How can institutions streamline the credit-earning process?
- Though excess credits can often be a deliberate move on a student’s part, college administrations still can assist students in avoiding excess credits and streamlining the pathway to graduation, according to Rebecca Torstrick, the associate vice president for Academic Affairs at Indiana University. Torstrick told Education Dive the IU system had established a uniform general education curriculum so students would not fall behind if they transferred to a new campus.
- Torstrick said accumulating some excess credits is unavoidable, such as when a student fails a class and must retake it. Other students may prefer to withdraw and retake a class rather than receive a lower grade. Torstrick said colleges should assure students that sometimes the lower grade is preferable, as the longer students stay in school the more likely it is that something will cause them to discontinue.
- Torstrick said the school system was now looking into how to accommodate students who face a situation like an illness that keeps them out of class for several weeks; they do not want that student’s semester to sink, so IU is looking into ways to keep those students engaged, particularly in utilizing online technology or instruction.
Many times, students accumulate excess credits because of a change in their major —Torstrick noted 60% of students at Indiana University change their major in the first several years. Many students enter college believing they’re pursuing one path, only to find it does not appeal to them, or they take another class on a whim or as a part of a general education curriculum and find a new path that inspires a choice of major. Torstrick said it is important administrations do not discourage this exploration.
Some initiatives for helping students to right-size their credits included getting freshman students on a track for a certain major field experience earlier in the process; if an education major, for example, is exposed to student teaching in his or her first year and decides teaching isn't for him or her, the student can avoid going down a path which would hinder the ability to finishing school on time.
Administrations can also assist students who have decided on a major but are still trying to find the most efficient path to fulfill requirements. Torstrick said the university had created degree maps for every available major, with each requirement linked to a list of acceptable courses. Making such tools accessible for students lessens the possibility that they could be led astray by a mistaken choice or bad advice. Such tools can also help administrations preemptively understand if they will have more demand than they can currently accept for certain classes. Advisers can also work with students by narrowing down the potential career paths they may pursue after college, if they feel more passionate or certain about that then a choice in major. Advisers can then work with students to discern the majors that work for those careers.
“I think most colleges and universities have been working on this sort of specialized advisement components,” Torstrick said.