Student web portal in the process of being redesigned

The Student Academic Systems Initiative is a project to replace UBC’s current Student Information System (SIS) technology. Everything in the student portal, such as the SSC, is to be redesigned by 2019.

“Replacing the student information system is one of the largest system replacements at the university because it is so core to everything that the institution is involved with,” said Jennifer Burns, UBC’s chief information officer.

The current system is over 27 years old, but is still quite advanced according to Kate Ross, associate vice-president enrolment services and registrar.

“UBC built its system as a number of large research institutions have done and because of that, we have a lot of functionality in the system and we’ve had a lot of flexibility as well,” said Ross. “We’ve just reached the point where we can’t extend the life any further. We have a lot of new needs as the teaching and learning evolves that we can’t match.”

Since the Student Academic Systems Initiative (SASI) was officially introduced in 2014, the team is still very much in the design period.

“[This phase] is about really gathering all the requirements that we need to build an implementation plan, get the costing for replacing the total system and really develop the buy-in [from] the institution,” said Ross.

The path to replacing the SIS is a long one since it requires moving over 100 years worth of data onto another system.

The process involved is very user-centred. Ross estimates that consultations with staff and faculty have already reached the hundreds. Students are also involved in the new development, particularly in SASI’s governance structure.

Last fall, a study was conducted during which students keep diaries of their interactions with the current SIS. These consultations are set to continue throughout the process of development and beyond.

“It’s a big challenge for us because we have to do it at both campuses and with all the faculties and so it’s no small feat — but we are excited about it,” said Ross. “[We] need that input from students staff and faculty on how best to engage and we have to try lots of different things to make sure we get really good input that helps us.”

Ross and Burns hope that students will also be given the opportunity to get more involved through co-op and work-learn positions.

While the new system is a long way from ready, Burns and Ross are able to offer a couple examples as to what students can expect to see. For one, they hope the system will be able to recommend courses based on program requirements and past interests. The system should also be able to tell students when they are able to graduate.

Overall, Burns hopes the new SIS will allow students, faculty and staff a seamless experience throughout their entire UBC journey.

“What is very important for me to be able to express is that the technology and the system itself is not the end goal, it’s the experience for the student and the institution,” said Burns.