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  October 29, 2001

Students to Register for
Spring Classes Online

Touch-tone registration, introduced less than 10 years ago, is about to become a thing of the past. Beginning Nov. 12, students will register for class and faculty will obtain class rosters and manage class enrollment online.

The new University-wide Student Administration System based on PeopleSoft software will include class rosters, class schedules, unofficial transcripts, and grade and course histories. A system of randomly assigned numbers will be available for students wanting to take classes requiring the instructor's consent. Many functions will be automatic. The system will automatically check, for example, that a student registering for a particular class has fulfilled the prerequisites.

Web-based grading will begin in December and a new form of advising report will be available in January.

The change will affect all University campuses, including the regional campuses, the School of Social Work, the School of Law, Continuing Studies, and those students at the Health Center who are enrolled through Storrs.

Students and faculty will be able to log on to the Web from anywhere using a new ID and password to be distributed in early November that will give them access to their own accounts. The assigned password can be changed to one of choice, a process similar to receiving a new personal identification number for a bank card.

In addition to the ID and password, faculty and students will receive a quick reference card, with step-by-step instructions on how to use the system. The instructions will also be available on the Registrar's and Graduate School websites. And instructors and advisers may attend a 90-minute overview session at the Dodd Center on Nov. 1. Two are scheduled, at 10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Further sessions will be scheduled.

Janice Bazzani, a student administration system trainer, says many people to whom she has demonstrated the new system are surprised by how simple it is to use: "They say, 'is that all there is to it?'"

Staff who require broader access to the system will use a Windows-based environment. They are required to attend training in order to receive a system ID and password. More than 400 people from various campuses have already attended the two-day training at the Depot Campus and the training will continue to be available.

The new system was tested this summer with the Graduate School. More than 6,000 graduate students registered for fall classes using the Web.

Paul Kobulnicky, vice chancellor for information services, says it was beneficial to begin with a relatively small population. "We were dealing with experienced students who might get mad if things went wrong but wouldn't panic," he says. "And we had a back-up. The old system was still running."

With a few glitches ironed out and the pilot successfully completed, Kobulnicky and the PeopleSoft team are confident the system can now handle the registration of up to 25,000 students for spring 2002 classes.

When the system goes live Nov. 12 (Nov. 5 at the law school, which traditionally begins registration a week earlier), specialized staff will fan out to a number of locations to support new users and there will be extra staff at the help desk in Storrs and the Registrar's office to help people navigate the new system. Computer terminals are available in Homer Babbidge Library and Wilbur Cross Building for those who do not have access to a personal computer.

Steve Jarvi, director of the Academic Center for Entering Students, and the staff of ACES are ready to help students use the system to pick next semester's classes and to register. Although he expects this will keep his staff busy to begin with, in the long run, he says, the new system will enable students to do many functions themselves.

"Long-term, we will be able to do so much more just advising," Jarvi says. "The students will then seek us out for bigger, more important issues, such as choosing a major."

His staff will also be able to do their work more efficiently. For example, the new system will contain students' mailing and e-mail addresses, so that they can be contacted quickly with such information as deadlines for registration and adding and

dropping classes, or changes in curriculum. The old system recognized only on-campus or parents' home addresses.

Once people are used to the new system, the team say, they will find it easier and more convenient to use.

"It's like the shift from DOS to Windows," says Eric Soulsby, an engineering professor and special assistant to the vice provost for undergraduate education who has been a member of the PeopleSoft implementation team from the start. "There is a learning curve, but the end result is more efficient."

Kobulnicky says the new system gives users greater independence. "Once they're comfortable with the system, faculty will have the ability to resolve a lot of problems themselves or through the administrative offices in their departments, without going to the Registrar's Office or the Graduate School," he says. "The same is true for students. That's the selling point of the entire system."

Using the PeopleSoft system for registration is one step in a more comprehensive plan to replace several administrative systems with an integrated system that can provide consistent, accurate, and complete information.

"This is the first step in integrating all of our student administratio n systems," says Scott Coopee, director of the PeopleSoft project. The old systems had outlived their life cycle and had to be replaced, he says.

The next steps will be to incorporate admissions, financial aid and billing into the system. The system is expected to be fully integrated by 2003.

Members of the PeopleSoft team say they will welcome constructive feedback on the new registration system. Contact phone numbers and e-mail addresses will be posted on the PeopleSoft website: http://www.

Still, the transition will require patience and good will. "Even if it works perfectly," says Jeff von Munkwitz-Smith, University registrar, "it will be unfamiliar."

It will help to stay focused on the reason for introducing the system, he says: "The goal is to better serve students and faculty, and we believe there are many things about the new system that will make life easier for both faculty and students."

Elizabeth Omara-Otunnu

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