Huntsman Post

New USU Degree-Finder Debuts

Friday, October 07, 2011

This story was originally published in the Sept. 29, 2011, issue of Utah State Today.

Utah State University released its fully functioning degree finder web tool Friday, Sept. 30. The new tool allows users to explore USU’s degrees and programs, including their emphases and specializations. After the launch, the tool is accessible from the university homepage.

“I began seeing similar tools about three years ago,” said University Webmaster Ben Renard-Wiart. “The University of Florida allowed students to browse degree offerings under a variety of interest areas, and later we saw that the University of Idaho had a more comprehensive tool that allowed students to search offerings by typing in keywords. Users could then click on the results and learn about programs on similarly formatted pages. It was obvious USU needed something like this.”

Planning for the project began in 2010 with meetings involving representatives from University Advising, Registrar’s Office, Public Relations and Marketing, School of Graduate Studies, Provost’s Office, Admissions, and Regional Campuses and Distance Education.

“We wanted to have a variety of perspectives and input before we finalized our template for how the information would be displayed on the site,” said Annalisa Purser, Marketing Coordinator in the Public Relations and Marketing Office.

The new tool is drastically different from the way USU used to display its degree offerings. Two years ago, USU had a long list of majors organized by colleges and departments. Each major linked to a different place: sometimes a department page, sometimes a PDF and sometimes it didn’t link anywhere. Because they went to so many places and were managed by different offices, the links often became broken.

The degree finder provides a variety of ways for users to search USU’s for-credit offerings. In addition to an A-Z list, users can search by college, degree type, level (undergraduate, graduate, minor, etc.), and they can see which programs are available at USU’s regional campuses or at USU Eastern.

“The great thing about the keyword search is that it opens doors to all sorts of offerings students might not have known existed at USU,” Mr. Renard-Wiart said. “You can type in ‘biology,’ and you’ll see the biology major, but you’ll also see biological engineering, public health, bioveterinary science, and more.”

The degree finder creates a level playing field for all majors and emphases. Each major links to a page that is formatted in the same way, making it easy for users to compare and contrast programs. For these pages, links exist that allow users to quickly navigate to the department and college websites and the USU General Catalog if they want more detailed information.

“All the content was written specifically for the site,” Ms. Purser said. “The goal of the project was to provide concise, straightforward, useful information written for prospective students who are aware of their interests but not sure how they fit into an academic program.”

Over the last year and a half, Ms. Purser, recent English graduate Vienna Goates, and public relations student Kayla Hall reviewed existing information and met with advisors, department heads and faculty to generate information about every undergraduate and graduate program.

“I’m really excited for the tool to be available,” said Marsha Bailey, a staff assistant in the Wildland Resources Department. “I get requests from prospective students for information all the time, and it will be nice to send them a link to these pages that provide them with the basic information.”

The site will be reviewed and updated annually as part of the already existing process for updating the General Catalog at the beginning of each calendar year. Updates can be made at any time, however, by contacting Ms. Purser at annalisa.purser@usu.edu, or phoning 435-797-1429.

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