North Shore Community College: Blueprint for Technology Implementation

When North Shore Community College (NSCC), a public college in Massachusetts with more than 95 degree programs, wanted to integrate its campus business on the Internet, it decided to use Campus Pipeline Inc.'s Web Platform solution. In doing so, it envisioned a single sign-on platform to connect its five campus locations, streamline back-office work, develop a self-service system for student services, and enhance interaction among campus users.

The building blocks of the integration were the platform and SCT Banner's online student information system, including Web-for-Student and Web-for-Faculty. Gary Ham, the college's chief information officer, says, "It was like discovering gravity. Campus Pipeline provided a single context from which we could confidently achieve all we had set out to do and more."

NSCC has now been live with Campus Pipeline's platform for one year. Students have access to online course registration, payment features, transcripts, financial aid, course schedules, e-mail, calendars, chat and discussion board areas, and even full-time online tutoring.

Developers said the successful Campus Pipeline platform implementation was directly related to extensive planning conducted before and during the project. The NSCC Information Systems group developed specific objectives to ensure campus teams would be working toward the same goal. Ham demonstrated the features of the system to campus stakeholders. The decision to move forward was made during a meeting of faculty and management.

Inviting users to form teams to make functional decisions about portal implementation was critical for gaining consensus. Three teams were then formed as a means to split the project into logical segments.

First, an SCT Banner Web Functional Team was charged with configuring SCT's Web-for-Student and Web-for-Faculty products to reflect the college's actual practices. Team members represented all of the service areas using the Banner Student Information System.

Then, a Web Technical Team, which included Information Systems staff, was responsible for the installation, initial configuration, and maintenance of the SCT Web products, as well as Campus Pipeline's platform. Finally, a Pipeline Advisory Team was charged with defining procedures and creating the look of the platform environment.

During the fall 2000 registration period, NSCC piloted the solution into the Web-for-Student product. The success of the pilot led to a complete commitment to the product's use for business process changes. At the same time, there were a number of issues identified that were challenges to wider use of the product, including the absence of prerequisite enforcement in the system and the lack of services for the part-time evening population.

According to Delbert Brown, director of financial aid and a member of the Web Functional Team, using the Web for registration "required that we re-examine enrollment procedures. We had to ask, ‘Why are we doing things this way?' We found that in many cases we were just following procedures because we had always done them that way. Many of the procedures did not have any service value whats'ever to the student."

Before moving forward with the implementation, college officials first determined how they wanted the overall system to function. The team decided that Campus Pipeline's platform with the Banner Web-for-Student product would be used initially to provide inquiry access to schedules, transcripts, student billing status, hold information, and financial aid status.
Officials also decided they would implement the platform initially only for students taking a credit course, because that student population is more stable. Non-credit students would be added to the system but only after implementing the Web payment module.

College administrators had to decide how students would gain access to their account information, deciding ultimately that they did not want to have to distribute mailings with user name and password information. The decision was made to build a front-end account activation form.

To handle account activation errors, administrators knew that they would have to expand the number of NSCC staff who could assist students with account issues. To address the problem of providing phone support and to quickly identify any account problems, a custom Banner form was developed to assist in identifying students over the phone and to organize information they provided upon activating their Campus Pipeline account.

The college used Novell Inc.'s GroupWise for e-mail, shared calendars, shared distribution lists, etc. NSCC decided that the Campus Pipeline e-mail system would serve as the core e-mail system for its students and adjunct faculty. Full-time faculty and staff would continue to have GroupWise accounts and have the option to integrate their GroupWise e-mail into the Campus Pipeline mail facility through IMAP.

Because students, faculty, and staff needed to have access to services at all times, NSCC installed a gas-generated uninterruptible power supply system to provide unlimited power for all systems and communication hardware in the event of power disruptions. The college also increased help desk hours and launched a system to remotely monitor all critical systems and services to notify IS staff via e-mail and wireless phones in the event of a failure.

NSCC officials said they have seen tangible results following the technology implementation. For instance, before integrating the Web platform, students could expect to wait in registration lines the length of a football field. Since the introduction of online registration through the platform, lines have been virtually eliminated.

To date, more than 8,500 students have activated their Campus Pipeline accounts, and within 15 months, more than 90 percent of registrations were completed via the Web. Early registrations for the spring 2002 semester have increased by 29 percent from the previous year and 40 percent overall since the implementation.

The Campus Pipeline Web Platform automatically creates and updates class e-mail distribution lists for faculty members as students register online, enabling professors to easily communicate with students. In addition, the Web platform creates course resource areas for each class so faculty members can provide class links and make syllabi and class notes available to students before classes begin.

Another major outcome: "We have seen a spike in the number of faculty interested in taking advantage of Web-learning tools since the implementation," said Phillip Sbaratta, NSCC's assistant dean of academic technology and distance learning. "Once they become comfortable with the portal and its functionality, it's a short hop to teaching a Web-assisted or fully online course. The impact of the portal is greater connection between faculty and students and a focus on curriculum transformation."

For more information, visit pyramid.nscc.mass.edu.

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