SIS, the Next Generation

The new Integrated Student Information System will be the source for academic transcripts, grades, tuition payments and more
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The system provides “a strong new technical architecture that is ready for the future,” says Christine Michael. Photo: iStock
March 12, 2013

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After several years of concerted effort, Tufts’ new Integrated Student Information System, dubbed iSIS, will become available to students and faculty at Tufts. It replaces the quarter-century-old Student Information System (SIS) and will serve as the new gateway for student information at Tufts. Depending on one’s school affiliation, iSIS will be the source for academic transcripts, grades, home addresses, tuition payments and financial aid information for students.

Among the highlights of iSIS is an online university-wide course catalog that can help students and their advisors plan curricula or careers. The first-of-its-kind catalog for Tufts will give students who can choose their courses more time to intelligently chart each semester; students’ financial information will transfer from the bursar in real time, too.

Starting on March 14, students at the School of Arts and Sciences, the School of Engineering and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences will plan their course registration for the fall 2013 semester in iSIS.

In mid-April, students at the Friedman School, the Sackler School and the School of Medicine’s Public Health and Professional Degree Programs will begin to use iSIS for fall 2013 course registration. All remaining schools will transition to iSIS later in the spring, when the SIS Project team will roll out a real-time summary of a student’s financial account, including account balances, meal plans and financial aid. Transcripts will be made available in August. After September, the SIS Project team will begin to work on integrating Summer School with iSIS.

Some of the advantages of the new system will be immediately apparent: students in dual-degree programs, like those pursuing the MALD and M.S. in food and nutrition policy at Fletcher and Friedman, for example, won’t have to register for courses or check their grades in two different systems—it will all be in one place. The same goes for faculty advising these students.

The new Integrated SIS was built for Tufts by Tufts people, with help from an implementation partner, working together for several years. At the height of the project, more than 50 individuals were involved building the system or transferring mountains of data dating back 20 years or more from the old system.

“Implementing the new iSIS takes a lot of specialized Tufts knowledge, and the time and expertise of the many teams who have worked on iSIS since 2011 are evident in how well the system works for our environment,” says Christine Michael, communications manager for the iSIS project.

The system provides “a strong new technical architecture that is ready for the future,” says Michael. Because all this information now resides in one place, there is greater flexibility in how it can be used and accessed. For example, as a result of the iSIS implementation, Tufts’ administrators will have access to course information via Tufts’ data warehouse, a tool used by administrators who analyze or report on quantitative data.

In addition, iSIS supports academic innovation. Its flexible technical architecture allows Tufts to modify and support changes in academic policy that were not possible in SIS. For students and faculty, iSIS will be far more available and dependable than the old system.

Transition Time

Implementation of iSIS will unfold over the next five or six months, Michael says, noting that users should be prepared for some quirks at first.

“This is the beginning of the beginning,” she says. “A system of this interrelatedness and complexity doesn’t come into being without a few adjustments. This is a first step, and we anticipate continuous improvement and new features over many years.”

Between March and August 2013, students and faculty will use both the old and new systems. “During the transition, students may see their information in iSIS, but they may not be able to update it in iSIS until August, when iSIS becomes the official system of record,” Michael says. “Address updates or name changes will need to be made in the legacy SIS.”

All students who will use iSIS for course registration will have access to a new “shopping cart” feature, which helps them prepare their course schedule in advance, so that when registration officially opens, they just click “enroll” to register. Through the catalog, students can find out what textbooks are required for each class, with a direct link to the Barnes & Noble campus bookstore.

The system features a new online course catalog that can be viewed by the public, starting in March. The catalog is a collection of courses across the university (with the exception of the medical school’s M.D. courses) going back to 1989, so students and faculty can see the history of courses being offered now. More importantly, the catalog will help faculty in advising students. In iSIS, they can look at a student’s courses and grades, and also use the catalog to see what courses are available to fulfill a student’s degree requirements or career track.

By the end of June, students will be able to access tuition bills, account balances and financial aid information in real time; currently there can be a lag of a day or more.

For more information about iSIS and training opportunities go to http://sites.tufts.edu/sisproject/.

Gail Bambrick, who teaches a course in the Experimental College and will be an iSIS user, can be reached at gail.bambrick@tufts.edu.

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