Valdosta State University Combines Data Integrity with Universal Access
ValdostaState University understands the necessities of database maintenance: aninstitution’s data must be reliable and it must be accessible. Reliabilitywithout accessibility is like a treasure chest with no key.
This Georgia university first implemented SCT Banner2000administrative software in 1996 to build a database that would be integratedand reliable. Today, VSU is running the Banner2000 Student Information Systemand Financial Aid System. Since 1996, VSU has successfully processed informationfor more than 110,000 students using Banner2000. The bulk of VSU’s day-to-dayadministrative computer processing is performed on three Hewlett-Packardminicomputers. These run the Banner 2000 integrated databases, as well asbusiness and financial systems, providing an average of 200 simultaneous usersa near-100% online, real-time support environment.
Access is ensured by providing students with three options:via the Web utilizing Banner2000 Web for Students and Web for Faculty &Advisor, via telephone, or via campus kiosks. “We are one of the few schoolsthat support telephone registration, dial-in Web registration and studentself-registration utilizing PCs in various student labs,” explains ThomasArchibald, assistant to the president for information technology. “Many otherinstitutions are disregarding phone and kiosk accessibility and jumping aheadto Web-only access. But we have a high percentage of working students who donot have access to a PC at work. Students frequently tell me they are gratefulthat they can check grades, register for classes, or check on their financialstatus from a phone while on break at work. Those students don’t have access toa PC at a local restaurant where they’re working. And many others do not have aPC at home, either. But they can always get to a telephone.”
Recognizing this fact, VSU has expanded the functionsavailable by phone. The EPOS/Banner2000 Integrated Voice Response system,initially utilized only for student telephone registration, now also providesinformation about balances owed, financial aid status, office hours, and otherinformation. About one-third of all students register by phone each semester.
Students also are receptive to the university’s eightkiosks, which receive 6,000 hits a month. VSU was the first in the stateuniversity system to install the touch-screen information kiosks. They areaccessible at various high-traffic locations around the campus, includingresidence halls, the sports complex, and the library. They offer, among otherfunctions, a means for students to gain access to their data (grades, classschedules, financial aid, etc.) for onscreen viewing and/or printing at anytime of the day or night. Visitors to the campus can view campus maps and usethe attached telephone to call directly to a “touched” person or department,access VSU’s Web home page, and perform other functions.
“The kiosks function as a 24/7 clerk for us,” saysArchibald. “For example, our visitors center is not staffed on the weekend. Butthe kiosk in front of the center can answer almost any question that visitorsmight have.”
For students who do have access to a PC, the Internet is byfar the method of choice. The VSU Web site experienced more than 2,000,000 hitsper month in fiscal year 1999. The capabilities offered through the Web,including admissions, registration, faculty research, instruction and others,appear to be limitless.
A Pipelineto the Web
Since February 1, students have even more options on the Webvia the Campus Pipeline information portal from Campus Pipeline, Inc. “TheCampus Pipeline Web product provides a friendly, intuitive structure for theuniversity’s campus information, news and online commerce,” states Archibald.“Students go to the traditional VSU home page, click on the Campus Pipelinelogo and enter that portal to access information about campus events as well asworld news, Web offerings, and e-mail. It is a single window to the world inwhich students, faculty and staff can navigate without ever leaving the VSUbasic entry point.
“Students also have increased functionality because theBanner2000 student and financial aid systems’ interfaces are integrated intothe Campus Pipeline product. This functionality, added to the many other Webfeatures, provides a highly robust environment which will weave all of ourconstituencies closer together into the technology-based learning communitythat we strive to maintain.”
“The total integrated technology environment of studentdatabases, campus-wide data network, kiosk, voice response, Web, e-mail,software portal and other capabilities allow us to provide exciting options andservices to our students,” said Dr. Hugh C. Bailey, president of VSU.
AnInvestment in Technology
In fiscal year 1999, the university spent $3.3 million oncomputers, software, and network products. Its inventory of microcomputers isat a high of 2,500 machines, all attached to the campus-wide fiber optic baseddata network for easy Peachnet/Internet access. In keeping with an internalmodernization goal, 95% of those computers are Pentium-level. In addition, the750 microcomputers available to students in 32 on-campus labs and two labs atthe Kings Bay Naval Station, where VSU operates a satellite campus, are allPentium machines.
In the classroom, more than two-thirds of VSU classesinclude some use of technology on the part of the students. Also, multimediainstruction has become an integral part of VSU’s technology-based academicdelivery system. In fact, faculty access the Banner2000 database almost as muchas the administrative staff.
“We are determined that our students become proficient inthe use of the latest technology and be able to utilize it in theirprofessions,” says Bailey.
Campus Pipeline, Inc.
Salt Lake City,UT
This article originally appeared in the 08/01/2000 issue of THE Journal.