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Surviving the new system

by Nathalie Laflamme February 3, 2015 0 comment
Surviving the new system

ConU’s re-vamped Student Information System (SIS) may take getting used to, but offers new perks

On Thursday, Jan. 22, Concordia’s new Student Information System (SIS) went live.

Back in November 2012, a budget of $23 million was approved by Concordia’s Board of Governors. This is a capital investment, meaning that the money was not taken out of the university’s operating budget. The new system is a software package called Campus Solutions, from Oracle/PeopleSoft.

Other universities in Canada are already using SIS systems, but have customized it to fit their own needs. These include schools like Université de Montréal, HEC, Ryerson, Queens, and many others. The University of Ottawa will also soon start using Campus Solutions.

According to Bradley Tucker, Concordia’s associate vice-president, registrarial services and university registrar, and chair of the SIS steering committee, the system has never undergone this level of reworking. Before this, the university had been building the system from a decades-old technology.

“We had a 32-year-old structure, on which a series of ways we interact with it have evolved,” Tucker said. “What the new system represents is a complete change of structure and interface, and the new structure and interface is integrated in a way that you would expect in a package solution.”

An integrated system

Before the new SIS went live, many different parts of the system were separate. For example, Student Account Services, Degree Navigator, and Financial Aid and Awards, were all linked to the system, but were not integrated.

This new integrated system also means that Concordia will no longer have to do any of their own research and development for the program, as Oracle/PeopleSoft will be taking care of that.

Another issue with the old system is the fact that those well-versed in the system would not be working for the university forever.

“One of the things we noticed and one of the reasons why we started implementing the new system when we did is because a lot of the people who were experts in the old system were retiring, and we were losing capacity to be able to support the old technology too,” Tucker said.

 

Going live

Many students would agree that the adaptation period has been difficult. Right when the new SIS went live last Monday, students began complaining, taking to social media pages like Spotted: Concordia to voice their concerns.

“We’re aware that there are people who have been complaining. we’re also aware that there are people who are quite happy with it,” Tucker said. “ I think we need to make sure to understand that there is balance but we do need to listen to people and address the issues as they arise.”

In order to accommodate students, the university has, with the help of students, created how-to guides and also hired a student brigade.

The tuition deadline was also pushed back to Feb. 9 in order to allow students a little more time to adapt.

The reason the site launched at the time it did was mainly because the school wanted the SIS to launch after the DNE deadline.

“It was scheduled for the weekend after that. We recognized that it was close to the fee payment deadline, so we made backup plans seeing if we could extend the fee payment deadline should we need to.” Tucker said. “Really what’s important is that we work with it and give it time. It’s a major system implementation.”

 

Help for students

In order to help students with the transition, the school hired 23 students—undergrads, grads, local, canadian, and international students—to make up the student brigade, a group that helps answer questions students may have about the portal.

The brigade will be on both campuses for the next five weeks, on Monday to Thursday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the downtown campus (SGW, EV, LB and Hall) and from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. in the SP building at the Loyola campus.

A group of students have also created how-to guides for everything students might have questions for, with simple step-by-step instructions and screenshots to show students what to do. These can be accessed at concordia.ca/students/your-sis.html.

“We have literally gone through transactions and created these guides step by step. I have gone through and gotten these screen shots and made sure that the process is at it should be … these are very much Concordia-created,” said international student Paul Martin, who is one of the members of the student brigade and who also helped create the how-to guides.

 

New perks

The new SIS will allow students to do many new things that they could not before. When registering for classes, for example, they will be able to use the “swap” tool when they wish to drop a class for another, without having to deal with the stress of actually manually dropping a class before registering for the other. There is also a waiting list, so you can automatically register for a class once a spot opens, and students can combine both this application with the swap tool. Students will also be able to search courses by professor, course name, and time slot.

“I started to use it two weeks ago, and I would say within an afternoon, six hours of using it, most of it started to make sense,” Martin said. “And I’m not a particularly techy kind of person, but it generally started to make sense and it started to flow in the kind of transactions that you wanted to do, in terms of registering for classes is very straight forward, even more so than the previous system.”

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