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nifty `What if?' feature that allows
students to see which courses they would
need to take if they changed majors."
Both DegreeWorks and Academic Alerts
are part of Strategies for Success, a
collegewide initiative that promotes
achievement, cultivates persistence and
retention, and encourages engagement
among Middlesex students. The
Strategies for Success Title III initiative
is a major, five-year project funded by a
$2 million grant from the U.S.
Department of Education.
MCC's third new online tool is the
collegewide student e-mail system, the
key conduit that allows students, faculty
and academic advisors to communicate
with each other quickly and efficiently.
"Our old e-mail system was out-dated
and slow," Alves said. "Students didn't
check it very often, so it was becoming
increasingly difficult for us to reach them
by e-mail."
This trio of online programs became
available campuswide this fall, but they
have been in the works for a couple of
years and required input from almost
every department on campus, Alves
"Getting this all in place was a huge
collaborative effort," she said. The
project involved the Registrar's Office,
Information Technology, Admission, the
Academic, Career & Transfer Centers,
Enrollment Management and the
Provost's Office, she said. Student
Activities even helped organize focus
groups of MCC students to provide
Alicia D'Oyley, MCC's Coordinator of
Advising, has been instrumental in
rolling out Academic Alerts. "We started
the pilot program in the spring of 2010
with our Business Administration majors
almost 400 students," she said. "Then,
we just kept rolling students into the
system by their Program of Study."
Almost all Middlesex students are now in
the system, she said, and research shows
it's working. "From our assessment of the
pilot program, we can see that students
who were issued an Academic Alert, who
then met with an advisor and developed a
plan, had a higher retention rate for the
next three semesters," she said.
MCC faculty, especially part-time faculty,
really like Academic Alerts, D'Oyley
explained. "It's a second tier of support.
Once their Academic Alert goes out, our
advisors contact students we call them
at home, even at work and ask them to
come in and talk about ALL of their
issues. If they're not doing well in one
class, they're probably not doing well in
others," she said.
Vincent Funaro, MCC's Associate Dean
of Enrollment Services, has worked
behind the scenes on DegreeWorks for
two years. "DegreeWorks combines a
student's academic history with their
Program of Study requirements," Funaro
explained. "It tells them which course
requirements they have, and haven't,
Basically, DegreeWorks is an online
"blank slate" that has to be built up with
all of the institution's programs, policies
and procedures, Funaro explained. This
required inputting all pertinent Middlesex
information required courses,
prerequisites, general education
requirements, etc. for MCC's more than
75 degree and certificate programs.
"We were dealing with all the Programs
of Study back for many years and those
program requirements might be different,
depending on when the student first
enrolled at the college," said Funaro. "We
now have a degree evaluation available
for every current Program of Study, going
back to 1971."
Scrapping the old student e-mail system
and starting fresh, was something MCC
students pushed for, according to Deb
Ciccolo, Technical Project Manager. Not
an easy undertaking, the new e-mail
system was also supported and facilitated
by Executive Vice President Jay
In order to get the new system up and
running, MCC's Information Technology
Department had to make hardware and
software upgrades, said Ciccolo, as well
as configure existing support systems
with the new system. As a result, 14,000
new student e-mail accounts were created
this fall.
Thus far, students seem to like the new
system, said Ciccolo. What they really
like is the fact that their new e-mail
addresses are based on their names
which allows them to quickly find each
other in the system. They also can more
easily contact their professors now, since
the entire faculty and staff directory is
automatically loaded into their e-mail
address books, Ciccolo added.
What these three new online tools
together accomplish is helping students,
staff and faculty create better
relationships with each other, said
"We're forming connections with our
students," she said. "And, once we can
e-mail back and forth, or sit down and
meet with students, they keep the
conversation going -- because we've
formed that connection."
Kathy Register