceeded to say that their degree planning experience was now more modern — that the technology had caught up to their expectations, and finally felt like Bellevue was in 2017. This resulted in 2,000 logins in the first two months!

Figure 2: This is a sample screen of Degree Map Bellevue uses with their students.
Figure 2: This is a sample screen of Degree Map Bellevue uses with their students.

Advancing Bellevue’s Mission

Mary Kay Kincaid, Director for Enterprise Development & Software at Bellevue observed how Degree Map’s functionality “syncs conversations with advisors. There are heightened excitement levels from students regarding changes or updates with immediate feedback on their performance. This easy-to-use tool is presented in a way that helps students know exactly what they need to do.”

When Bellevue initially purchased Degree Map, it’s focus was on supporting academic advising. They realized that when advising conversations include a deeper dialogue on the student’s end goal or career planning, there is stronger fidelity to plan and alignment. There is a greater opportunity to immediately emphasize the importance of what a student learns in each class respective to his /her degree plans and career goals.

“We are now in a much better position with Degree Map to give the best career advice and really help students achieve their career goals” – Angela Longe, Program Director

Bellevue University’s mission is to facilitate “Real Learning for Real Life.” They strive to give students an education that is relevant by equipping them the skills they need to have to successful careers. To do this, Bellevue is making sure that students have a realistic point of view on what it actually takes to complete their degree, and that they have clear visibility into where they are at every turn of their journey. For Bellevue University students, Degree Map is now providing exactly that.

RELATED: 5 Tips for a Successful Student Rollout

Learn from the partner community lessons learned in this step-by-step guide how to drive student adoption for academic planning tools.


Hunter Walsh, Partner Success Manager

Hunter Walsh is a Partner Experience Manager at Civitas Learning. He brings an extensive background working for multiple organizations within the education industry and most recently Hunter's focus at Civitas Learning is to help partners identify at risk students in order to increase persistence and graduation rates.

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