UW-Platteville Distance Learning Center receives honor from University Business Magazine

March 27, 2014
Ullsvik Hall

The University of Wisconsin-Platteville Distance Learning Center is one of eight colleges and universities nationwide being honored by University Business magazine in its spring 2014 “Models of Efficiency” national recognition program. Sponsored by Higher One, a leader in providing financial services and data analytics to more than 1,900 college and university campuses across the U.S., the Models of Efficiency program recognizes innovative approaches for streamlining higher education operations through technology and/or business process improvements.

“Dealing with disparate departments such as those the University of Wisconsin-Platteville Distance Learning Center had is a common problem among universities,” said Tim Goral, senior editor of University Business. “They have done a great job not just of consolidating, but of unifying, for a great purpose: to give better service to their students.”

In the past, employees had to manually enter the records of students pursuing online degrees. With more than 2,500 students enrolled, this was no easy feat, considering they had to manually enter course registration, financial aid and even basic contact information. These efforts required approximately 500 hours of staff time each semester, or 1,500 hours a year across three semesters. This also had a negative impact on the student experience. Students were not able to view their grades, financial records or other critical information because they had no access to the system.

In 2011, the Distance Learning Center hired five functional analysts to review the existing SIS and determine how to improve the processes around distance learners. One full-time analyst and four current employees devoted 25 percent of their time to the project.

Throughout the year, they worked with financial aid, admissions, advising, student records and student financials to gather information. After months of planning, designing and testing, the team was able to implement a revised student data system. The new system not only eliminated the need for manual data entry, but also gave distance learning students access to their records. Using existing PeopleSoft functionality, the new system provided access to a significant amount of  information that the Distance Learning Center had not been using to its full potential.

Twenty-five percent of the project, called the PeopleSoft Reimplementation of the Pioneer Administrative Software System (REPASS) Project, involved creating custom functionality. What they developed made life easier for faculty, staff and students. When the new system went live in the spring of 2012, distance learning students were able to log in to the SIS; view and accept financial aid; register for classes; view grades and outstanding graduation requirements; pay for their courses; and print grades and transcripts for employer reimbursement.

On the administrative side, student contact data, course registrations and other important information is now automatically entered. Reporting functionality also increased immensely. Administration and advisors no longer have to send manual individual emails to communicate with distance learning students, as the system can now send both individual and group automated messages. In addition, a series of 50 recruitment and graduation emails were automated.

In addition to the University of Wisconsin-Platteville Distance Learning Center, spring 2014 Models of Efficiency honorees include: Northern Arizona University; Salisbury University (Md.); Texas A&M Health Science Center; University of Colorado; University of Iowa; University of Massachusetts and University of Pittsburgh.

Models of Efficiency is an ongoing recognition program. Higher ed institutions can participate in upcoming rounds by visiting www.universitybusiness.com/moe.

The program is sponsored by Higher One, a leading company that offers a wide array of technological services on campus, ranging from streamlining the institution’s performance analytics and financial aid refund processes to offering students innovative banking services, tuition payment plans and the basics of financial management. Higher One works closely with colleges and universities by allocating resources more efficiently to provide a higher quality of service and using data to impact success with a focus on empowering students.

“The spring 2014 Models of Efficiency honorees have done an excellent job achieving process improvements and operational efficiencies in their higher ed institutions,” said Casey McGuane, chief operating officer of Higher One. “We are pleased to recognize their efforts alongside University Business.”

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