Academic Planning Guide


Academic planning provides a student, and their advisor, with a means to collaborate regarding a curriculum path a student should follow.

Students are unique in their purpose for college, whether it be for a degree, certificate, or a skills upgrade, and Student Success & Engagement supports this individualism through the creation of customized academic plans.

  • Once a plan is created, SS&E will monitor this plan and match registration data from an institution's student information system against the planned courses, alerting both the student and academic advisor if there is no match.

At a typical institution, a student follows a published curriculum guide based on matriculation year and term. Often times this curriculum guide shows requirements in a way that differs from the complexity maintained in the student information system.

Academic Plan Template

An Academic Plan Template can be thought of as a list of requirements that must be satisfied in order to achieve a certain certification, such as a degree. It is a standard template for what courses need to be taken when to meet the goal of obtaining the certification. In other words, it is a curriculum guide.

Watermark Student Success & Engagement software will automatically create an empty Academic Plan Template for each Degree Program based on information in your SIS.

You may also manually create Academic Plan Templates from scratch from within SS&E.

Benefits of managing Academic Plan Templates within SS&E:

  • Degree Program requirements are configured within your SIS, but generating curriculum guides is a cumbersome, manual process that often creates a static document. SS&E software puts a system around this process with the Academic Plan Templates feature, reducing the level of work required to provide and manage these guides.
  • SS&E provides a purpose-built, easy-to-understand interface so that students and staff can easily select courses from the Academic Plan Template to add to their Academic Plan.
  • SS&E will automatically perform lightweight, real-time degree auditing to ensure students and staff can easily see what courses are missing from the student's Academic Plan.  Note: SS&E is not a replacement for an institutions existing degree audit process that determines academic awards.
  • Academic Plan Templates provide flexibility to create customized Academic Plans when necessary, such as plans for part-time students, unique pathways, or plans for subpopulations of at-risk students.

A student's specific Academic Plan may (likely will) change based on a number of factors, and this is where Academic Plan Templates come into play.

  • An Academic Plan Template is the 'standard' Academic Plan, while the Student's Academic Plan is the actual plan a student is progressing through.
  • The Academic Plan Templates can be used as a "roadmap" of sorts. Comparisons should be performed between a student's Academic Plan and their Academic Plan Template to ensure they are taking the courses they need to be taking in order to be successful.


The configuration settings for academic planning are located in Administration, and an article that explains these settings is here: Academic Planning Configuration

Enabling Academic Planning (Administrator)

In order to get started, you must ensure that Academic Planning is enabled.

As an administrator, click on your profile image to open the application menu, then click Administration. Then navigate to Configuration Application Configuration and find the row with the key 'enableAcademicPlanning'. Click 'enableAcademicPlanning', then click the Edit button, and ensure the Value field contains the value 'true' (exactly, without quotes). Press the Update button to save your changes.  Navigating back to SS&E's  Home screen, you will now see a "Plans" menu in the menu bar.

Academic Plan Template Generation 

When enabled, the SS&E software will automatically pull information about the degree programs currently active at your institution. This setting must be enabled for plans to be system generated.

Based on that information, each degree program will have an associated Academic Plan Template. Each time a new degree program is detected, a new Academic Plan Template will be created and associated with that degree program. If the SS&E software detects that it has not seen a degree program for the degree/program/term combination previously, the Academic Plan Template that is created will be empty. If SS&E detects that the degree/program combination has been imported before, it will copy the most recently used Academic Plan Template for that degree/program/term as the template for the degree program. This helps you get started defining your Academic Plan Templates, and also can save enormous amounts of time in each subsequent term.

Note: It may take up to 24 hours for an Academic Plan Template to be created for a given degree program.

Configure Grades

In order to leverage the minimum grade requirement for a given course, you first need to configure Grades. As an administrator, click on your profile image to open the application menu, then click Administration. Then navigate to Academic Planning Grades. Add the grades as they are configured in your SIS. In order for the system to function correctly, the Grade, the Passing checkbox, and the Rank are very important to configure correctly. The Grade field is how SS&E determines what grade a student received for a course, so this value must match the value from the SIS exactly. The Rank determines how the grade compares to other grades. For example, if using a standard A-F scale for grades, A would need a Rank of 1, B would be 2, and so on. The lower the Rank, the better the grade. If a grade should be considered a passing grade, then make sure the Passing checkbox is checked.

To get started, you can create some grades now, but you'll want to ensure you circle back and correct these values so that the software can correctly detect when students meet or do not meet minimum course requirements.

