“When any new system is introduced, if it's going to be used on a large scale, teething troubles are going to arise. In this case we have been unpleasantly surprised by the fact that some of those teething troubles have proven very difficult to resolve,” says Patrick Groothuis, director of Education and Student Affairs (ESA) and also a task force member. Of course, Groothuis is not happy about all the problems, but by pointing out the circumstances under which they arose, is trying to foster some understanding.
“Not only is it never entirely possible to simulate reality in a test situation, at the time the university was deep into a reorganization of the program support services. This meant some people were assigned other duties. We were also confronted with a student intake that was growing much faster than expected,” says Groothuis. “And, of course, there's the settling-down period that you always expect to have with a new system.”
The task force's most recent progress report includes no fewer than 130 outstanding issues in need of a solution. According to task force chairperson Lemmens, a problem often breaks down into multiple issues and a distinction should be made between problems at system level and at process level. As an example of the first type, he mentions the failure to make campus cards for students who have enrolled, as well as campus cardholders being denied access to buildings they should be able to enter. “It often comes down to the communication between Canvas and Osiris being at best difficult,” says Lemmens.
On the process side, there are such issues as employees lacking the necessary knowledge, numerical processing being split between Canvas and Osiris, and lecturers finding that the transition between the two systems requires too much work.
Three external specialists have now been recruited to address the most urgent problems and a 'flexible skin' has been implemented; four employees who can act quickly wherever necessary. This will account for much of the additional funding made available by the Executive Board. Groothuis: “Using this approach, we want to have the most urgent problems solved by the end of January. After that we'll see which issues are outstanding and they will have to be addressed at the start of the new academic year.”
An improved version of the PlanApp will be launched on January 28, since the version that went live in March didn't work very well at all. “That was partly related to the fact that the PlanApp must be properly loaded by departments. If you don't do that you'll get error messages,” tells Groothuis. “But here too the connection with Osiris is not optimum. We hope this will be resolved in the improved version.”
A PlanApp that works well should make it much easier for students to fill in their individual study plans with USE courses, electives and elective packages. Lemmens: “This will also lighten the workload of the Examination Committees; the time they will need to spend checking whether study plans meet the standard will be significantly reduced.”