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Ensign College Sees 75% Student Adoption of Academic Planning During Initial Rollout

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The Challenge: Cumbersome, manual academic planning made it difficult for students to understand what courses they needed to take, resulting in incomplete plans and course registration for classes not required in their degree.

The Strategy: Provide a streamlined academic planning experience so students can take ownership of their academic journey with advisors’ guidance to stay on course to graduate.

The Outcomes: A collaborative student-advisor planning process and intuitive academic planning solution led to a 75% adoption rate in the initial few months.

Ensign College (Ensign) is a private college in Utah whose purpose is to provide a spiritually grounded, career-based education. It offers various professional certificates, associate and bachelor degrees to nearly 2,000 students from all over the United States and more than 50 countries.

Ensign needed a new academic planning solution that was easy to use and accessible for its students. The current process was confusing and time-consuming, and students didn’t enjoy it as it was their least favorite assignment in the Student Success Course. Advisors found it frustrating to work with a manual workflow that made academic planning interactions with students a one-time event instead of an ongoing conversation.

Implementing a comprehensive academic planning and student scheduling solution was well-received, with 75% of students adopting it during the initial launch.

“Our students are really excited that they have a planning software that is simple to use and allows them to take ownership of their experience.”

— Erin Gunnell,
Director of Success Advising & Tutoring, Ensign College

The Challenge: A cumbersome, manual academic planning process students and advisors dreaded.

Academic planning at Ensign was a cumbersome, manual process that students and advisors dreaded. They would arrive at their appointment, be greeted with a catalog, a piece of paper, and a pen, and then fill out a program sheet. Since this labor-intensive process was disconnected from the degree audit system, obtaining an accurate view of degree requirements was difficult throughout a student’s tenure at the college. 

Ensign knew this process burdened students, advisors, and the institution’s ability to keep students enrolled and satisfied with their experience. Removing barriers to success was critical so students could reach their goal of graduating. For instance, students would delay taking math until the last term, only to find out they didn’t have the necessary requirements, causing them to add additional semesters.

The Strategy: Implement a collaborative academic planning solution to empower students to build plans to help them stay on track to graduate.

In searching for the right academic planning process and technology, the Ensign advising team recognized it had to be intuitive and simple. With limited advising appointments, they aimed to ensure students could discuss academic and career goals during their time with advisors instead of logistics and degree sequencing. They also sought a user-friendly solution that allows students to explore degree requirement changes without restarting the entire process on a new degree planning worksheet.

After partnering with Civitas Learning to implement their Academic Planning solution, they were delighted to learn that students found their way into the planning software on their own through the existing student scheduling tool and built plans independently without any formal training. Additionally, advisors using the SIS for 20 or 30 years found it incredibly easy to adopt and communicate digitally with students. 

“We looked at other software, but the service we received from Civitas Learning during the integration is beyond what we expected. I’ve never felt that we’re just a number. The support is there, the patience is there, and the ease of use is there.”

— Erin Gunnell,
Director of Success Advising & Tutoring, Ensign College

Students especially enjoy the drag-and-drop planning feature, which allows them to easily visualize their course sequencing to better understand their pathway to graduation. As students add courses to their plans, they can ask questions or leave comments for advisors. In turn, advisors can edit plans on behalf of students in real-time and track any changes in the change log. They can also mark placeholder courses for the semesters ahead and see a visual depiction of their progress toward their completion.

Civitas Learning Academic Planning Student Planning Canvas
Students and advisors can collaborate to build degree plans with Civitas Learning’s Academic Planning Canvas.

Moreover, this initiative prompted Ensign to clarify how it refers to required versus recommended courses as an institution. What courses are necessary to complete a degree and in what order are now clear.

Additionally, having students plan, schedule, and register within the same interface has elevated student-advisor engagement and shows promise to boost course enrollment and accelerate time to degree completion.

The Outcome: Students and advisors enthusiastically adopt improved academic planning experience, clearing pathways towards graduation.

Providing Ensign students with a planning tool to actively map out and configure their academic journey has proven invaluable, even within the first few months. Additionally, advisors and administrators are thrilled to see students actively engaged in course planning and staying on the path toward degree completion. 

Here are a few benefits they’ve celebrated along the way:

  • Record high adoption — Ensign had a 75% adoption rate for the academic planning tool after a small marketing effort and word-of-mouth reviews. Additionally, their existing student scheduling tool increased adoption by 5% to total 90% usage.
  • Intuitive design and integration — Students and advisors find the platform incredibly easy to use — many have already designed plans with no formal training and seasoned advisors who have used the same process for decades found it easy to adopt.
  • Sense of ownership — Students can own and personalize their academic journey by logging into the planner and make changes that ensure they track towards degree completion.
  • Seamless integration — Together with Civitas Learning’s student scheduling solution students can complete registration in one seamless three-step process — plan, schedule, and register.

What’s Next:

The days of pen and paper and surprises in course requirements are in the past, and the momentum is just beginning for Ensign. They look forward to seeing how many students complete the full academic planning process—from course selection to class registration. In the long term, they are optimistic about increased graduation rates after removing this critical barrier to student success.

Click here to learn more about how our Academic Planning and Student Scheduling solution can help your institution smooth the pathway to graduation.

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