Additional settings in the grade table that drive template building are:

Visible for Planning

If this value is set to Yes, then this grade value will be shown on the academic plan template building screen as an option for a minimum course grade.

Default for Plan Template

A grade set to Yes for this field will be used as the default minimum grade when adding a course to an academic plan template. There should only be one grade set as the default.


Getting Started

Manage Academic Plan Templates (Administrator)

Academic Plan Templates are managed from the Administrator interface. As an administrator, click on your profile image to open the application menu, then click Administration. Then navigate to Academic Planning Academic Plan Templates. This will navigate you to the list of Academic Plan Templates where you can see a list of all of the existing Academic Plan Templates, as well as click the "New" button to create a new Academic Plan Template.

This list page also allows text searching, and filtering based on status (we'll get to statuses in a minute), as well as sorting based on name and status in the list. Clicking on an Academic Plan Template's name in the list will navigate you to the edit interface for that Template.

Create an Academic Plan Template

Click the "New" button from the list of Academic Plan Templates, give your new Template a name, and click the "Create" button. This will automatically navigate you to the edit page for the new Template.

Add a Degree Program

The first thing you may want to do is associate a Degree Program with the template you've created. This is located in the "Planned Credentials in Progress" section. Place your cursor in the text box labeled "Find degree program..." and start typing to find a degree program to use for this template. Once you click a Degree Program, it will be added to the Template. Don't worry - you can easily remove Degree Programs using the trash can icon.

Add a Term or Category

You can now start building out terms/categories. Let's create a new term titled "Fall Term" and add some courses. First, click the Add Term/Category button at the top of the screen. Enter a term/category name (in our example, "Fall Term"), then click the "Create" button. This will add a term to the Template, as depicted in the screenshot below.

Add another term to the Template. You'll end up with something like the below screenshot. You can re-order terms using the up and down arrows next to the term name.

Add Courses to a Term

To start adding required courses to the term, place your cursor in the box labeled "Find and add a course", start typing the name of a course, then select it in the list and click the "Add" button to the right of this text box.

Add a few courses. You will see something like the following screenshot.

As you add courses, you may find that you'd like to re-order the courses to keep them better organized. Simply drag and drop courses to re-order them.

TIP: You can also drag and drop courses between different terms, and in and out of course groups (we'll get to course groups later).

TIP: You have probably noticed little pencil icons next to several items on this interface. This provides a quick way to edit that specific property if you need to.

Course Groups

Course Groups allow you to define a list of courses from which the student must choose a certain number of courses or certain number of credit hours to take in order to satisfy the requirements of their degree. A common example of this is a list of elective courses.

Create a Course Group

To add a Course Group, click the "Add Group" button at the top of the Term. Enter a name for the new course group, then enter a "1" for the "Minimum Required Courses" field. Click the "Save" button and you'll see that your course group was added to the Term.

This Course Group is configured such that a student must take at least 1 course from within that Course Group in order to satisfy the requirements of that course group. However, there are no courses currently, so let's add some courses to the Course Group we created.

In the "Find and add a course" text box beneath the newly created Course Group, find and add a few courses.

Add another course group with some courses. You'll end up with something like the screenshot below. You can re-order course groups using the up and down arrows next to the course group name.

Course Group Templates

You may find that you'll need to add the same course groups to multiple Academic Plan Templates, and this operation can become extremely tedious. Course Group Templates exist to alleviate this. Navigate to Academic Planning Course Group Templates. Click the "New" button to create a new Course Group Template, give the new Course Group Template a name, and optionally minimum required courses and minimum required credits values, then click "Create". You'll see the newly created Course Group Template in the list. To edit it, click on its name in the list. From here you can manage the courses that are a part of this Course Group Template. Add a few courses to the Course Group Template you created.

The Course Group Template can then be used from the Academic Plan Template interface. Navigate back to an Academic Plan Template by clicking Academic Planning Academic Plan Templates, then select the Academic Plan Template we created earlier. At the bottom of a Term section, you'll see a text box labeled "Find and add a course group" - place your cursor in this box and start typing the name of the Course Group Template you just created, then select it from the list and click the "Add" button. You'll see that Course Group was created based on your new Course Group Template.

Note that you can now make changes to the Course Group from here and these changes will NOT affect the Course Group Template. The Course Group Template gives you a starting point, but you are free to modify the Course Group once it's added to the Term without worry of affecting others who are using the same Course Group Template.

