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Registration With PeopleSoft Going
More Smoothly This Year
By Richard Veilleux
On a shelf in one corner of the University Registrar's office is a copy of the book The Little Engine That Could. Resting against a cabinet in the other corner is a satchel, emblazoned with the PeopleSoft name.
That the two are in the same office is fitting. That they share it with Jeff von Munkwitz-Smith also fits: the Registrar was in Gulley Hall discussing PeopleSoft and the need for a new student information system just four days after arriving at UConn in 1997.
Now that PeopleSoft is being implemented, is it a success? "Time will tell," he says. "We're continuing to improve. We're registering students, we're graduating students, business is being done.
"The first time through is always rough," he adds. "It can't be helped. But we got better the last time students registered and we'll get better this time too."
"This time" began Nov. 4 for von Munkwitz-Smith, the staff in registration services, and about 13,000 UConn undergraduates who began logging onto the system at 7 a.m. And if the first four days are any indication, the worst may be over.
"This time last year, students were lined up right out of the Wilbur Cross building," von Munkwitz-Smith said Thursday. "So far this year, I haven't seen more than three or four students at our window at once, and many of them were here on non-PeopleSoft business."
To improve the process during the current registration period, says Scott Coopee, director of the PeopleSoft project, fewer students are given access to the system at any one time. In addition, appointments have been scheduled during a five-week period two weeks longer than last year.
Last year, as many as 500 students tried to access the system at once, causing lengthy delays and prompting multiple error messages.
When fully implemented, by spring 2004, PeopleSoft will allow faculty, staff, and students access to a range of records and University reports, creating a single system for admissions, financial aid, the bursar's office, the registrar, and academic advising. Already, students are registering for classes from their computers, and faculty are logging grades into the system from their computers.
The academic advising program is now operating, too, making that process easier for students and faculty, who can obtain a snapshot of student transcripts with a click of the mouse. The program also bars students from registering for certain courses until all pre-requisites have been met, a feature that didn't work well during the last registration period.
Soon, a student address change entered by the admissions office will automatically be updated in all other student record databases, without each department having to enter the change individually. That will save time and ensure that records are more accurate. If a student drops a course, the tuition, when appropriate, will be adjusted immediately.
Von Munkwitz-Smith says the reporting function will soon be in operation, too, making it easier for departments to access up-to-date University or student statistics at a moment's notice. He says that should enhance decision-making.
Major upgrades currently being made in the system, including moving the program off the University's mainframe and onto a Unix system, are expected to make all facets of the program faster and cleaner, says Coopee. Staff are also upgrading to a new, web-based version of PeopleSoft, which will make it more user-friendly.
"Response time is the most serious problem we've had, and that will change with the upgrades," he says. "A Unix system of this size may be able to operate 10 times faster than a mainframe. That will help everything work better."
The move to Unix will be completed before undergraduates begin registering for the fall 2003 semester.
But, warns Randy Bell, interim director of information technology, "There's still work to be done. We need a very focused effort. And in some ways, it gets more complex as we bring up the other pieces."
Still, Bell says, going to an integrated system "was a very good move. Once we have a consistent set of data for every student, all these functions will perform much more smoothly. It will be a big help for everyone."