Design and Construction of Visual Degree Audit Software: An Application of Visual Communication, Project Management, and Graph Theory
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The purpose of this study is to design and construct a comprehensive visual tool, the Visual Degree Audit (VDA), which addresses and resolves the limitations of the current degree-planning resources at Texas State University. Choosing the perfect college course schedule can be a daunting task for new students because of the numerous resources from which students must pull their information. In addition, the narrow time scope students are encouraged to plan for, and the lack of interactivity between students, advisors, and students with the provided information are all barriers to students’ being able to create their optimal college education path to graduation. This study researches the current advising practices and technologies available and Texas State’s current degree-planning resources and suggests a new solution for the shortcomings. A gap analysis, in the form of a student survey, was completed in order to identify the current system’s core shortcomings and advantages. The VDA prototype was then developed using Project Management techniques, Communication Design methods, and graph theory. The final prototype was user-tested using an exploratory group of students who also participated in the preliminary gap analysis survey. These students were asked to perform tasks related to degree planning with the new VDA system and complete a postevaluation survey. The participant’s survey answers and verbal comments during the user-test were then analyzed. Results suggest that the VDA was successful in providing a system that was easier to understand, more helpful, more useful, and provides an overall better experience in assisting students through their higher-education degree planning.