TIP: If you changed a Course Group Template, that will not affect any Academic Plan Templates who used that Course Group Template to create Course Groups. If you would like to use your updated Course Group Template, you will need to navigate to the appropriate Academic Plan Template, delete the Course Group you wish to update, and add the Course Group from the updated Course Group Template.

Academic Plan Template Statuses

As mentioned earlier, each Academic Plan Template has a status. The statuses are:


The Academic Plan Template was automatically created by an import job and has not yet been edited by a person. Once edited by a person, the status will automatically be changed to "In Progress."

In Progress

The Academic Plan Template is currently in a "draft" state and not ready to be published. This is the default status for Academic Plan Templates created by administrators from within SS&E.

Pending Review

The Academic Plan Template is finished being modified and is ready to be published once it is reviewed.


The Academic Plan Template is available for use by staff in academic planning screens.

View and Modify a Student's Academic Plan (Staff)

Before we start

The software can be configured to automatically create academic plans for each student.

This happens as a part of a background job that runs every 15 minutes. 

By default each student's academic plan is empty (there are no courses, and no assigned academic plan template), and it is in the "New" status.

The possible Academic Plan statuses are:

  • New
  • Pending Advisor
  • Pending Student
  • Approved

When a staff member makes changes (adds or removes a course or course group to/from the academic plan), the status automatically moves to "Pending Advisor". If a student makes changes, the status automatically moves to "Pending Student". Staff members will see a "Send to Student" button when the plan is in the "Pending Advisor" status, and students will see a "Send to Advisor" button when the plan is in the "Pending Student" status.

Students are unable to see their plan until the plan has been submitted to the student. The software can be configured such that the academic plan is submitted to the student when the system creates the academic plan. This is done using the "job.submitPreviouslyCreatedPlansToStudent.enabled" setting in Administration Global Configuration Application. To submit plans to students on creation (rather than having the Advisor perform the action), set the value to "true" (without quotes.

The SS&E System will keep an Academic Plan up to date with your SIS, including marking courses as "Passed" or "Failed."  SS&E will also automatically remove courses given the status "Dropped" if it was initially loaded from your SIS by the SS&E and not added to the plan by an advisor or student.


When an Academic Plan is submitted by a staff member, an email notification is sent to the student.

  • If the Academic Plan has never been in the "Pending Student" status before, then the "Academic Plan Submit To Student Welcome Message Template" is sent.
  • Otherwise, the "Academic Plan Submit To Student Message Template" is sent.

Note that if the software is configured to automatically place Academic Plans in the "Pending Student" status when they're created, then the Academic Plan Submit To Student Welcome Message Template effectively never gets used because the Academic Plan started out in the "Pending Student" status.

When an Academic Plan is submitted by a student, an email notification is sent to the student's advisor and coach (if assigned) using the "Academic Plan Submit To Advisor Message Template".

When an Academic Plan is approved by a staff member, an email notification is sent to the student using the "Academic Plan Approved To Student Message Template" template.

The messages templates used for these notifications are configured in Institution Administration, on the Admin page.

2023-09-12 09_40_17-Settings.png

Viewing the Academic Plan

In order to view a student's Academic Plan, click on the graduation cap icon on the student's profile.

This can be accessed from a student record within SS&E by clicking on the People dropdown, then selecting Student (if Person Types are enabled) or by selecting Students from the main navigation bar, then clicking the name of a student in the list of students, then clicking the Academic Plan from the top right corner of the student record.

This will open up the student's academic plan in a new browser tab.

To assign a new Academic Plan Template to a student, select the Template from the available choices in the Template field, then click the "Assign Template" button.

Once this occurs, SS&E will no longer change the template automatically if a student changes their academic program of study.  Effectively, the student/template relationship has been locked in place by the advisor regardless of what data SS&E receives from the SIS.

Modifying a Student's Academic Plan

From the Academic Plan, a staff member may easily add and remove courses on future terms of the student's Academic Plan. To assist in planning, the courses on the assigned Academic Plan Template are listed on the right-side of the page, and allow dragging and dropping of courses into terms. Changes made on this page are saved immediately. Simply drag and drop courses from the right side of the page onto the placeholders for future terms.

Tip: Course Groups on Academic Plan Templates default to collapsed to save screen space, but can be expanded to display the courses within those course groups.

When a course is already a part of the student's Academic Plan, the course will be displayed in a "disabled" style on the list of courses in the Academic Plan Template to make it easy to see what courses are planned and what courses are not yet planned on the student's Academic Plan.

To see the details of a course on the Academic Plan, simply click the name of the course.

