UT's Wayfinder adds tools to help students pick major

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A new online interactive balloon-popping game is one way UT is trying to help its incoming students graduate in four years.

The University added modules to Wayfinder, an online site incorporated into Be a Longhorn that helps prospective and current students figure out their majors. The modules are online tools that aim to debunk myths, provide sample class problems and inform students about selected courses. The purpose of the interactive tools is to give students the information they need to select an appropriate major.

David Laude, senior vice provost for enrollment and graduation management, said programming the new modules cost several thousand dollars and was done by staff in the School of Undergraduate Studies, the Undergraduate Writing Center, the Department of Mathematics and the Division of Statistics and Scientific Computation.

Some of the tools are carnival- or arcade-style interactive games aimed at addressing myths relating to major selection. One of the games requires participants to match celebrities and historic figures with what they studied in college. Players do this in the game by popping balloons with the icon’s corresponding major written on the balloon. At the end of this game and the others, the interactive tool reviews a list of myths.

In a statement, Kedra Ishop, vice provost and director of admissions, said these tools would help students better understand the majors they apply for.

“Many high school students make choices about their course of study in a vacuum ... without always having a sense of what that takes or what some of the other academic options are,” Ishop said. “Ultimately, student satisfaction with their choice of major increases motivation as well as the likelihood of student success.”

A third of UT students transfer to different schools or colleges within UT, which can delay their graduation date, according to the statement. The

University is trying to increase its four-year graduation rate to 70 percent by 2016. Currently, it stands at 52 percent.

Laude said the sooner students begin to think about their major choice, the better chance they have to stay on their graduation track.

“Tools like the Wayfinder module are intended to open students up to different possibilities and to prompt self reflection,” Laude said. “Some students will change their majors. Some will have their major choices confirmed. Some students will be more uncertain than when they started. All of this is good. It is a process.”

Andrew Kogler, computer science and electrical engineering sophomore, added his computer science major after realizing during his first year of college that he was more interested in that than electrical engineering. He said the Wayfinder tool would have helped him figure out his preference for computer science sooner.

“Something like that would have been helpful, but at the same time it is difficult to know what major you would like without taking a course in it,” Kogler said.

The University will highly recommend, but not require, that incoming students complete the modules in Wayfinder.

Printed on Tuesday, November 20, 2012 as: Major-exploration tools to raise graduation rate