Students registering for fall classes are using UI2 Self-Service, a component of SCT Banner that will replace UI-Direct, the mainframe-based registration software that students have used since 1994. Self-Service can be accessed from any computer's Web browser and integrates information such as the Course Catalog, the Class Schedule and the General Education listing.
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When continuing students at the Urbana campus begin registering for their fall classes on April 5, they may find that the software for registration has taken a technological leap forward. UI-Direct, the registration system that students have used since 1994, is being retired this year and being replaced with UI2 Self-Service, a Web-based system that is part of SCT-Banner’s student module.
Web-savvy computer users may find Self-Service more convenient than its predecessor since users will be able to access the system from any computer with a browser such as Netscape or Internet Explorer, unlike UI-Direct, a mainframe-based system that required people to download special software.
The new system integrates information that was unavailable to users within UI-Direct, such as the Programs of Study, the General Education Course listing and the Class Schedule, which was previously known as the Timetable. Those resources are packaged together online as the Course Information Suite.
In Self-Service, students will be able to search for classes using various criteria, such as classes that meet on certain days, at specific times or that fulfill general education requirements, said Todd Nelson, UI Integrate campus manager.
The system also will display course sections’ maximum enrollments and the number of seats still available as students register. By contrast, UI-Direct only indicated whether enrollment was open or closed for a particular course section.
Self-Service also will provide students with graphical displays of their weekly class schedules and allow them to view their registration eligibility, their earliest registration times and any holds on their records.
When the records modules is implemented in fall 2004, students also will be able to access their tuition and fee assessments, grades and academic histories.
The new system also has perks for faculty members, such as printed class rosters with students’ names and e-mail addresses, real-time enrollment information and a Web-based interface for entering grades through the Banner Web for Faculty component. A faculty member could finish teaching his or her last class of the semester, immediately board a plane to Brazil to begin a sabbatical and enter students’ final grades from a laptop in a café thousands of miles away, said Dick Harris, project leader for UI Integrate’s student module.
In addition, Self-Service also has the capacity to maintain records on multiple majors and minors and multiple degrees for individual students, which UI-Direct cannot do.
Some of the system’s bells and whistles – such as wait-listing students for courses that have filled and precluding students from registering for classes until they have fulfilled the prerequisite requirements – may not be available until administration and faculty members determine how to integrate them with campus policy, or activation may be left to the discretion of the colleges and departments.
“Right now, no one really has to do anything for students to register, even if they haven’t taken the particular prerequisite courses,” said Margaret Krol, assistant vice president and UI Integrate project director. “But if you enforce that, then an action would have to be taken in order for them to register. In some cases, that might be a good thing; in others, it may be a burdensome step for the faculty and the department. But prerequisite checking is a course-by-course decision; it’s not like it has to be done for all courses.”
“We think the wait-listing feature will be most applicable and make life easier for departments that are currently using what we call the ‘yellow pad approach,’ ” Harris said. “It’s another feature that’s out there, and we would encourage departments to consider it, not this year, but in the future.”
Like its predecessor, Self-Service will calculate grades to the second decimal place. Since the Urbana campus uses a plus- and minus-grading system, some campus members pushed for system modifications that would calculate GPAs in “true thirds.” However, “the cost-benefit was just not deemed to be there in that small percentage of cases where that hundredth of a point would make a difference,” Harris said.
During development of the registration module, groups of students previewed the system and gave feedback on aspects such as its organization, the clarity of instructions and overall user friendliness. Students also engaged in timed, mock registrations so staff could ensure that users were able to complete registration within reasonable time frames.
Academic deans and other officials also met weekly throughout the fall and spring semesters to discuss related policy issues.
One of the challenges facing project staff members was determining how to configure the system for various levels of security. Nelson said although Banner is flexible in many ways, it was up to project staff members to determine how to make it conform to campus needs.
“We were able to come up with different security classes and profiles and ask the campus units to indicate who from their office should have access to certain types of screens,” Nelson said.
As a result of testing and users’ recommendations, project staff members did some tweaking; however, the number of modifications to the system overall wasminimized not only to contain project costs but to ensure that future upgrades from the vendor could be incorporated, Krol said.
Data such as continuing students’ demographic information, programs and curricula were converted from UI-Direct to the new system in mid-March, and the colleges and departments spent the last two weeks of March verifying and cleaning up data in preparation for registration.
In late September or early October, the student history component will go online, and continuing students’ academic history information up through summer 2004 will be converted from UI-Direct into Banner.