ASU's Interactive Plan of Study is getting more than just a face-lift

Monday, July 23, 2018

Tracking your graduate program progress is about to become a breeze not just for Arizona State University students, but also for faculty and support staff. The Interactive Plan of Study is going mobile and will be a whole lot more automated.

The iPOS (pronounced “eye-paws”) has helped guide graduate students through their studies at ASU since 2007, a core resource to the functions of ASU’s graduate community. Like an app to track fitness goals, the purpose of iPOS is to track student progress toward completing their program by making sure students’ academic plan will fulfill their department’s degree requirements. It also provides connectivity between students, departments, advisers, coordinators and all those who provide support for graduate student success.

“iPOS is a very important tool for students to be successful and is a required task for graduation," said Brian Mattson, director of graduate program services at the Graduate College and the lead for the iPOS redesign project. "It helps students create a plan that gets them from Point A to Point B. It’s also invaluable to graduate advisers who may be advising hundreds of students, each with different program requirements. It saves them time and cuts back on confusion, allowing them to focus on what’s important — the student’s goals and interests.” 

Lynn Pratte, an academic success coordinator at the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering, agrees.

“I use the iPOS all day, every day. Every interaction I have with a student begins with me looking at their iPOS to see where they are in their program and what degree requirements are left for them to complete," she said. "Some of our programs have restrictions on the types of classes that students can take, so while I am looking to see what the basic degree requirements are, I am also looking to see what classes are available for the student to take in the future. This allows the student and I to have a conversation about their immediate needs and provide options for future semesters."

Although iPOS has received numerous updates and improvements over the years, graduate students’ needs and expectations — as well as technology — have drastically evolved, making it evident the iPOS needed to push out a major redesign. 

“We had a student focus group talk about their experiences with the existing iPOS, and they shared that it was outdated to look at. This wasn’t a huge surprise; since it was originally launched in 2007, the user interface was rather old-fashioned compared to today’s standards,” Mattson said.

There is no out-of-the-box solution that can serve the diverse needs of ASU’s 450-plus graduate programs and community; therefore, iPOS is a unique, custom-built application running within PeopleSoft. To upgrade it, a dynamic team including the Graduate College’s technical team, the University Technology Office and expert consultants has been assembled and is working on rebuilding the iPOS system from the ground up. The goals are to improve performance, reduce barriers and make the student experience more enjoyable.

The two most desired features being added are a completely redesigned interface that’s mobile-friendly and preloaded core requirements. Other enhancements include fully electronic pass/fail, real-time GPA updates, milestone tracking, student and faculty pictures, live My ASU alerts, format tracking and FAQ tips strategically scattered throughout the software.

Last month the Graduate College offered a first look at the new iPOS at a preview event for graduate support staff. With representation from every college and school, more than 150 staff came to see a sneak peek of the new features.

“I am excited about how user-friendly it will be and the fact that students can complete their iPOS on their mobile devices. I think this is a huge improvement to the system that will greatly benefit students,” Pratte said. 

The event wasn’t all show-and-tell, however; the Graduate College also hosted a listening session to gather comments and feedback on the new enhancements. The feedback from that event will be incorporated to make further improvements.

The revamped iPOS is set to launch during fall 2018. Some system testing for iPOS will begin next month to ensure a smooth transition upon release. Current functionality will not be affected by the testing.