Build meta-majors—without the endless back-and-forth

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Build meta-majors—without the endless back-and-forth

Although collective input is beneficial to meta-major construction, soliciting input from several sources can lead to a clash in priorities and perspectives. Because multiple programs exist within a single meta-major, a high number of people—including faculty, administrators, and student support staff—could be involved in the construction process.

In these situations, colleges can quickly run into a “too many cooks in the kitchen” problem, where competing priorities and differing perspectives result in a near-infinite list of possible program combinations, stalling the process indefinitely. Colleges looking to avoid these sorts of delays must find a solution to meta-major construction which—similar to program mapping—balances the need for breadth of knowledge with operational efficiency. Additionally, they need to ensure that their construction process aligns with the goal of providing students with the opportunity for maximum exploration within their area of interest.

Colleges looking to bypass disagreements about meta-major composition should consider approaches that rely on easily accessed program data to construct curriculum maps. At Jackson College, a series of student information system (SIS) data queries determines the frequency of each course within meta-major programs. This information is then used to construct curriculum maps that place the highest-frequency courses for programs within a meta-major in the first semester, allowing students to potentially switch programs without accumulating extra credits.

Jackson also uses the data it collects to set major decision points, ideally after as many common semesters as possible. On average, this has allowed students an additional three months to explore programs within a meta-major without accruing excess credits. It also has led to a significant decrease in advisor meetings dedicated to answering navigation questions, freeing up advisors to have more substantive conversations with students.