Volume 12, Number 16 April 15, 2005

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Online student registration begins

New service through PAWS starts without a hitch

By Lawrence McMahen

U of S student services took a leap into the Information Age this month with the successful launch of online student registration.

It’s just one of a number of new online student information tools that are being introduced as part of the four-year-old Si! Project, aimed at upgrading the University’s student-related data and making it easier for students, faculty and staff to use.

Rick Bunt

Rick Bunt

The new system is called SiRIUS, and its registration and other functions – such as student financial records, marks, class lists and schedules – will all be accessed through the University’s user-friendly, password-protected online portal known as PAWS.

Rick Bunt, Associate Vice-President of Information & Communications Technology, and Lea Pennock, Director of the Si! Project, say they’re delighted with the relatively problem-free introduction of online student registration.

“It’s up, it’s live – and it’s also on time and within budget,” Bunt says.

“This is the culmination of four years of a lot of hard work by a lot of people from across campus,” he adds, including from the Si! Project team, Information Technology Services (ITS), Student & Enrolment Services Division (SESD) and Financial Services, along with advisory boards from colleges and many others. Bunt says the collaborative nature of the project meant it always kept the real needs of the eventual student-users of the system at the forefront.

He and Pennock say while many other universities already have online registration, the U of S is now “close to the front of the pack” in offering it and other student services in a fully integrated way through the PAWS portal.

Pennock says there was an intensive period of preparing the technology to handle the new system, and then a lot of pre-testing and de-bugging in recent months. Mock registrations were done in February and March, with testers suggesting a number of improvements to the on-screen presentation.

Then, Pennock says, with full support teams at-the-ready in case of any problems, the system went live April 4-5 for a pilot group of Commerce and Nursing students to do their actual registration for Spring & Summer classes.

Lea Pennock

Lea Pennock

“We went live at 12:00 a.m., and 1 minute and 46 seconds later our first student – Andrew Spencer – registered in a fourth-year Commerce class,” Pennock says.

“Students have been asking for 24/7 service, and they really meant it. More than half of our 300 registrations during the two-day pilot took place before the start of business hours April 4th!” Pennock notes one student registered from Sweden, and there was no 10-minute period in the 24 hours of April 4 when there wasn’t some online registration activity going on.

The pilot registration went off without a hitch, and as of April 11 the online system went live for all students, available first to graduate and final-year students, then to first-years, then third-years, then second-years. That was the order in the old U-Star touch-tone telephone registration system, which began in 1993 and will be phased out by May 31.

This marks the first time that graduate students are registering themselves for classes.

Four colleges – Law, Medicine, Dentistry and Veterinary Medicine – aren’t yet taking part in online registration. But it’s hoped they will come onboard in the future to take advantage of what Bunt calls “a powerful new tool that can be adapted to meet the needs of all colleges”.

Demonstrations and training for staff on the new system are now underway, and 10 project staff, who Pennock calls “Si! Stars”, have been deployed to assist colleges for one year.

Bunt and Pennock note that online registration is just one of an array of new online services that will be offered through PAWS. The new financial information system, UniFi, comes on-stream May 14. Also in May, faculty and advisors will get “self-service” access to the various functions of SiRIUS, and more than eight million academic records from the old student information system will be transferred into the new system in June.

In July, students will be able to register online for the regular 2005-06 Fall and Winter terms.

Development of the new $12-million student information system has been underway since 2001. This included extensive campus consultation, visits to a number of universities, and a detailed review of vendor offerings – leading to selection in spring 2003 of the

SCT Banner system. PAWS was introduced almost two years ago and content and functions for students, faculty and staff continue to grow.

More information is available by subscribing to the SiRIUS users group in PAWS or by phoning the Project Office at 966-2566.

For more information, contact communications.office@usask.ca

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