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Communications and Agricultural Education

Communications and Agricultural Education

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Integrating iSIS

by Robin Blume

Was I supposed to enroll in a lab? Why do these classes conflict? How come the system is so slow? Why does my session keep timing out? Sound familiar? For many, these questions kept coming up when trying to enroll in classes. That was when the K-State Access Technology System, commonly known as KATS was used. K-State has chosen to implement a new system called iSIS to replace KATS. “There are a lot of features the students will like in the new system,” says Kevin Donnelly, assistant dean for the College of Agriculture. One of those features is a three-step process of enrolling, which is similar to buying products online. “I think students are used to the shopping cart approach, whether it is buying something on the Internet or searching for classes,” Donnelly says.

Students can search and select classes, and then view them. Just like ordering a product online, students must then confirm the classes are correct before they are enrolled. “I liked that it showed your classes before you actually enrolled in them,” says Andy Newkirk, agronomy student. “It makes you confirm that those are really the classes you want to be in before you are officially enrolled.” Newkirk, who used iSIS for the first
time to enroll in fall classes, says iSIS is pretty easy to use once the student figures out the basics.

How it all Began

There was a long road to be traveled before iSIS could be used by students. It all started with K-State’s Legacy Application Systems Empowered Replacement, or LASER, project. According to the K-State Web site, LASER is part of the largest information integration initiative at K-State. Its objective is to replace existing financial accounting and student information systems with new applications. This project basically took four
major systems and combined them into one, says Jennifer Gehrt, who serves as the director for the LASER project.

Besides KATS, the other systems were used by administrators and included the Student Information System, Financial Aid Management System, and Billing and Receivables System. Those four systems were combined into one program, called iSIS. According to Gehrt, the software was developed by Oracle and part of that company is PeopleSoft Campus Solutions. K-State faculty decided to name it iSIS as a way for people to recognize it is an upgrade from the old student information system.

New Features

Gehrt says students will notice there are many benefits to the new system. For example, it manages wait lists. If a student wants into a class that is full, they can place themselves on the wait list. As soon as a seat in the class opens, the first person on that wait list is automatically enrolled in the class. An email notification of enrollment is also sent to the student. According to Gehrt, when enrolling, students can see exactly how many other students are already in the class and how many are on the wait list. This will assist students in making enrollment decisions. “If the student sees there are 30 people on the wait list, then they can go ahead
and decide to enroll in another class,” Gehrt says.

Before iSIS was implemented, prerequisites were checked manually by the colleges, Gehrt says. Now, when a student tries enrolling in a class for which they have not met the prerequisites, they will receive an error message and will not be able to enroll in that class. “It helps to make sure we have students in the classes that they should be in,” Gehrt says. Another feature that helps students enroll in the right classes is class associations. This refers to classes with several parts like a lecture, lab and recitation. Gehrt says the new system does not allow a student to enroll in one part of the class without the others.

Other items iSIS enforces are time conflicts and the 21-hour rule, Gehrt explains. Students are not allowed to enroll in two classes that meet at the same time. The system also does not allow students to
be in more than 21 hours, including wait listed classes. To help protect students, Gehrt says, social security numbers are no longer used as identifiers. Instead, the ninedigit number in the top-left corner of the Wildcat ID cards is used.

Policy Implementation

“The new system gives the whole university a more credible enrollment management system that really reflects university policies,” Donnelly says. Donnelly is also the chair of the Committee on Academic Policy and Procedures, which is the group that works primarily with academic policies. Within the committee, a task force was created to make sure those policies could be enforced in the new system. “Our job was to look at the policy and decide how to best set up iSIS to enforce
that policy,” Donnelly says. “We wanted to make sure K-State’s existing academic policies could be implemented by the new system.”

One of those policies dealt with prerequisites. “The biggest difference between the two systems is the
prerequisites,” Donnelly says. “We spent a lot of time deciding how the new system should enforce prerequisites. If students don’t meet the prerequisites, the system will keep them from enrolling.”

When students are enrolling for the upcoming semester, they won’t have to worry about problems they previously experienced with KATS. According to Gehrt, students will not have a problem with the system slowing down. “We have sized it (iSIS) to handle any number of users,” Gehrt says. “When enrollment first opened up in March, we peaked at just less than 15 percent capacity.”

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