Academic plans can only be edited for the student's current and future termsFor more details about editing an academic plan click here.

Course Groups

Course Groups can be dragged and dropped onto a student's plan.

This does not plan any specific courses on the student's academic plan, but indicates a 'suggestion' to add courses from that group in order to meet that group's requirements. For instance, some course groups can say "Choose 1", and that suggests that the student should pick one of the courses in that group to take that term. Note that the credit hours listed next to the course group is the minimum number of credit hours the student must take to satisfy the course group requirements (as configured in the academic plan template). This does not count toward the summary information that lists the total course and credit hours for the term.

When a course group is planned, a star appears next to it in the side bar on the right side of the screen.

Course Status

In the Academic Plan, a Status is displayed for each entry that has been added to the plan.

The possible statuses are "Planned", "In Progress", and "Complete." The statuses appear in these scenarios:

  • "Planned" - The student has not registered for the course.
  • "In Progress" - The student has registered for the course, but the Term end date has not passed.
  • "Complete" - The student has registered for the course and the Term end date has passed.

Note: Institution Administration includes a setting "Registration End Date Used For Determining Plan Term Active" that will change how the above In-Progress/Completed statuses display on all Academic Plan courses.

2023-09-12 09_13_11-Settings.png

  • The default setting is False, therefore the above statuses will display.
  • When set to True, the system will use the term record Registration End Date imported on the Academic Calendar data feed, instead of the Term end date to determine if an Academic Plan course status is In-Progress or Completed.

2023-09-12 09_26_30-C__Users_skelmann_Desktop_2023-09-12 09_09_09-SIS Import Definitions (for Views .png


In order to determine the status of a planned course, the system will scan the student's transcript for instances of that course. This is done by a background job once an hour. The job examines each planned course and determines if there is a matching course on the student's transcript based on the course's code and number of credits. If a matching course is found, it stores a link between the transcript course and the planned course. This is what is used to determine the status of the planned course.  Note: This process does not take course equivalency into account.

If the student has not registered for a course that is on the plan, but the term has ended, the course will be removed from the plan automatically.

Course Group Matching

When a course is on the student's academic plan, and that course appears in the academic plan template (in the pane on the right hand side of the page), the course will be demarcated with an icon on the template portion of the screen.

A potentially complex scenario arises when a course is associated with multiple course groups on the academic plan template. The system is designed to allocate course toward one of the course groups. This is because course groups can have completion requirements (based on credit hours and/or number of courses), and the completion of one course should not count toward multiple course groups - this would effectively duplicate the course and cause inaccuracies as to whether or not the template's requirements are being met.

Therefore, the system will attempt to find the "best match" for the course among the course groups within the template, and other instances of that course in the template will be demarcated to indicate that the course was allocated to a different area of the template. This matching process happens on-the-fly, so if something changes on the plan or on the student's transcript, that could change the allocation of that course on the academic plan template.

The "best match" algorithm's primary goal is to allocate courses in such a way as to complete the most course group requirements as defined on the template. In general, if a course is the last and only course required to complete a course group's requirements (give the current state of the plan), the system will allocate the course to that course group. If there are multiple course groups where this is true, it is allocated to the first-course group in the list that can be completed by the course. If no course groups would be completed by the allocation of the course to any of the course groups, then the first-course group in the list is chosen by the system for the allocation of that course.

Academic Plan Self-Service (Student)

Students also have the ability to manage their Academic Plan by logging in to SS&E and clicking "Plan" in the main navigation header.  If a template has been assigned to the student, the student is able to easily see the courses required for their degree program and add those courses to their Academic Plan. 

Once changes to the Academic Plan have been made, the student may then submit their plan to their assigned advisor for approval. The advisor may then review and approve the plan, or send it back to the student for further review (and they may make changes before doing so if they wish).

Academic Plan Alerts

Create an Off Plan Alert (Administrator)

An automatic alert can be created for a student who veers off their approved academic plan. This can be created from within the Administrative interface. As an administrator, click on your profile image to open the application menu, then click Administration. Then navigate to Categories & Notifications Alerts. Click the "New" button, then select "Off Plan" in the Type field. Give the alert a name and a description, then click the "Create" button. This will create the alert as inactive, so you can do this without worry about sending lots of alerts. Once the alert is created, you can customize many other aspects of how the alert is fired, and the message the alert creates. When you are ready, you can set the alert to active to allow the software to automatically check the applicable Academic Plans against course registration information, and notify the appropriate parties when something doesn't look quite right.

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