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Question & Answer: The new Student Information System (SIS) with Carole Horwitz

Why is the University replacing ISIS with the Student Systems Project?

Because the functionality and the underlying technology of ISIS are outdated now and they can’t meet either the current or the future administrative or academic needs of the University.

What kinds of new features will SIS include, and how will the change benefit students?

It’s primarily giving students more self-service functionality, more things they can do themselves through what’s called the ‘student center.’ Some of the things that you’ll be able to do that you couldn’t do before are if you have licenses or certifications — you can update that yourself — you can complete the financial aid application by going online, you can set up a payment contract, you can view award and loan information, accept, decline or modify financial awards. A lot of the enrollment stuff is the same as what you can do in ISIS, but there’s more finance functionality.

What is the University doing to facilitate the change and help students and professors transition to the new system?

We’ve been working really hard to make sure that this goes as smoothly as possible. As you know, we’ve worked with student focus groups and also faculty groups to develop these online demos of the faculty center and student center, which are the self-service components of the SIS. We’ve met with every school and are continuing to attend faculty meetings. We’ve got within each school core readiness groups, which are individuals in the schools who are the best people to figure out how to roll it out to their groups of faculty and students. And so we give them materials, and they can use that as a template or a model and reach out to their own faculty and students as they choose to ... [The College] is going and meeting with every single department’s faculty group. We’re creating student center guides and faculty center guides that are going to be available online and the faculty center guide will also be available in print. Those will have instructions on how to do different things in the SIS — for example, enroll, advise, grade, view accounts — and those are going to be posted to the Web in two formats. One is the complete guide and the other is function by function ... so that if you only want to look at, “Well how do I do this one thing?” you can open up to see that, or you can just look at the whole thing at once. We hope we get more articles [on the system]. We’re also going to put something in connections, put ads in The [Cavalier] Daily and Hoo View, we’re going to be handing out some things at Newcomb Hall, we’re going to have table tents in the dining halls just to get the word out that this is coming. On the portal, once it’s up and students and faculty are in, there’s going to be a link to how to get help. We’re creating short demos of specific functionality, such as putting your name on a class permission list, so in addition to having this .pdf version that you can see on the Web, there will also be a demo that takes you click by click how to do things. And the last thing we’re doing, which is actually one of the most critical, is ... You know how to go in, [how] you click the ISIS link on the U.Va. Web page to get into the system? Well there’s going to be this period of time where you’re going to be doing some things in ISIS and some things in the SIS. We’ll change [the link] to read ISIS/SIS, and when you click that link, it’s going to open up a Web page that’s going to tell you which page to go to, depending on what you want to do.

Does your office have any concerns about the transition, or has it encountered any difficulties? If so, how were those difficulties addressed?

So far there have been few difficulties because as we’ve rolled it out, it’s been pretty much small rollouts to centralized offices. So it isn’t that the functionality is small, but there have been fewer people involved, so it’s gone fairly smoothly. The March rollout when we do enrollment and advisement is going to be the most complex so far, and it’s going to affect faculty, students and staff. There’s going to be more people involved, and it’s going to straddle ISIS and the SIS for a period of time. We’re concerned about that, but the way we’re dealing with it is with this interim Web page that’s going to kind of provide a road map of what occurs where during the transition period. The other thing that’s going to be helpful is that Student Financial Services and [the University registrar] have been full partners with us during this implementation, so students and faculty can always go to them [for] additional guidance and assistance.

Will SIS have scheduled downtimes like ISIS does?

There will be scheduled downtimes but they’re going to be early in the morning, like maybe a couple mornings a week from 5 to 7. There could be longer times when we have to do what they call ‘patching,’ but those will be coordinated on Sunday mornings, so it shouldn’t inconvenience too many people. It will be posted when that will be taking place.

Is there anything you wish the new system could do — but can’t do — because of available technology or resources? Are you satisfied with the final product?

The bigger question rather than ‘are we satisfied’ is ‘are the people we’ve worked with satisfied,’ and what we’ve tried to do and in fact have done is engage hundreds of people in the University over the past few years to both define and be sure that we’re going to meet the requirements of the University. We have a lot of governance groups and focus groups, and they believe that the final product is going to meet their needs. Now obviously there’s going to be additional things people are going to want. There are already additional things they want, but we’ve all agreed that what we’ll do is keep track of those requests to consider after the new system is rolled out and we’ve settled in a bit with it.

When can students expect to see SIS available online?

Students are going to be given access the week of March 16, so very soon.

Conducted by Shea Connelly


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