Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is a requisite cycle?

A requisite cycle occurs when two courses both list the other course as a corequisite or strict-corequisite. Essentially, it creates an infinite loop, or "cycle", in the graph. This prevents us from calculating metrics and generating visualizations.

To fix a requisite cycle simply remove one of the corequisites. For example: Course A lists Course B as a corequisite, and Course B also lists Course A as a corequisite. This can be visualized as Course A <---> Course B.

To remove the cycle, only one course should list the other as a corequisite. This can be visualized as either of the following:
Course A ---> Course B
or,
Course A <--- Course B

Q: How do I represent OR prerequisite relationships? (i.e., course A OR course B is a prerequisite for course C)

For the purpose of computing the complexity of a curriculum, OR relationships are usually irrelevant. All that matters is that you place one of the two courses belonging to the OR relationship into the curriculum so that the prerequisite structure is captured in the curriculum graph.

Caveat: If the two (or more) courses involved in the OR relationship have their own prerequisites, and these prerequisites differ, then there is the potential that the course you choose to include in the curriculum will slightly change the overall curricular complexity.

In this case, the complexity of the curriculum is actually a range, and not a single value. To determine the range, simply create a different curriculum for each of the possible selections of the OR’ed prerequisites that lead to differing curricular complexities; the minimum and maximum curricular complexity values obtained will give you the curricular complexity range for the curriculum.

Q: How do I treat electives? For example, students in a Business Administration program are required to take 24 credits of business electives.

An elective can be filled by some number of possible courses, so the complexity of the curriculum may vary depending on requisites of the chosen courses. For this reason, an elective can be treated as a normal course with no requisites, and each is often 3 hours. In this case we recommend creating “Business Elective 1”, “Business Elective 2”, etc until the total number of hours are filled.

Alternatively, you can choose the most common courses taken to satisfy the electives, and this will give you an idea of the pathway and complexity that “most” students are following.

Q: The website was recently upgraded. Why?

This is being done for a number of reasons, including:

  1. After receiving favorable reviews from the APLU, the Reinvention Collaborative, and others, a large number of users have uploaded their curricula to the site.  The simple navigation structure we initially provided does not allow one to easily organize, find, and view these curricula.  In addition, the underlying database technology does not support the level of usage the site is now receiving.  Thus, we have completely rebuilt the web application in order to address these issues, and to add enhancements.
  2. We have learned a lot more about curricular analytics, and we have built a number of exciting new features into the new web application based on our evolving knowledge.

Q: What new features are now available?

The primary improvements are in the areas of:

  1. User Management. If there are multiple people from your organization using this application, you can now combine them within a single organizational structure that may contain sub-organizations.  Thus, you can now create and organize users within an organizational structure that matches your institution, e.g., university -> colleges -> departments.  You can also create an organization to house curricular studies involving other institutions, etc.
  2. Support for Curricula and Degree Plans. A clearer distinction is now made between a curriculum, and the different degree plans that can be created to satisfy a curriculum.  Specifically, a curriculum is the set of courses in a degree program, along with the prerequisite arrangements between these courses.  A degree plan is a term-by-term arrangement of the courses in a curriculum.  Conceivably you can now create a different degree plan for every student pursing a particular degree.
  3. Metrics. Additional metrics have been created that allow you to analyze both curricula and degree plans in order to support data-informed decisions.  These metrics are computed using a curricular analytics statistical toolbox, and to support transparency of our methods, the toolbox is available to institutional researchers as open source software.
  4. Visualization. An improved user interface is now available for viewing and editing curricula and degree plans, and for viewing the metrics associated with curricular and degree plans.
  5. Extensions. In the future we will be providing a number of extensions that will take advantage of new the infrastructure that now exists behind this web application. These will include:
    • The ability to more easily compare and contrast curricula and degree plans.
    • The ability to create degree plans optimized around particular requirements or student characteristics. Advisors will also be able to easily create degree plans by merging two curricula, e.g., a major and some minor, a double major, a 2-year to 4-year transfer plan, etc. (Note: because this feature will use a commercial optimization package, there will be a small fee associated with this service.)
    • The ability to perform what-if analyses, e.g., “What effect would improving the pass rate in this gateway course by 5% have on our 6-year graduate rate?” (Note: because these analyses require significant computational resources, there will be a small fee associated with this service.)

If you would like to serve as a beta-tester for any of these services, please send a request using the subject “Tester” to: support@CurricularAnalytics.org.

Q: How do I access the new features?

Simply log in using your old username and password, and you will be presented with a dashboard organized around these new features.  If you can’t remember your password, there are now “forgot my password” as well as “change my password” options.