Volume 52, No. 29
Automated student records system makes Emory debut
By Eric Rangus
The integration of Emory's student administrative services took a big step forward on April 3 with the debut of its online system for student records and student financials.
The new system is named OPUS (Online Pathway to University Students) and has two forms: a web-based system that is open to students, faculty and staff, and a client system accessible to faculty and staff who perform administrative functions (entering student data and grades, for instance).
The rollout culminates more than five years of research and testing, not to mention several upgrades, to build a product that would suit Emory's needs. OPUS is a part of the wider ATLAS (Advancing Technology Links All Students) project, a strategic effort to improve student services through information technology.
"Overall, we had minimal, if any, issues. And all have been resolvable," said Heather Mugg, ATLAS project director. "Considering the magnitude of this project, we were all elated."
ATLAS will provide the platform for each student administrative office, making it possible to retrieve admissions, student records, financial aid and student financials through the same system. Since the database will be utilized across the University, the process will be simpler one-stop shopping, compared to the old way, when information had to be gathered by contacting each individual office. Eventually all student records will be maintained in a single data record.
One of OPUS's main features is that it gives students the ability to register online. OPUS also will allow students to view and print their grades and schedules via the web. All that's needed is a Dooley-Eagle ID and password. Most staff and faculty can use this method as well, but for those using the system for administrative functions, the password protection is more complicated. More information is available on the OPUS website at www.opus.emory.edu.
Since December, about 550 people have participated in training sessions to prepare for the system's debut.
"The scope has been to replace the functionality of the four legacy systems," said Priscilla Echols, communications director for the ATLAS project. "We're bringing all four into one system that will provide the platform to grow on in the future."
Emory and Oxford college admissions went online last September, and the financial aid system is scheduled to go online in December.
The idea to integrate Emory's student-administrative services was first floated in 1993 when administrators expressed concerns over the University's decentralized systems, which led to a lot of duplicated work and occasionally slow service. After forming a committee to investigate the situation and search for vendors, Emory selected PeopleSoft in 1996 to create the database, which is now named the PeopleSoft Student Administration System (PS/SA).
Emory is a PeopleSoft "charter school" and received an early release of the student information system for implementation testing.
That testing began in 1997 and, after some system upgrades, was ready to go live in 1999.
"We purchased the product when it was still in its developmental stages," Mugg said. "The software has progressed, and there's still room to grow."