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December 13, 2004

Online Help Available for Faculty Using PeopleSoft

Grading a mountain of papers can be daunting, but entering those grades online should be easier this semester, now that instructions for faculty using the student information system are available online.

“The new online help feature is designed to make the system more effective and efficient,” says Dolan Evanovich, vice provost for enrollment management. “Most instructors use the system only once or twice a semester. Once people become familiar with PeopleSoft and use it regularly, they find it works well. But the feedback we were getting was that PeopleSoft can be a bit challenging to use in the beginning, especially for those who don’t use the system often.”

To access the help feature, click on the bar labeled “Instructor Help” in PeopleSoft. The PeopleSoft help button is also still available for those users – mostly administrative staff – who find it helpful.

PeopleSoft is an institution-wide information system that currently supports registration, grading, student records, admissions, and billing. Financial aid will be added in 2005.

Faculty currently can use the system to check enrollments, obtain permission numbers for over-enrolling classes, download class rosters, and review advisees’ transcripts, in addition to entering final grades each semester.

To access the help feature, users won’t have to go to a manual or search for information, because it’s embedded in the process they’re trying to use. The feature, designed by the Institute for Teaching and Learning, is accessible from both PC’s and Macintosh computers. Clicking on a “view demo” button brings up a video clip that shows the user how to navigate the system.

In addition to online help for the various functions, other relevant materials – such as deadline information and appropriate University policies and procedures – are included on the website.

When PeopleSoft is upgraded – a major upgrade is anticipated next year – the help feature will be updated to reflect the changes.

PeopleSoft is designed to accommodate a wide range of users at a variety of higher education institutions, but it is not tailored to any one particular group, according to Jeff von Munkwitz-Smith, registrar, who chairs the PeopleSoft advisory committee. “Because of this, it can take a lot of clicks to get where you want to go,” he says. “Now, with instructions right there in the system, written in lay person’s terminology, it will not only be easier for faculty to do the basic functions but easier to tap into a broader range of functions that are available in the system.”

Many faculty could benefit from using degree progress advising reports, for example, but without help, using that function is not intuitive, says von Munkwitz-Smith. The online instructions walk the user through this and other tasks.

“We tried to make the system more user-friendly,” says Catherine Healy, an instructional designer with the Institute for Teaching and Learning, who helped design the instructions. “For example, the PeopleSoft help button didn’t work until you were where you wanted to go. We created a link that would work at any point.”

David Miller, a professor of psychology and a member of the PeopleSoft advisory committee, says the instructions “are a big improvement over what was there before.”

Healy says feedback on the help feature will be welcome. There is a link on the site for comments and suggestions.

Evanovich says the next step will be to release similar self-help instructions for students.

“We wanted to develop the self-help for faculty first, because grades need to be entered soon,” he says. “But as we move forward with implementing PeopleSoft for financial aid next year, we will install self-service modules for other functions as well.”

Fall semester final exams begin Dec. 13. Grades must be sent to the Registrar’s Office by 4 p.m., Dec. 22.