Tufts’ Student Information System (SIS) was recently updated for the Fall 2015 semester registration period, which is currently underway, in order to improve how students search for classes.
“We do an annual survey with satisfaction with SIS, and class search was hands down the most confusing and least user-friendly function that both faculty doing advising and students registering for classes identified,” Snell said.
Students can now search for key words, filter classes based on preferred days of the week and time of day and find classes according to the distribution requirements, Snell said.
According to Snell, the update also includes lists of course subjects and course numbers relevant to particular career paths, in addition to visual improvements.
“Our goal is always to make products seamless, [so] that you don’t have to understand how we design something to be able to use it,” Snell said. “We tried to design something that is simple enough to use, but provides enough information without the need to go through some sort of training to really utilize it all.”
The class search function update comes after Tufts’ implementation of the SIS Project from 2011 to 2014, according to Senior Communications Specialist at Tufts Technology Services (TTS) Christine Fitzgerald. In an email to the Daily, Fitzgerald said that the SIS Project was an initiative that replaced the old SIS with a new system — initially called iSIS — that allowed for continued change.
“Portions of [the original] SIS were 25 to 30 years old,” Fitzgerald said. “It was cumbersome and inefficient to use, did not interface well with related, modern applications and challenged us to provide needed cyber-security. In addition, it was difficult and risky to make changes to SIS, including modification needed to support changes in academic policy. Now that the project [has] ended, we continue to support and improve the system.”
Benjamin Thai, a biology and community health major, said he is supportive of the changes. He said the updated search function provides a “bird’s eye view of the various course requirements.”
“I think this new system is very intuitive and comprehensive, as you can actually visually compare classes with the new course descriptions and sections’ layout,” Thai, a junior, explained. “It’s very easy for me to see how certain classes are fulfilled, and the interface itself is user-friendly; … it’s so much easier to scroll through and read all the classes I may want to take. This [new update] definitely changes the selectability of the classes I want to take as, now, I don’t have to constantly go back and check everything.”
Tufts is currently developing another SIS update for next semester, Snell said. According to Snell, the next update, Phase 2, will provide further improvements to the class search function by integrating a new calendar view with the shopping cart.
“In observing the incoming freshmen, the first thing I noticed every person do was to make a visual calendar, because people like the visual of a calendar when trying to register,” Snell said.
Snell said she is also attempting to visually connect information from the shopping cart and the enrolled classes tab with color-coding, for example, making the shopping cart blue and the enrolled courses purple so that students know when they have enrolled successfully.
Phase 2 will lay out instruction steps for registration, Snell said. The last round of feedback showed that many students found the enrollment process confusing. Though these new functions are under development, Snell hopes for further feedback from students.
“We are hoping that the survey that is going out right now is providing some more feedback so we know how to further improve the system,” Snell said.