Guided Academic Pathways: Student Success Starts With a Plan

March 11, 2022 Watermark Insights


Guided Academic Pathways represent a clear and concise way for students and student advisors to view each program and course needed to fully complete degree requirements and graduate on time.

All of us know that someone, or maybe we are that someone, who could have tremendously benefited by having a better plan to be successful in their higher education degree pursuits. A map to identify the programs and courses needed, and when they were offered, to visibly chart a path to graduation.

Watermark (formerly Aviso Retention) works with students and schools structuring highly coherent course and program pathways (Guided Pathways) to make selecting and sticking to a program of study a promise to graduation. As Advisors, Mentors, Success Coaches, Faculty Members, and others find it near impossible to make guarantees to students, software-enabled Guided Pathways allow institutional teams to do just that, by pledging, between institution and student, what course work needs to be successfully completed to assure the student will most efficiently earn their degree.

The “Four Pillars” to the Pathways Model

1) Clarify paths to student end goals

Watermark has partnered with the U. S. Department of Labor to guide students through an interactive process to help them identify career pathways and academic fields of study. The instrument is called the O*NET Interest Profiler. The O*NET Interest Profiler is a vocational interest assessment instrument. Users receive an accurate, reliable profile of their vocational interests that:

  1. Helps students identify work-related interests
  2. Focuses career search activities
  3. Enables them to link their vocational interests to O*NET-SOC occupations

 2) Help students choose and enter a pathway

Based on the students responses from the O*NET Profile, they are guided to the available opportunities for that particular institution. This allows each student to navigate course offerings in a way that allows for choosing a major to become more palatable.

3) Help students stay on path

Utilizing Guided Pathway resources within Watermark assists students and staff by ensuring that both parties are clear of what is required to complete the student's individual, pre-defined goals. Visual indicators are clearly shown as each student matriculates through their specific program. Watermark is designed to continually inform students of their options and proactively identify and address boulders (barriers) to their progress. Alerts are sent to both student and staff should the student ever fall off-plan, registering for a course that was not on their particular pathway. 



4) Ensure that students are learning

As the student continues to progress, faculty and staff ensure students are continuing to learn through visual indicators, alerts for when the students may fall off path, and positive reinforcement (achievements) to help keep them on track. 

How Watermark Helps You Start With Guided Pathways

Give students the pathway & the map

Start with building course and program templates. You want to ask yourself - what institutional programs of study and curriculum do we offer our students, and how, as an institution? Next, preloading institutional course information during system implementation often automates, and, always makes course and program template creation time-efficient and seamless – program and curriculum data displays in Watermark just as it does in your institutional Student Information System and Learning Management System.

Guided Pathway Templates are created and refined during implementation in parallel with Watermark shared best practices and industry expertise. Course and program models are updated and communicated to the student body. Collaboration and meetings with students ensue, pointed at course, curriculum, and program options, that will give the student the skills needed to achieve in their desired field.

Ongoing Collaboration – students inherently require redundancy. Forming an electronic agreement with each potential student via Watermark Guided Pathway functionality, then being alerted when students stray off path, allows for automated communication between institutional leaders and students. Guided Pathways via Watermark make curriculum and planning top of mind for students by making it simple, and, by automating alerts via text or email.


 Why it will help your institution

Forming an electronic contract with students via Guided Pathways keeps students keenly aware of where they are positioned relative to earning their degree. Students are more likely to be retained and persist if their leaders and their minds are always working off an easily accessible, omnipresent plan.

Watermark allows you, and your students, to play “What-If” scenarios to determine how each course will impact the student’s pathway to graduation. Guided Pathways give students a clear, step-by-step plan to efficiently succeed to post-graduation endeavors. 



How to make the investment and get started with Guided Pathways

Watermark works with dozens of institutions who have built Guided Pathway functionality in diverse settings throughout North America. Our teams’ body of work and knowledge base is supportive in progressing our institutional partners to serve students in a very direct and efficient manner to improve outcomes.

Contact us and learn more about how your institution and students can benefit from Guided Pathways.

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