Students may be surprised the next time they sign on to Student Access+ as the university gradually replaces an old staple of its academic information services.

Georgetown is currently phasing out Student Information System, the electronic information management system that is accessed through Student Access+ and Faculty Access+, in favor of a new system called Banner. SunGard Higher Education, the company that provides both SIS+ and Banner, announced recently that it will no longer officially support SIS+ after 2011. The first version of the aging system was installed at Georgetown in 1989. SunGard stressed that the change is not due to any security vulnerabilities with the SIS+ system. Instead, university officials said that it is important to adopt Banner to keep its technology current.

“The new system Georgetown selected, Banner, is one of the most widely used student systems in higher education. For example Yale, Brown, Notre Dame and The George Washington University run their student operations with Banner,” said David Lambert, vice president of University Information Services and chief information officer.

By fall of 2009, the university expects that all major academic services – such as course registration, transcript requests, degree audits and financial aid information – will be available on Banner. Students and faculty will be able to access Banner using MyAccess, the replacement for Student/Faculty Access+.

Until next fall, many important academic functions will still be handled exclusively through SIS+. Both Banner and SIS+ will be operational until the transition is fully completed.

ichelle Lapin, enterprise product manager of UIS and the communications lead for the SIS+ Replacement Project, said that the transition to this new system will take time.

“Almost every month, new functionality is being changed over. It’s a four- to five-month transition period,” Lapin said.

Numerous university departments are involved in the transition, including the Registrar’s Offices of the university and the Law and Medical Centers, UIS, the Office of Financial Aid and the Office of Student Accounts.

Beginning this week, students will notice some interface changes as MyAccess is implemented. While Summer School registration is still being handled by Student Access+, registration services for the 2009-2010 academic year will be available only through the Banner system.

“Registration services are moving over [to Banner] first. Student account information will be moved over in the summer. Financial aid information will be moved in the near future,” Lapin said. “However, certain features like degree audit and transcripts won’t be moved over until early fall.”

According to Lapin, the new service will not be dramatically different from Student Access+. University officials and students working on the project promised that users will appreciate its streamlined interface.

“It’ll be a little less clunky,” Lapin said. “Probably the biggest thing is that the students who have done demos with it say that the class search utility is better – when pre-registering, students said the search utility was easier to use.”

Lapin added that while the actual mechanics for registering for courses – such as ordering class preferences – will essentially remain the same, MyAccess will be more user-friendly than Student Access+ during the process. One important difference is the addition of the Course Reference Number that students must enter in order to register for individual classes, Lapin said.

According to Pierce, despite the promised improvements, administrators are concerned that unanticipated problems may develop and are working with students and faculty to mitigate their effects.

“Experiences at other institutions have demonstrated that the first year after implementation of a new student system can be challenging and occasionally disruptive for administrators, faculty members and students. Our Banner Blue and Gray Project team has worked diligently to minimize any difficulties at Georgetown, but there will no doubt be some,” Provost James O’Donnell said in a letter to the campus community.

The rollout of the new Banner service will be accompanied by training sessions and information resources to ease the transition.

“What we’re working on right now is a brochure handout that we’ll make available online, a pre-registration guide, explaining how you use this new system,” Lapin said.

According to the UIS Web site, the Registrar’s office will offer clinics during fall pre-registration to familiarize students with the new system and the changes from SIS+.

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