Student Information System

Flexibility key to new system's benefits

by Stephen Forgacs
Staff writer

The Registrar's Office has embarked on a major redevelopment of the Student Information System (SIS)--a move that will make life easier for the students, faculty, and staff who rely on the system for information and to do their jobs.

The Student Information System manages virtually all information related to UBC's 32,000 students--from admissions, registration, and course scheduling to recording of grades, degree audit and graduation.

Due to the size and complexity of the SIS, the tight timelines for moving off the current mainframe platform, and the extensive consultation approach planned for the project, it is being redeveloped in two phases.

Phase one, scheduled for completion in November, involves migrating the SIS from the current IDMS/MVS operating system to the new technical platform of Oracle and UNIX.

During the next eight months the entire SIS database and the more than 825 programs that make up the current SIS system will be converted and tested in the new environment. Forecross Corporation, a specialist in using automated processes to convert mainframe databases and programs to new environments, is working with the Registrar's Office on the project.

"One of the major limitations of the current system is the lack of flexible access to the data," says Audrey Lindsay, associate registrar, Systems, and UBC project manager on the SIS redevelopment project. "We have a lot of data in the system, but the ability for faculty and administrators to produce ad hoc and management reports is very limited. Once the data is migrated to the Oracle database, extracting data will be a much simpler and more widely available process."

Concurrent with the migration project, Registrar's Office systems staff, with assistance from Sierra Consulting, are evaluating and establishing the development environment for the second phase of the project--the replacement and redevelopment of specific SIS components.

"We are soliciting input from faculty, staff and students as we prepare for the second phase of the project. Our plans for the next eight months include a series of meetings with representatives from all faculties including all levels of SIS users, potential users and students," Lindsay says.

"This includes meetings with all deans and relevant administrative unit department heads; focus sessions with faculty representatives to discuss issues and priorities; business process improvement sessions to streamline procedures and eliminate unnecessary processes or steps; and facilitated design sessions and hands-on sessions with the prototypes of the emerging system."

The second phase of the project will involve everything from simple enhancements to completely redesigned components and new functions. Although changes visible to faculty, staff and students who use the system will appear gradually, Lindsay says that as the development phase progresses the system will be better able to provide support for work done by faculty and staff and easier access to the system for both data entry and retrieval.

One of the major focuses will be secure access to the system via the Internet for students, faculty and staff. This should make it easier for students to register, add and drop courses, check their grades and do other transactions.

The redevelopment of the SIS is one of the projects included in the replacement of the university's major administrative systems. Others underway include the financial, human resources and alumni/development systems.