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Shaping an Improved Student Experience

For UC San Diego students - whether undergraduate, graduate, professional or Extension - the Student Information System (SIS) is the most important behind-the-scenes software system in their academic lives. It's behind-the-scenes in the sense that students do not interact with it on a daily basis, but most important in the sense that the interactions they do have - scheduling classes, recording academic progress, managing financial aid, paying their tuition and fees - are of critical importance to meeting their educational goals. 

An aging Student Information System (our current version is known as ISIS) combined with a larger and more diverse student body mean it’s time to rethink what we can and should expect from our next SIS. When a new SIS is implemented a few years from now, the new technology and processes will apply to undergraduate and graduate students, the School of Medicine, UC San Diego Extension, and all professional schools.

When the Enterprise Systems Renewal (ESR) program initiated the process of searching for a new SIS last year, Chief Information Officer Vince Kellen knew that getting a deep understanding of student interactions with the current SIS and its pain points was critical to choosing and implementing the best possible system to meet student needs.

SIS project sponsor Executive Vice Chancellor Elizabeth H. Simmons was also interested in gaining a deeper insight into the student experience at UC San Diego, with the hope of improvement for all our students. A study was launched to explore these issues, which included student interactions with the SIS.

For EVC Simmons, a key outcome for the SIS project is to break down barriers and empower students and administrators alike. “We need to ensure that students and their families find UC San Diego easy to engage with,” she said. “The tools they encounter here in the future will offer user support in areas such as enrollment, course registration, financial services, tutoring and counseling. Having an updated student system that can readily connect to other campus systems will enable us to better respond when students interact with us online.”

To this end, IT Services and Academic Affairs collaborated on a Student Experience Analysis and Design (EAD) Project, which launched in August 2019. EAD is a proven experience design methodology that involves a blend of qualitative and quantitative research in order to holistically understand a student, staff or faculty university experience.

In October 2019, the EAD team conducted qualitative, semi-structured interviews with over 35 undergraduate, graduate and Extension students. This rich insight into the varied aspects of the student experience informed the creation of an experience catalog, known as a MECE (mutually exclusive collectively exhaustive) framework for cataloging all of the activities students engage in as part of their UC San Diego student experience.

Using this experience catalog, an online quantitative survey was developed, to which almost 5,000 UC San Diego students responded. The information gathered provided an unparalleled understanding of the student experience at UC San Diego, and helped to inform decisions on how to prioritize improvements, and - in terms of the SIS - which features and functionalities to focus on when selecting a new Student Information System.

The SIS project team published an RFP to which prospective vendors have responded. To ensure that the new SIS will meet the needs informed by the EAD research, Conference Room Pilot (CRP) scripts were included in the RFP.  CRP scripts are scenarios that call upon vendors to demonstrate how their systems handle the student information and student experience demands of the university. The Conference Room Pilots, to be held virtually this fall, are a critical component of the rigorous procurement process designed to ensure an improved student experience for all our students - undergraduate, graduate, professional and Extension - for years to come. 

Category: Student & Faculty, News, ESR Behind the Scenes