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The Other ISIS

Wednesday, 23 July, 2014

The University of Melbourne is changing its student management and information system, saying the system is causing “ongoing pain for students and staff”.

The Integrated Student Information System (ISIS) was upgraded to version 4.12 in June, as part of the university’s dedicated ISIS Enhancement Program.

ISIS is behind a large part of Student Portal functions, including course and subject enrolment, as well as contact detail management.

The ISIS upgrade included 3,600 recorded changes and improvements. More technical improvements will be done by the end of the year.

University of Melbourne Head of Student Administration Samantha Winter led a briefing about the upgrade at the end of May. The briefing team told staff: “Program drivers improve student satisfaction and student experience.”

The changes were fuelled by negative staff and student feedback. The university’s 2013 Student Lifecycle Review listed a range of problematic factors, including unnecessary complexity. Overall, students were dissatisfied with the service.

The Student Lifecycle Review panel was made up of several prominent Australian university administrators. “It is unlikely that these factors will come as a huge surprise to anyone who has worked at the university for any length of time,” the panel said.

Senior staff and students agreed with the assessment when approached by Farrago.

One staff member, who wanted to remain anonymous, described ISIS as having serious functional problems and being openly scorned by staff.

The university’s June upgrade of ISIS thus included both visible and backend technical changes.

The new Student Portal ‘eStudent’ student administration section and course structure system is visibly different and was designed to be much easier to use.

Applications, financial planning and exam timetables under eStudent were designed to be clearer, with mobile device compatibility also vastly enhanced.

Some students were angry on social media because the ISIS overhaul was conducted during the exam period.

First year veterinary student Cara Roic in a comment on the 13 MELB Facebook help page: “Why on EARTH would you develope [sic] admin over Swat VAC [sic] /exam period?,”

However ISIS Change & Communications Manager Tania Finn Angelo said the changeover period was necessary and support would be ongoing to make sure the changes worked.

“ISIS Enhancement Program and Student Systems and Business Support teams will work closely to provide care after the implementation weekend,” she said.