Improving Administrative Efficiencies
Developed Major Software Tools
We developed several creative and innovative software solutions for the benefit of the community using the principle that we need to leverage the data in central databases while innovating on the way we deliver the data for use by the end users:
- The Faculty Appointment Letter – This was previously a paper-based process which sends a personalized letter to each faculty member whose contract is renewed. In addition, two paper letters were sent from two separate offices. The redesigned system eliminates the paper process completely, allowing the faculty member to sign on and review their conditions of appointment. A companion back office tool allows the Dean to not only review the current year’s information, but all of the historical information for a particular faculty member.
- Textbook Registration System – The Higher Education Opportunities Act requires us to inform the students about the textbooks that will be used for a course well in advance so they have an opportunity to shop for them and buy them at the lowest price. We created an elegant solution to this whereby a faculty member need to only enter the ISBN numbers of the textbooks for a given course. If they don’t know the ISBN number, they can look it up online.
- Grades and Roster – In addition to easy lookup of current courses and their rosters, this system also provides the ability for an instructor to look up the history of courses taught, the students in the particular courses, and the grade the students received in the course. The user interface is far superior than the Banner delivered lookup of the same information. We have also enhanced it to show a link to the student’s ePortfolio, as well as whether the student signed up for Turnitin anti-plagiarism software. Further enhancements such as integration with the Academic Alert system have been planned.
- Graduate Online Tuition and Housing Deposit – Provide Graduate admitted students the ability to pay their tuition and/or housing deposit using an online system.
- New Course Agreement System – This system replaces a cumbersome paper-based process by allowing the faculty and school administrators to propose a new course for a particular curriculum. This online process involves several levels of electronic approvals and has built-in workflow.
- Improving E-mail Communications Between Faculty and Students (CRN-based e-mail) – This system allows faculty to e-mail all the students in a course they are teaching. Simply address an e-mail to CRN@pace.edu (CRN is in the format nnnnn.yyyyss , where nnnnn is the 5 digit CRN, yyyy is the year and ss is the 2 digit semester codes – January Intersession – 10, Spring – 20, May Intersession – 30, August Intersession – 60, and the Fall – 70) and the e-mail will be sent to all currently enrolled students in the course.
- Course Schedule Explorer, Italian Placement Exam, Orientation Management System – Details can be found by clicking here.
Improved Access to Data
In our commitment to improving access to reliable data, we developed a comprehensive Financial Aid Dashboard and launched a major Data Warehouse initiative.
- Financial Aid Dashboard – In collaboration with senior staff members appointed by President Friedman, we helped produce a Financial Aid Dashboard in record time for tracking various key performance indicators relating to enrollment stats as well as financial aid data. This is a critical step in better understanding financial aid commitments of the University as well as enrollment trends.
- Data Warehouse – The lack of a good data warehouse has made it difficult to easily access the data stored in Banner. After careful research, we purchased Higher Education Data Warehouse software from iStrategy, LLC. Implementation of the data warehouse began in the spring and will initially focus on the Banner student module. The student module deals with all student aspects including: enrollment, admissions, applications, census, scheduling, graduation, etc. We’ve worked with Enrollment Management, OSA, and OPAIR to implement our institutional rules, validate data, and create reports. These reports have drill-down capability so they can be fully customized by users. The initial rollout of this module is slated for October, 2010.
Increased Efficiencies in Systems
We need to be creative in implementing systems that are more efficient operationally while trying to stick to the principles of greening the planet.
- Planned and Installed Major software Upgrades (or 8, 9 and 10) and Increased Quotas - Major software used at the University was upgraded to significantly enhanced versions. All upgrades were well planned and executed. The upgrades included Banner – Version 8, Blackboard – Version 9.1, and Microsoft Exchange 2010. Concurrent with the upgrade to Exchange, all faculty and staff e-mail quotas were increased to 2GB (from 100MB). The upgrade to Blackboard provided an enhanced user interface, gradebook function, and also included an increase in course quota to 2GB (from 250 MB).
- Implemented a new Emergency Communication System - We helped implement a hosted Emergency Communication system called Connect ED. It was used multiple times throughout the year to effectively announce campus closings to the Pace community. We have over 6500 users who have signed up to receive notifications via phone calls, e-mails, and/or text messages.
- Modern Backup System – A modern disk-based backup system incorporating data de-duplication (which saves a lot of disk space by detecting duplicate data amongst systems that are being backed up and saving only one copy of such data) was implemented last year. The new system replaced an aging, slow (age and slowness are not related!), and less reliable tape-based backup system and allows for quicker and more efficient backup and restore of critical University data. Implementation of this system also allows us to discontinue the use of costly and error prone backup tapes resulting in reduced costs.
- Virtualization - Over the past year, at least 30 physical servers were ‘converted’ to virtual servers and decommissioned. Server virtualization results in increased manageability and reduces energy consumption and space requirements. In addition, we have implemented several thin clients in computer labs to help with green computing.
- Implementation of an Asset Management System -Microsoft SCCM (System Center Configuration Manager), an asset management and software delivery system, was installed. SCCM is instrumental in providing accurate technical details regarding the hardware and can be used to deploy software to these systems. For the first time, we have accurate data on the faculty and staff computers (those that “join the Pace domain”) including the model number and approximate age of the computer which can be used to better plan support and replacement cycles.
- VPN Enhancement – We installed a browser-based Virtual Private Network (VPN) software that can be easily accessed by any valid Pace user by going to https://vpn.pace.edu rather than installing a client software which had limitations on which operating systems it ran on. VPN software is required to access many of the secure data on Pace servers when your computer is outside the Pace network.
Designed and Implemented a One-Stop Technology Support and Services
- ITS support staff from the Helpdesk, Client Support, Computer Resource Centers and Educational Media Centers were combined to one functional unit. Implemented and documented policies, procedures, best practices and staff training initiatives that created transparency and improved the service we provide to the Pace community (e.g., Service Standards).
- No Bounce, Save a Student, and Secret Shopper are already proven service programs that were expanded to all newly acquired areas of User Services and Office of Administration.
- Usage of our Helpdesk technology was expanded by offering its capability to additional University service providers (e.g.; CTLT).
- An interdepartmental training registration system was implemented to create consistency in how the Office of Administration promotes training and processes requests.
- A model that provides a single point of contact for technical support was developed for all Academic/Administrative staff and faculty. ITS made process/procedure changes to reduce turnaround time on IT request tickets from 6-8 days down to 1-2 days.
- Remote support capabilities were improved to increase technician productivity.
Improved Phone Services
- The software on the administrative phone system was upgraded to the latest release allowing ITS to add new features as well as keep systems current and maintained properly. The Law School and Graduate Center telephone system hardware was combined to share system resources and licenses.
- Uninterruptable Power Supply batteries were replaced in the campus administrative phone system. Batteries were over eight years old and would not be able to keep systems stable in an emergency outage.
- Local and long distance services were combined to one carrier providing the University a substantial savings on local and long-distance phone service.