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DegreeWorks has a new look. Students and advisors have mixed reactions

DegreeWorks underwent an update at the end of September to bring a new look to the site. ORACLE PHOTO/JUSTIN SEECHARAN

With registration just days away, DegreeWorks has a new look. Students and advisers have mixed reactions to the update.

The platform underwent an update at the end of September to bring a cleaner look to USF’s degree progress tracking site, according to Carrie Purol, IT Business Operations and Strategic Communications Director.

The new look offers a modern black and white sleek look for students. Other features include an improved mobile view with collapsible categories, which requires less scrolling. Purol said these details make it easier for students and advisers to look at specific areas of the degree audit.

Elisa Saggioratto, sophomore political science and economics major, said the update looked nice but was more difficult to use. She had gotten used to the older look and feels this version has more design issues.

“[The layout] is too compact in some things but then other things, you didn’t really need to show, but it’s there. So, it’s just confusing to look at,” she said.

Saggioratto said she understands the update was needed but feels that it’s poorly timed since it was made just before registration season. The updates to DegreeWorks began Sept. 25 and finished Oct. 2, leaving students and advisers without access to the active site for a week.

Students who had advising appointments scheduled for this period were told advisers would not be able to make live changes to their Degree Works plans, but could still assist students in other ways.

Honors adviser Al Blanchard said advisers began preparations in August and could access PDF’s of the old version, which were saved before the site maintenance began. He said being able to prepare for the limited access during registration season made the process somewhat easier.

“We’re still going through some growing pains with it. We’re making updates to it or trying to put in suggestions for updates to it. But, overall, I think it’s a vast improvement,” Blanchard said.

At the end of July, USF conducted two phases of beta testing before launching the update. The first phase included 20 “superusers,” or users that are very familiar with the site, and the second included the entire advising community to get student and adviser feedback. 

Purol said the input was considered before the update was officially made. This ensured there was no loss of functionality ahead of registration.

Advisers also had the opportunity to undergo training after the beta testing to help them navigate the new system. Still, some advisers, such as honors adviser Carter Harbert, needed time to adjust to the new look.

He said he misses the bold color blocks of degree progression the old version had because it was easier to quickly glance at, compared to the new version where progress is only marked by an icon.

“So far, it feels really just like an aesthetic update,” he said.

Freshman psychology major Madelyn Zera said the update made the site more organized and made it easier to see the different requirements. Her biggest complaint about the older version was how wordy and overwhelming it was.

The categories are more clearly distinguished by collapsible boxes and bolded headings. Progress for major requirements is now designated by different symbols instead of highlighted boxes. 

Purol said DegreeWorks was multiple updates behind and the current update was mandatory to maintain support from Ellucian. The update also moved the system to the cloud, improving availability, security and resiliency.

Freshman biology major Ethan Caldwell said the new layout made the site less confusing and easier to see his degree progress.

He recently changed his major in DegreeWorks with the help of his adviser. The new update made it easier for him to see how the change would impact his degree progress and course requirements.

“It was just a lot to take in at once and the newer update kind of just makes it a lot more simplified and easier to manage,” Caldwell said.

Harbert and Blanchard said they have experienced a few slowdowns with the new system, which were expected with the transition to the new software package. However, Blanchard said he understood the urgent need for the update.

“It’s nothing out of the ordinary and we’ll get through it. But I think it’s going to be very much worth it in the end,” Blanchard said. “I think, in the long run, it’s going to be incredibly beneficial for students, as well as for the advisers and for the academic community.”