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What is Course Catalog Software? - Definition, Features, Benefits

March 15, 2022

Some colleges and universities print their course catalogs on paper. A PDF catalog is also typically required for accreditation. But almost instantly, these documents are out of date. After the catalog is printed, it is also impossible to make minor updates to the course description or add policy updates. In the interim, between when the catalog was published and the start of the semester, courses might be canceled, or their learning outcomes may change, or general education or major requirements could be altered, amongst many other possible shifts.

None of this even mentions the cost of printing and reprinting the course catalog, or the hassle of locating its PDF versions across the institution’s various websites. A paper catalog certainly doesn’t allow for the “Control + F” search feature digitally-native students have come to expect in searching for what they want to find. 

The alternative to old-fashioned paper catalogs is digital, integrated course catalog software. Not only are course and curricular modifications updated in real-time and date-stamped for accreditation purposes, but students can more easily plan their schedules and track progress to degree. 

What is Course Catalog Software?

Course catalog software goes hand in hand with curriculum management software. When departments make changes to their degree programs or course outcomes, they can enter these directly into their curriculum management software. Then, these changes will be made automatically in the course catalog software, which is responsible for creating a critical student-facing deliverable.

Another critical feature of course catalog software is, via integrations, the catalog always displays the most current information. If the registrar’s office needs to change a course description or update policies, the catalog reflects those modifications automatically, updating on a nightly basis. That way, students and administrators can see up-to-date catalog information.

Students can also make sure that the courses they select fit into their degree programs. Degree requirements and the courses that fulfill them can be hugely confusing for students. Course catalog software keeps track of the general education and major requirements, ensuring students don’t duplicate requirements or extend their timelines to degree. 

What are the Benefits of Catalog Software?

Increases Retention Rates

About 20 percent of students who leave college before completing a degree have completed three-quarters of their requirements or more. Many of them cite a lack of support and difficulty getting their questions answered as some reasons for dropping out. 

Planning course schedules is one of the most stressful aspects for students, especially if they have to meet with advisors several times if a course is changed or canceled.

Your students can easily navigate the catalog themselves when you have course catalog software. Easy navigation is one of the key benefits of course catalog software. Students can search by course names or descriptions and search only by courses they need for their degrees. This software simplifies student scheduling, a major roadblock in retention.

Improves Time to Graduation

At the same time, students may not know which requirements they have or have not fulfilled with a traditional course catalog. They may end up taking more than one class that fulfills the same requirement or end up needing to stay an extra semester if they haven’t completed their requirements on time. 

Similarly, course catalog software ensures that students won’t unknowingly enroll in classes that duplicate requirements they have already fulfilled. What’s more, they can determine when courses will be offered, so they can complete their degrees in a timely manner. 

Supports Accreditation

Without course catalog software, many of the processes required for accreditation are time-consuming and difficult. In combination with curriculum management software, registrars can identify hidden requirements and the impact curricular changes have on students; the data is immediately available whenever you need it. Additionally, it’s stored in software that makes reporting easy. If the accreditation review body asks for any catalog, it can be produced with just a few clicks.

Saves Time

Catalogs may be published with errors or missing information because of how long it can take departments to fill out paper forms noting curricular or course changes. Due to the manual nature of filling out catalog forms, your curricular data is also likely filled with typos and minor errors. 

However, with course catalog management software, smart forms that filter out various fields as the user progresses make it easier to fill curricular proposals with accuracy, and changes can be made quickly and seamlessly if needed. The efficiencies of smart forms make the course catalog current and reliable—rather than a document that is outdated before it is even published.

Additionally, a vendor like Kuali offers the unique ability to integrate curriculum management software with a catalog management software, meaning the catalog is created using the curriculum data as its source of truth. This integration also eliminates weeks of manual labor. 

Why Choose Kuali for Your Academic Catalog Software

There are many course catalog software options on the market. But Kuali’s course catalog software, in connection with its curriculum management system, is the most seamless and hassle-free option available. Here are some of the significant ways that Kuali’s higher education products stand out. 

