Since the rise of the Internet more than a decade ago, U of T students have been able to accomplish a number of school-related tasks online. The Repository of Student Information (known as ROSI) currently allows them to add or drop courses, view their fees balance and order transcripts.
The 12-year-old ROSI, however, is fast approaching the end of its usefulness. “We need to replace it because it doesn’t meet current needs,” explains Scott Mabury, vice-provost, academic operations. Students have long complained about wait times and crashes on the system, as well as its limited menu of functions.
Fortunately, a new era of information technology, with improved online services, is nigh. The highly anticipated Next Generation Student Information Services will be so broad in scope that its full potential will only be realized over a period of years. “It needs to be streamlined, efficient, user-friendly, clear and welcoming,” says Jill Matus, vice-provost, students. Over time, she anticipates that the suite of services will get “more comprehensive, until we’ve covered the full range of services for students at U of T.”
The Next Generation services will work in tandem with ROSI as it gradually retires over the next several years, although many new features are being developed right now. One component will streamline the current residence application process. Right now, first-year students must deal with the admissions office as well as separate colleges, resulting in a great deal of waiting, phoning and duplication. With the new service, the process will ultimately be both efficient and centralized.
Currently, more than 90 projects are under consideration. Those sure to be realized include a rethinking of the university’s byzantine fee-payment system, as well as an application that will help students navigate the campus easily. An improvement on Google Maps at the local level, the project “will enable students not only to learn what buildings are called and where they are − but to find a good study space and figure out where to get, say, a vegan lunch,” says Matus.
Perhaps most importantly, students will have a significant say in how the new services are developed. Many have already indicated their need for a change “through the divisions, the academic units and through complaints to registrars about the inadequacies of ROSI,” says Matus.
The new services will not come cheaply; over time, it may cost up to $30 million for goals to be fully realized. But Mabury says half of the money will come from reallocating internal resources, adding that the changes will reduce costs (and increase productivity) by eliminating a great deal of unnecessary and tedious work. “This is a very heterogeneous university,” he says. “But if we can deliver a central service that functions well, we can eliminate some of the redundancy.”
And, as Matus points out, it will make the student experience infinitely more pleasant. “I think the overall guiding message is that we don’t want students to feel like they’re on their own,” she says. “We need to help them be successful academically. These other things should not be what’s taking their time.”