In the past, University of Wisconsin-Platteville staff had to manually enter the records of any student pursuing an online degree. With more than 2,500 students enrolled, this was no easy feat—especially considering staff also had to manually enter course registration, financial aid and even basic contact information. This effort required approximately 500 hours of staff time each semester—or 1,500 hours a year—to accommodate the university’s three-semester system.
While all this effort happened behind the scenes, it had a negative impact on the student experience. Students had no access to the system and could not view their grades, financial records or other critical information.
It was clear to those at UW-Platteville that this process had to be improved. In 2011, the Distance Learning Center hired five functional analysts to review the existing student information system and determine how to improve the processes surrounding distance learners. The team included one full-time analyst and four current employees who devoted 25 percent of their time to the project, for an equivalent of two FTE staff members.
They spent all of 2011 working with other university departments—including financial aid, admissions, advising, student records and student financials. After months of planning, designing and testing, the team was able to implement a completely revised student data system. This new system eliminated the need for manual data entry.
The solution revolved around PeopleSoft. The team implemented the system using existing PeopleSoft functionality, 75 percent of which UW-Platteville previously had access to but had not been using to its full potential, says Kim Maier, one of the functional analysts.
Twenty-five percent of the PeopleSoft REPASS Project (Reimplementation of the Pioneer Administrative Software System) involved creating custom functionality.
The change made life easier for faculty, staff and students. When it went live in the spring of 2012, distance ed students were finally able to log in to the student records system, view and accept financial aid, register for classes, view grades and outstanding graduation requirements, pay for their courses and print grades and transcripts for employer reimbursement.
“Students can now self-manage their records. They don’t have to call to register for classes or to change their addresses,” says Maier. “They can do it all on their own time in seconds.”
On the administrative side, student contact information, course registrations and other important information is now automatically in the system. Reporting functionality has also increased immensely.
Administrators and advisors no longer have to send emails individually to communicate with distance learning students. A series of 50 communications between recruitment and graduation are now automated, and messages can be edited and sent to individual students or to groups with ease. “Now we can set it and forget it,” says Maier.
“We’ve seen substantial growth in our online student population in the last 10 years,” Maier says. “We reviewed the gaps within our business model and technology was the biggest. The new system changed everything.”