Thursday, January 24, 2008

Making the Grade

grades.jpgThanks to much hard work and many late nights, the launch in December of the new Faculty Center, ASU’s new online roster and grading application, worked well in posting Fall 2007 grades!

The Faculty Center replaced RosterGrades, a system that wasn’t compatible with ASU’s recent PeopleSoft implementation. While the rollout wasn't without challenges, especially for professors with the largest classes, we successfully replaced the old with the new.

Tremendous efforts went into getting the Faculty Center ready on time, and I’d like to acknowledge some of the people most responsible, especially Jill Bailey and Jennifer Glawson. Leah Lommel directed and managed the project while Jill and Jennifer helped interface with developers and test the new system. Through Jill and Jennifer’s efforts, the Faculty Center was customized to fit both ASU’s business and faculty needs.

Another shoutout goes to the team of Roster Contacts—all the departmental personnel throughout the University who assist their department faculty with grade administration. These folks were instrumental in entering grades and helping their departments transition to the new system. Thanks also go to Kathy Tibbetts and Carrie Bauer, who worked hard to correct errors within the system, ensuring that instructors could successfully access their classes. Our master trainer, Sensei Paul Stoll, worked with the development and implementation teams to create and deliver training materials, including online courses in Blackboard, training guides, and a Faculty Center news blog. Step-by-step instructions were also posted directly onto the webpage where faculty members entered grades for easy reference, and Paul, Jennifer, and Jill delivered in-person presentations with question and answer sessions across each of ASU’s four campuses over two different training rounds. In addition, the Registrar’s Office helped answer faculty questions, phone calls, and emails.

Because of the efforts of these dedicated employees (as well as many others not mentioned here by name) a greater percentage of grades were entered on time this semester using the new Faculty Center than in past semesters with the old system. Most instructors have reported the Faculty Center easy to use and are satisfied with its new features, including the weekly calendar view of their class schedule and the ability to import grades directly from an Excel spreadsheet or to post students’ grades immediately. The Notify feature allows faculty to directly email one, some, or all of the students enrolled in a course.

We're not finished by a long shot. Plans are in the works to improve performance and increase the integration between the Faculty Center and ASU's learning management systems, Blackboard and Sakai.

Again, I’d like to thank everyone involved. Please don’t hesitate to send me your comments and feedback.


Sunday, January 06, 2008

Check Out Our New Catalog


If you haven’t already, you might want to check out ASU’s new online course catalog. The catalog is an early step toward making the many opportunities at ASU more accessible. Its obviously Amazon inspired, our attempt to make as much information about a course as possible so students can more make informed decisions.

Several months ago UTO programmer Matt Rapp set out on a mission to update ASU’s catalog. He started with a web-based mockup of the site, which he patterned after an Amazon product page for others to review. Based on Matt’s novel designs, development of a new Schedule of Classes and Course Catalog began this past fall under the guidance of Project Manager Barb Sowden and the expertise of both Matt and an outside consultant, Jim Conner.

Administrative and student feedback following the November launch of the new Schedule of Classes and Course Catalog has been extremely positive.

I loved it, it showed all of the information I could possibly need such as seats available, course credits, times, etc. The search function made it really easy for me to look up my graduate classes that I plan on taking this upcoming semester.

Excellent! It’s a great improvement over the old system. The search is simpler and yet more intuitive, and the results are much more readable.

Thank you so much for putting this together. As an academic advisor, this helps because the students want to know course descriptions and times and awareness areas.

I love this new website! It is so much better than the other way of looking for classes….I like the fact that I can see all the classes that fit my description in one page without having to scroll down like the other websites for searching for classes. I like how all the information for that class is listed on one page. I like the colors since they really help me differentiate between the classes and different information. I truly love it!

The new system accesses PeopleSoft Student Administration data directly in real-time and allows students to compare classes to one another by displaying this information in an easy-to-read grid. Each header column on a student’s results page is a link for sorting information, so students can quickly group their results by weekday, times, location, etc. Clicking on an instructor’s name will link the student directly to the instructor’s ASU Directory profile. The student can read their instructor’s bio, see their instructor’s photo, and find out what other courses their instructor is teaching. Similarly, clicking on class location links the student to ASU Google Maps, making it simple to see where a class is being held on campus.

Obviously, we’re just beginning. For starters, the new system has space for a course description much longer and more informative than the 2 sentences the old system allowed. There’s room for links to other online material, reviews, in short any information that would help a student make a better choice about what to take next term. The new catalog gives us the ideal platform to make these kinds of changes.

Check it out if you haven’t already. Matt or Barb or I would be glad to hear from you with suggestions for improvement or other feedback.