A Single Source of Data

Before they adopted Kuali, Southern New Hampshire University struggled with its out-of-date catalog. 

“More complex and concerning problems also occurred, such as marketing and admissions using an outdated catalog, or not-yet-approved programs, in marketing materials,” SNHU’s case study mentions. 

One of Kuali’s key value additions is the elimination of paper forms. Suppose your curriculum approval process is on paper. In that case, a department could change a course sequence that may impact a general education requirement or another degree program - without other stakeholders being in the know. If that change still has to be manually entered in the curriculum management system, there is not a single source of reliable information for stakeholders affected by those changes. 

Kuali integrates curriculum management and course catalog software using the curriculum solution as a single source of information. For example, if changes are made in general education requirements, students know that their course requirements have changed, rather than waiting for the updated printed course catalog.

When SNHU adopted Kuali’s Curriculum & Catalog Management systems, they saved three weeks when curricular changes were automatically added to the online course catalog. 

Pairs with Current Technology

Some registrar’s offices don’t adopt course catalog software because they don’t think it will integrate with their existing systems. That is not the case with Kuali. 

Both the curriculum management and course catalog software programs work seamlessly with technology already in place on your campus. What’s more, training is easy - stakeholders making curricular updates and managing the catalog application can learn to use it quickly and painlessly. 

“On the whole, people have been able to get in and start making changes without much direction. People like how intuitive the solution is,” said James Wigginton, Curriculum and Calendar Manager at the University of Victoria.

Greater Visibility

Many times, departments don’t know what curricular changes other departments have made until far down the line. This isn’t the case with Kuali’s Curriculum & Catalog Management systems. For example, if one department wants to add a new course, other departments can see that course and potentially add it to their degree requirements or general education requirements. Departments can also assess the impact of removing a course on other departments and courses.

On the other hand, if a department removes a course, other departments can see the impact of the course removal on their programs and quickly make adjustments to fill the gaps.

Murray State University, which implemented Kuali’s Curriculum & Catalog management system during the pandemic, shared the changes the software brought to their campus. 

“Along with saving time for individuals, communication and transparency on curriculum projects increased despite the decline in face-to-face touchpoints. Administrators can run quick reports to check a proposal’s progress at a moment’s notice without sorting through dozens of emails. Committee members, who had been known to accidentally spend time working on an out-dated proposal, know they’re seeing the most current version. Further, if multiple stakeholders need to approve the proposal, they can see which individuals or departments might be holding up the process and address that roadblock accordingly,” the case study explains. 

A Commitment to Accessibility 

Course catalog software improves accessibility in many capacities. For instance, unlike paper catalogs, students with visual disabilities can use their screen readers to access the text. 

“Access for all users is something we feel is incredibly important at Kuali. We want to make sure we are contributing to forward progress at our partner institutions to ensure all users can benefit from our tools,” said Sarah Crane, former product manager for Kuali Curriculum & Catalog. “We worked with a consultant to train our whole team on how to design and build with accessibility in mind.”

A Collaborative Atmosphere

Many colleges and universities want to streamline their curricular processes and make course catalogs more easily accessible for students. Kuali connects stakeholders around the country to collect feedback and make modifications that improve the catalog software. Registrars can learn from each other, and Kuali uses this robust community to make continuous changes to its Curriculum & Catalog Management systems. 

Course Catalog Software Has Become Imperative

Course catalog software is becoming more and more necessary for colleges and universities. Students need course and degree information at their fingertips, and schools risk losing them if they publish out-of-date or inaccurate information in physical course catalogs. Course catalog software, on the other hand, reflects changing information in real time. This way, students know exactly what courses fit into their schedules and meet their degree requirements.

Students should jump as few hurdles to degree completion as possible. Isn’t it time you moved your printed course catalog out of the way?

Check out Kuali’s Catalog Management solution today.

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