St. John's University Enhances Student Services With Interactive Voice Response System

St. Johnís University (Staten Island, New York), the largest Catholic university in the United States, has implemented an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system as an efficient way for students to register for classes and access their final grades. Periphonics Corp. (Bohemia, New York), a leader in Interactive Voice Response systems, was chosen to provide the hardware and software to run Redphone, St. Johnís telephone voice response system.

"We are in transition from an environment of technological antiquity to a modern distributed computing environment," reports Dr. Frank Sirianni, the chief information officer for the University. "The overhaul began with the implementation of an IVR system so that we could immediately offer improved services to our students."

The System

The Redphone system, named in deference to the University colors (red and white), was installed in February of 1995, and was in live production for grade reporting by May of that year. "When students call Redphone," says Sirianni, "they can choose to hear their grades or register for classes for an upcoming semester."

"The IVR system, a Periphonics VPS equipped with 36 telephone ports, is connected to our AT&T Definity G3 switch for student access via campus phones or their home phones," relates Sirianni. "It retrieves student data from the SCT records on the Honeywell host through a directly connected host link. When students call Redphone, they enter their social security number and PIN. This data must first be validated by the host."

"We used to mail students their grades, but that is no longer necessary, and will be discontinued shortly," he continues. "By March of 1996, our student registration application went live with a pilot group of graduate students at our St. Vincentís College. The pilot registration went very well and all of our students had access to telephone registration by Fall 1996."

Success Story

The grade inquiry application has been an overwhelming success for St. Johnís University. Positive student reactions have resulted from the ease-of-use and the convenience the IVR system has offered. "It appears that the system has enabled us to accomplish the goals that we had set forth initially -- to enhance the services that we provide to our students," says Sirianni.

St. Johnís is planning to add credit card payment and financial aid tracking to their IVR system in the near future. "Our plans for 1997 and 1998 include expanding voice applications to other areas of the university," says Sirianni. "For example, our Career Center has been extremely successful in helping our students locate career opportunities through an extensive database, various mailings and newsletters. We hope to improve access and reduce the mailings by creating an online automated process that will be available for students via the telephone."

The service that Periphonics provides to the university has been great, according to Sirianni. "The University staff, including myself, have been very pleased with the cooperative collegial relationship that we have experienced with Periphonics. IVR technology can provide many applications, and will have a place within the University system for many years to come."

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This article originally appeared in the 09/01/1997 issue of THE Journal.