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Technology in education: from portal to payroll --Higher education realizes gains from multiple technologies

Technology in education: from portal to payroll

The information management needs of a university are as diverse as its student body. Every department-from the chancellor’s office to the admissions office-has different requirements and areas of interest and expertise, but all can benefit from technological advances in knowledge sharing. Whether the technology is used to manage enrollment forms or to provide distance learning, the university user-staff, faculty and student-profits.

Take, for example, a recent announcement that three vendors are collaborating on what they tout as the first enterprise information portal (EIP) designed specifically for higher education. Campus Pipeline (www.campuspipeline.com), SCT (www.sctcorp.com) and Sun (www.sun.com) have developed a system that integrates Internet technology with campus information systems software.

Students can use the system to check grades, register for classes, apply for financial aid, pay tuition and order transcripts. The system can enhance distance learning and provide online faculty hours, study groups and course-specific chat.

The Campus Pipeline is scheduled to roll out this spring to more than 200,000 students, faculty and administrators at Appalachian State University, Saint Joseph’s University, Saint Louis University, Salt Lake Community College, Southern Alberta Institute of Technology, Villanova University and the Universities of Idaho, Memphis and Oregon.

Procurement process

Incentive to launch new technology in higher education can come from unexpected sources-for example, from politicians. When Illinois legislators passed a bill to provide vendors with more access to the bidding process, the University of Illinois was charged with developing the system, and the Urbana-Champaign campus (www.uiuc.edu) was chosen as the site for an electronic procurement bulletin.

"While the state higher education institutions had already established a procurement consortium," said Gloria Keeley, director of systems and staff development in the Office of Business Affairs Urbana-Champaign, "the new electronic bulletin provides a mechanism to easily find opportunities for consolidating purchases to take advantage of volume pricing. It also gives them an easy way to replicate information about similar purchases, which saves preparation time and allows for improved customer service."

The bulletin is easy to use and has improved the competitive environment, Keeley said, adding, "Buyers are finding new sources for goods and services that they need to provide to their campus customers."

The new system, which uses an Internet-based workflow solution, requires more than a dozen campuses, representing nine public universities around the state, to submit notices to the bulletin. Using products from Keyfile (www.keyfile.com) and New Image Technologies (www.nitdm.com), the buyer fills out a form, such as a competitive sealed bid, which automatically activates multiple processes. A validation check, for example, ensures compliance with a law that mandates that the notice be available for public viewing for a certain amount of time. The notice is automatically routed to the bulletin manager who publishes it on a public Web site where it is available at no cost to vendors.

Chancellor’s challenge

Aware that Internet technology is enhancing the delivery and exchange of information everywhere, the University of California Los Angeles’ (UCLA, www.ucla.edu) Chancellor’s Office wanted the same service and speed of delivery for the information it handles. The chancellor, vice chancellors, assistants and staff receive thousands of pages of mail each day. The Chancellor’s Communications Services (CCS) tracks action items for 120 managers and executives campuswide. Another department, Campus Student Loan services, receives up to 1,000 loan documents per day.

"We wanted to tell our users that they could utilize the same Internet interface they use to get other data and applications," said Greg Partipilo of the UCLA Administrative Information Systems (AIS) department.

Frustrated by the growing volume of paper, Partipilo wanted to transform the mail and loan documents into Web-friendly electronic images and text.

The new system consists of Kofax (www.kofax.com) Ascent Capture, which handles scanning, indexing and full-text character recognition, and Excalibur Technologies’ (www.excalib.com) RetrievalWare, which delivers search, retrieval and workflow through the Web browser interface.

Assistant Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Thomas Lifka said that the new system allows him to provide faster service to students, professors and government agencies.

"What I’m finding is that many items in the CCS image library are of interest to me and improve my ability to do my work, which in the past I would never have seen or even known existed," he said. "I can also share documents with my staff without copying and delivery."

Among the benefits, Partipilo said, the system has improved responsiveness without increasing staff, allows officials to check for important documents and take action through their Web browsers.

Payroll prospers

To improve its business practices and management tools, Yale University (www.yale.edu) decided in 1997 to re-engineer its business processes and renovate its computer systems. Officials chose Oracle (www.oracle.com) Applications, an enterprise software package, as the core of the university’s redesigned computer-based financial and human resource/payroll system.

"We went through a thorough process to fully understand the business requirements of each department within the university," said Jeremy Dunn, technical consultant. "This allowed us to identify appropriate document management package candidates." Using the Internet, he researched more than a dozen document management software packages, eventually choosing FormScape from AFP Technology (www.afptech.com).

"We had a relatively short time-three months-in which to build our document management business requirements, evaluate the products, build the applications, test and go live," said Dunn. Targeted first were purchase orders, accounts payable checks and payroll checks.

Since July 1998, using FormScape, Yale has processed more than 10,000 purchase orders at a rate of 250 per day. About 1,000 accounts payable checks are being printed per day, and the university estimates that an additional 20,000 payroll checks will be processed this spring.

"We’re moving to a more distributed computing environment at Yale," said Frank Denig, director of procurement. "Eventually we’ll have POs and checks printed at 25 different locations on campus to coincide with the purchasing authority granted to these locations through the Oracle system. In addition we wanted to be able to either print or fax purchase orders to specific vendors on a vendor-by-vendor basis. FormScape can handle both of these requirements."

Easier enrollment

Carnegie Mellon (www.cmu.com) promotes itself as a pioneer in the use of computing in education. Five years ago, university officials asked students what would increase their satisfaction, and they responded that they wanted a new enrollment process.

Consequently CMU created an online enrollment process, which involves an enterprise solution from Hewlett-Packard (www.hp.com), called OnLine Registration (OLR). The system reduces registration time from one day to five minutes, and meets the university’s goals of providing online enrollment that is fast, user-friendly and fair.

Scanning solution

Case Western Reserve University (www.cwru.edu) is buying more than 200 networked digital multifunction systems from Canon USA (www.usa.canon.com), and selected Simplify (www.simplifyinc .com) software for network scanning and paper document distribution. About 5,000 seats, including students, faculty and staff, will eventually be implemented at Case Western.

"These products will enable employees to scan documents for electronic distribution throughout the university network, improving communications and easing workflow, said Dr. Raymond Neff, VP of Information Services at Case Western.

The system will be installed and maintained by Ikon Office Solutions (www.ikon.com).

Distance degrees

Tulane University (www.tulane.edu) has implemented distance learning technology in its Center for Applied Environmental Public Health, a division of the Tulane Medical Center. The software will enable graduate students to earn a two-year degree solely via distance learning.

The students will use ClassPoint from White Pine Software (www.wpine.com) to collaborate on group projects and to communicate with instructors and faculty, as well as for instructor-led distance learning. Sixty graduate students are participating remotely from all over the country and world in weekly two-hour class sessions.

Automatic application

Duke University Graduate School (www.duke.edu) has developed a customized application using Apply Yourself, an Internet-based solution from LAM Technologies (www.lamtech.com).

Donna Giles, assistant dean for admission at Duke University Graduate School, saw the potential and inevitability of Internet-based electronic applications, and did not want to wait for implementation of a new campuswide information system under proposal.

"I knew that neither the system nor the admissions module would be online immediately," said Giles, "and I could not afford to wait and possibly lose high-quality candidates to schools that had already implemented electronic applications."

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