Ellucian XE creates enthusiastic users as it enhances Old Dominion University’s registration process

Institution becomes first in Virginia to launch Ellucian XE Registration software

For Registrar Mary Swartz, the applause said it all. Her student counselors at Old Dominion University were completing their training in the new registration application, and the simplicity of the process compelled them to show how much they appreciated having a better tool for incoming freshmen to use.

“We didn’t even get many questions during the session because it was so intuitive for them,” she explains.

But the path to this point wasn’t always clear.

For starters, the staff needed to confirm the right approach before convincing decision makers that the update was even necessary. One critical criterion was ensuring that a system and strategy was in place so that any new application or module could be deployed and scaled without requiring an individual evaluation or a new implementation. To provide oversight, the institution assembled an Ellucian XE Readiness Team that included the registrar and directors of IT, human resources, financial aid and finance.

To gain the necessary insight on preparedness, institutional staff completed an Ellucian-provided readiness assessment as well as conducted one of its own. Departmental staff outlined what functions they wanted to improve while technical staff summarized the existing hardware and software environment, customizations, and skill sets of the team. They also explored how other institutions were evolving their technology and learned more about the growing popularity of the Ellucian Extensible Ecosystem, also known as Ellucian XE.

“Having our university and culture embrace the XE concept was key to moving forward,” says David Kozoyed, director of IT Solutions at Old Dominion University.

Like those other institutions, Old Dominion University found the Ellucian XE strategy attractive because of how it allows institutions to deploy new applications on top of their existing platform without disruption. Their use of the same database, identity management, business rules, open standards-based integration, and configurations means an entire portfolio of Banner and other applications can still get customized even though the source code remains untouched.

“The educational process of going through the assessments, seeing what others did, knowing the skill sets required, and understanding the Ellucian product roadmaps all illustrated the ease of modernizing our environment,” adds Kozoyed.

Searching for courses in a particular program and seeing the schedule in a calendar view gives students a much simpler way to proceed through the steps and register.
Mary Swartz, University Registrar, Old Dominion University

Build a scalable foundation first

Given the green light to proceed with the update and motivated to build for future scalability in anticipation of growth, Old Dominion University tackled the hardware refresh. It replaced servers and further increased capacity by adding virtualization with VMware. Another early step was to add to the existing Banner ERP a database extension utility—a key feature for multi-entity processing and for achieving the desired scalability.

As for rollouts, Old Dominion University chose to start with the Student Registration application first, followed by Faculty Grade Entry, Employee Profile, and then Student Profile.

“We wanted something timely that fit with Ellucian’s product roadmap for future features and functionality, and Registration was the biggest process we could make an impact with,” says Mary Swartz.

Staff want to learn enduring, evolutionary technology

While the assessments and new hardware provided essential building blocks for the update, Old Dominion University knew the user experience would define a successful outcome so it included training for Banner XE Registration before going live. The student counselors were on the vanguard of user adoption by the broader community, and they were eager to participate. Another group was the IT staff members who embraced the opportunity to understand the new release’s capabilities, expand their skills, and increase their value.

For example, during technical sessions staff improved their skills in Groovy and Grails and use of the open source Apache Tomcat application server. In other lessons staff gained an understanding of how the new architecture of Ellucian XE could incorporate new applications and yield better data without the costly and troublesome point-to-point integrations.

“Our aim is to roll out Ellucian XE as a baseline, then improve upon it later,” adds David Kozoyed.

Students want to use the latest technology

Knowing that most students follow the same registration pattern of jotting down what they need, Old Dominion University mimicked this habit with the more manageable and electronic equivalent of XE Registration. It allows students to quickly know course requirements, availability, and prerequisites, and it enables them to sign up and make adjustments with the drop/add feature from any device.

Notes Mary Swartz, “Searching for courses in a particular program and seeing the schedule in a calendar view gives students a much simpler way to proceed through the steps and register.”

And registering is just what students are doing. Incoming freshmen and transfer students were the first ones to use the new registration application and more than 6,600 of them did so between June and the start of classes in September 2015. Students in the upper classes will get to use it at designated fall and spring dates during their regular registration cycle.

The smarter approach to application delivery

Old Dominion University is Virginia’s forward-focused research university with rigorous academics, an energetic residential community, entrepreneurial research and collaboration, and initiatives that contribute nearly $2.1 billion to the economy.

Still, the university can’t always rely on large budgets to keep its technology contemporary every few years. And with Ellucian XE, it doesn’t have to since XE updates occur as part of the institution’s regular upgrade cycle. As it continues down the path of implementing XE applications, Old Dominion University will deploy intuitive, interoperable, and self-service applications that bring the same level of efficiency and satisfaction to other areas of campus. The end result will be a campus that has a cohesive suite of solutions that gets tasks accomplished faster because they reflect the way users want to work.

Having our university and culture embrace the XE concept was key to moving forward.
David Kozoyed, Director of IT Solutions, Old Dominion University