Cornell University Electronic Student Records Systems Project Report

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Appendix K: Degree Audit: College of Arts and Sciences Example

Each of the eleven colleges at Cornell has some kind of a degree audit process. The College of Arts and Sciences is the largest college. It has 42 departments that offer 50-60 degrees and teach 53 foreign languages. Their degree audit program replaced their manual Personal Record Card (PRC) system. PRCs have a grid divided into Parts 1-4. The parts reflect the degree requirements. The entrance, placement and distribution (degree) requirements are identified in the Course Listing catalog. Part 0 tracks credits like the University writing requirement. Students must meet requirements that were in place when they started the degree program. This means that the degree audit system must track changes in courses, changes in degree requirements and changes in courses needed to meet requirements for degrees to insure that each student has an accurate listing of requirements met and requirements needed.

The College developed the current system, SPUDS, in 1988. The data is reliable from 1989-on. SPUDS was written in a DOS-based, proprietary database software called Revelation, which was last updated in 1989. Over the next 2.5 years, SPUDS will be rewritten in VisualFox for SQLServer, Microsoft products. The new SPUDS will be fully relational and run on NT. They will do a 100% conversion of the current data and will continue to maintain the data on-line or near-line because there is not a huge amount of data to store.

Anyone who has access to the Student System has access to SPUDS. There is screen-level and field-level security. There are 4 screens:

  1. Main Degree Audit: student identification, major, advisor, academic actions (e.g. semester off, etc.)
  2. Advisory Notes
  3. Credits: course counts
  4. Graduation screen: Department certification of Major

The SPUDS system contains some confidential information. Access to screen 2 is very limited. Advisory Deans make notes on events and situations that are relevant to the status of the student in the program. For example, mental health assessments as they pertain to the ability of the student to continue in or complete the program are included. These are stored as separate text notes and are stored near-line. They get perhaps two requests in five years for that require access to this information. Most access is read-only. Advisory Deans are allowed to enter data into Screen 2.

Screen 4 is important because students could complete University and College requirements and still not satisfy major requirements. SPUDS produces reports to document graduation progress.

Data entry is difficult in the current system because users have to know what to enter and there is very little field validation. They retain a field-level audit of changes to most fields in the records for two years. Typically, there are 230,000 changes made per summer. Data entry will be much easier in the new system and there will be much more validation provided. SPUDS is an on-line transaction processing (OTP) system that may have 18 simultaneous users. The new SPUDS will provide a web-based interface for students.

The College needs to provide constant access to the SPUDS information and cannot rely on getting access to other systems, so a subset of the SPUDS data elements is redundant and the rest is unique to the system. The SPUDS records contain a unique ID, degree, department, course description, course number, term key plus term and year fields, and flags for the requirements that the course meets.

The University tracks courses and grades (content) while the Department and College track requirements (context). The Colleges collect grades from Departments and forward them to the University Registrar. The University Registrar enters the grades into the Student Records and Registration System (SRRS). The updated SRRS records are batched into the Student Information System (SIS). Transcript information is accessible from SIS. There is no front-end for users to SRRS.

There are three possible scenarios for updating SPUDS records:

  1. Currently, student transcript data are updated over the summer for junior and seniors.
  2. Engineering updates all students every semester because the requirements are so tight for students.
  3. In Phase B of SPUDS development, there may be automatic updates, which would be the ideal.

The College of Arts and Sciences uses a VisualFox application called Folders to manage admissions. The Admissions Office has the UAO system on Cornell-C. The admissions process is paper-based process that captures documents in folders and puts them in boxes that are circulated. Folders captures basic biographical data, statistics on scores, Ids, etc. Folders tracks when the Folder was added, who has looked at it, a marketing code for dean, region, country level admissions benchmarks. International students are tracked separately. Statistical and other reports are issued daily. Folders tracks the process through acceptance. After the admissions process is completed, records for students who accept offers are moved into MARS, which matches students with advisors, arranges meetings and manages orientation. Then student records are moved to SPUDS. For Arts and Sciences 13300 apply, 3200 are accepted, and 1200 attend. The College currently has about 4400 students.

According to the original plan, the PeopleSoft degree audit module would be in place now. The plan slipped 5 years in two years. Within five years, Revelation will not run because Microsoft will support NT with no DOS. This is the reason for the 2 _ year deadline. PeopleSoft would have provided the degree audit module for all Colleges. Given the Revelation support deadline, Arts and Sciences cannot wait for PeopleSoft or whatever other option is selected. The new SPUDS will only be available to the Colleges who buy into the project. Arts and Sciences will take on most of the development costs. Though the Colleges will develop the new SPUDS individually once they receive the code, the underlying data structures should remain constant.