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Dakota State University: Technology Equips Graduates with Real-World Experience

Dakota State University's mission, as authorized by South Dakota legislation, is to integrate information technology (IT) throughout the school's curriculum. Dakota State University is regionally recognized as the leading university for IT education in South Dakota, incorporating technical training within business and liberal arts coursework.

In accordance with this mission, Dakota State University faculty members were looking for new ways to enhance our IT programs. But like many of today's higher education institutions, we grappled with exactly how to integrate new, "real world" enterprise systems into our established business curricula.

Examples of such systems include human resource information systems (HRIS), financials, supply chain management (SCM), and other enterprise solutions. These systems, many of them now Web-based, represent the tools that graduates ultimately will work with in their chosen professions. Students who gain experience in working with these technologies while in college will likely possess marketable skills they can apply in their post-graduation careers.

Fulfilling a Mission
Recognizing the value these technologies lend in the classroom, we began to explore ways to integrate enterprise software theory and training into Dakota State University's College of Business and Information Systems (BIS). Three years ago, we began working with PeopleSoft's On Campus program, and immediately knew it could be the catalyst to help us fulfill our technology mission.

PeopleSoft's On Campus program is a comprehensive industry-academic partnership that helps colleges and universities integrate enterprise software into their course offerings. The program awards training and academic grants of PeopleSoft 8 enterprise management software. Building on an initial project using PeopleSoft's HR and Financials 7.5 modules, PeopleSoft On Campus awarded Dakota State University a $2.8 million grant to upgrade to PeopleSoft 8.

We were the first institution to receive the new, Internet-based software. In the fall of 2001, we began implementing these Internet-enabled products, including PeopleSoft Human Capital Management, Financials, and Supply Chain Management.

Smooth Sailing
Dakota State University worked closely with PeopleSoft to ensure a smooth transition to its new technology-enhanced curriculum. First, we committed to ongoing faculty training on the new enterprise software. Early on, we had contracted with PeopleSoft's educational division to train all BIS faculty in PeopleSoft fundamentals. To date, BIS faculty have attended more than 60 weeks of PeopleSoft functional and technical training, providing us with a unique and outstanding faculty development resource.

To meet the challenge of continuous improvement and development, BIS faculty worked with industry-leading companies to build relevant classroom programs. Our aim is to create programs and courses with real-world technology applications, augmenting curricula with the functional and technical skill sets required in today's workplace.

Today, BIS offers multiple technology-based one- and three-hour courses in enterprise software. The courses cover Internet architecture, application design, installation and the fundamentals of enterprise systems and PeopleSoft. Additionally, Dakota State University is developing an enterprise system software minor in Computer Information Systems.

Sharing the Wealth
Interestingly, Dakota State took its growing partnership with PeopleSoft a step further. A natural extension of our On Campus experience is our institution's new Center for Remote Enterprise System Hosting (CRESH). Through CRESH we offer other interested schools remote-hosted access to PeopleSoft's suite of applications. Institutions around the world are interested in utilizing enterprise systems in their courses, but not every school has the time or technical where-with-all to support complex systems infrastructures. That is where CRESH comes in, and we anticipate that it will be a significant new resource for schools across the United States. At CRESH we have the technical infrastructure in place, and we are developing business models and access and delivery options that schools may wish to utilize (for example, we can connect schools to the PeopleSoft server over Internet2). We highlighted the Center at recent events such as the Information Systems Education Conference (ISEC) and the Decision Sciences Institute (DSI) and received enthusiastic interest from faculty members from around the world. CRESH is how Dakota State can "share the wealth," bringing the merits of the On Campus program to bear on other schools across the country.

"At Dakota State University, we learned first-hand that a successful, enterprise-software implementation—even for academic uses—involves a significant investment of time and resources," says President Jerald A. Tunheim.

"The implementation process—contracting, installation, training, testing, maintenance, and support—is very similar to the implementation cycles of a commercial project. But then we had to add curriculum development to the mix too! With the technical infrastructure completed, we now have a multi-year plan in place that focuses on faculty and curriculum development and the CRESH remote-access initiatives, all of which will allow us to exploit the capabilities of this new enterprise software, while offering an exciting new resource to other institutions around the country."

While extensive and time-intensive, these undertakings are helping Dakota State University keep pace with the most recent technical developments in the industry. The latest pure Internet enterprise software opens doors for remote access to applications and to new styles of teaching and learning. With the use of these technologies, industry and academia collaboration can enrich courses and provide a direct benefit to our students.

For more information contact John Webster, PeopleSoft Programs Director, CRESH, at John.Webster@dsu.

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