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PeopleSoft Passes Test With Mixed Grades
By Richard Veilleux
The University's transition from bubble sheets to an electronic system for recording students' grades is nearly complete. And although the process encountered several glitches, the angst caused by the change is easing.
By Tuesday, grades had been recorded for all but about 90 of the 5,200 sections. Officials say many of the remaining sections, including independent studies, field work, courses with graduate instructors, traditionally arrive late in any system.
"Like most everything else involved with the PeopleSoft rollout, we learned a lot while rolling this out that we just couldn't have tested before," says Paul Kobulnicky, vice chancellor for information services.
Still, he says, "some things worked well," a sentiment that is echoed by Jeff von Munkwitz Smith, University Registrar. The registrar says he fielded a number of calls from faculty who were pleased with the ease of the new grading system - when it worked.
Too often though, he and Kobulnicky acknowledge, it didn't. But they also promise that, by the time faculty submit grades this spring, every effort will have been made to ensure the system works smoothly.
Troubles encountered last month ran the gamut from communication issues to access problems. For example, some professors' birthdays were not recorded in the University's system, as required by the software. Others were system problems, large and small, but only one is yet to be corrected: when recording grades through the web interface for large lecture classes, the system only saved the first 100 names. Those grades had to be entered by the registrar's staff using PeopleSoft software directly.
Ernie Zirakzadeh, a political science professor, experienced a range of reactions to the new software but says he can see its advantages compared with the old system.
"I had two courses, and when entering the first set of grades, I made some mistakes and had some trouble. It was very frustrating," he says. "But once I got the hang of it, it went smoothly. It was speedy and very convenient."
Zirakzadeh also called the registrar's office for help and, he says, they made all the difference. "They were really helpful and patient. They walked me through the screens. I think it was one of the best transitions of a major project I've experienced," he adds.
There are more than 5,200 course sections offered at UConn, von Munkwitz says. Of those, faculty were able to record grades for about 4,100 sections before the deadline. Normally, he says, about 150 sections are not recorded by the deadline.
"What's surprising is that we at UConn are still discovering problems that nobody else had discovered," Kobulnicky says, referring to the hundreds of universities, large and small, that have already installed PeopleSoft and worked through many of the bugs. He is particularly curious about the flaw that frustrated instructors of large classes.
"Nobody at other universities mentioned this. We're
not sure yet if it was caused by a decision we made that had
unanticipated consequences or if other universities just never
reported it," he says. "But we'll continue to look
into it, and then correct it."