5 insights from an experiential major maps expert

Expert Insight

5 insights from an experiential major maps expert

Many institutions rely on prescriptive four-year degree maps to help students plan their course schedules. Unfortunately, these plans are typically limited to course requirements and a handful of elective courses and fail to encourage exploration of additional opportunities.

Innovative institutions have created experiential major maps that align course requirements with cocurricular and experiential learning opportunities. These maps help students explore majors, reflect on the career-relevant skills they are gaining, get hands-on experience in preparation for jobs and graduate programs, and see career paths available to each major.

How Southwest Baptist University built experiential major maps

“It’s important to look at the name ‘major map’ and realize that any map gives you multiple avenues to a destination. This is not meant to be seen as a prescription.”

Allison Langford, Vice President for Strategic Planning and Initiatives at Southwest Baptist University

In December, EAB experts hosted Allison Langford, Vice President for Strategic Planning and Initiatives at Southwest Baptist University, in a webconference to discuss lessons from creating and implementing experiential major maps. Allison learned about the practice from past EAB work highlighting experiential major maps at Queen’s University. She saw the maps as an opportunity to address some barriers that students face in pursuit of a degree, and to convey the unique value of a degree from Southwest Baptist University.

The implementation team decided to develop their major maps in three phases: the first was creating the map itself, the second will involve creating a cover page with relevant major and career outcome information, and the third will embed regular updates for each major map.

During the webconference, Allison held a Q&A session for participants to ask questions about the experiential major maps implementation process and we identified five main takeways and lessons learned.

5 lessons Southwest Baptist learned from creating experiential major maps
Promote the maps before you even start building them
After learning about the practice from EAB, Allison carried example maps from other universities with her around campus to show colleagues during casual conversations. This tangible point of reference helped get colleagues on board.
Create a communication plan and timeline to keep the project moving
Allison and her team were surprised at how well they were able to keep to their schedule. Working on the maps in phases made for a clear process with clear goals in each stage.
Be specific about what information faculty should include in maps to be most helpful to students
Chairs and faculty should provide information to populate each major maps, but they should do so with clear guidance. Allison noted that guiding questions helped faculty understand what types of courses and activities were important enough to elevate to the maps.
Maps should be a guide for students, not a prescription
Experiential major maps introduce the types of opportunities that students should consider in each major, but should be flexible enough that students can tailor their four-year plan to their own backgrounds, interests, and schedules. Maps should not look like a checklist of requirements, but they should direct students toward useful opportunities.
The number of clicks may surprise you
Allison was excited about the value that major maps would bring to her campus, but was still surprised at how many clicks the maps have been getting since they were first released.

Interested in building your own experiential major maps? Here’s how to get started.

It’s not too late to join the Collaborative that officially launches on Thursday, January 16 with our virtual webconference kickoff that features EAB researchers and university experts from South Dakota State University and Rutgers University-Camden, who will share lessons learned from creating experiential major maps.

Later in the series, Collaborative participants can join webconferences on collecting information to populate their maps and finalizing and distributing maps and participate in virtual working sessions. You’ll also have the opportunity to network with peers, share your achievements, and brainstorm ideas on an online discussion board.

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