Improved efficiencies. Better services. Reduced costs.

Abu Dhabi Centre for Technical and Vocational Education and Training (ACTVET) merges three student information systems into one: Banner™ by Ellucian.

The Abu Dhabi Vocational Education & Training Institute (ADVETI) and two Institute of Applied Technology (IAT) post-secondary institutions, Abu Dhabi Polytechnic and Fatima College of Health Science, all fall under the umbrella of Abu Dhabi Centre for Technical and Vocational Education and Training (ACTVET) in the United Arab Emirates. Among them, they had been running four different versions of Banner™ by Ellucian.

“There were challenges in application support and management—neither Abu Dhabi Polytechnic nor Fatima College of Health Science were in sync with ADVETI,” explains Mohamad Helmi Haykal, supervisor of Student Information Systems at ADVETI. “Some modules, such as Graduation and Compliance, were not fully implemented and therefore not functioning at the same levels of maturity.”

To add to the complexity, the various systems were running different versions of Banner, which led to inconsistent data. Leaders at ACTVET asked ADVETI to lead a consolidation strategy that merged all systems together under one student information system.

Benefits of a single student information system

By consolidating all the data into a single system and updating all systems to the same version, the three institutes would be able to collaborate and share best operational practices. This would help them process an increase in the quantity and velocity of enrolments, registrations, student achievement and graduation or completion requests more efficiently. Merging the systems would significantly reduce costs by eliminating duplicated power supplies and operating systems. In addition, it would unify the delivery of internal training for administrators.

Implementing a consolidation strategy

The first step was to set up an internal, cross-functional focus group, made up of representatives from the different entities. As the project progressed, the same representatives were responsible for transferring knowledge of the integrated student information system to its users: approximately 60 administration staff, more than 300 faculty and other staff members, and more than 5,000 students.

The two-year process took place in four main streams with technical support from Ellucian. Rather than running in a sequential order, they ran in parallel with each other and included building technical readiness by setting up the right IT infrastructure and storage provision for the project. Multi-entity processing and design helped set parametres for role-level access, information sharing and segregation. “This has allowed the three different entities to use the unified database, but at the same time each still has the autonomy to run its own distinct business operation,” says Maria Piotrowska, Alumni & Career Guidance Supervisor at ADVETI. One that was in place, they merged all three institutional databases onto a single platform. They also created a centralised support team to review existing customisations and govern the unified systems. This stream is still ongoing.

Provide better services to students

With the integrated system, students can access services far more effectively. They use Banner™ Student to register online, see class schedules, request transcripts and review their grades quickly and easily. Students can use the learning management system far more effectively, which enhances the learning process through collaboration between peers.

“By bringing three databases into one, licensing, databases and infrastructure management is much smoother than before. Having now reduced the number of servers needed for the full implementation for the three entities by approximately 60 percent, there is also a huge operational cost-saving aspect.”
Mohamad Helmi Haykal, Supervisor, Student Information Systems, ADVETI

Efficiently process enrolments, registrations and completion requests

Before the merge, consolidating data from several sources in order to provide useful information required a considerable amount of time. This has been drastically reduced. “Staff are also served better,” says Piotrowska. “All requests are processed through a centralised service desk, so they can log in and follow up. Requests used to take three to five days to process. Now it’s a matter of hours. Integration with the National Admissions and Placement Office (NAPO) system has helped reduce the time spent processing records from three minutes to 30 seconds—10 times the speed. It’s helped save processing time when enrolling for foundation programmes by 30 percent. Plus, through the consolidation, staff now get far greater support.”

Reduce costs by eliminating duplicate operating systems

“By bringing three databases into one, licensing, databases and infrastructure management is much smoother than before,” says Haykal. “Having now reduced the number of servers needed for the full implementation for the three entities by approximately 60 percent, there is also a huge operational cost-saving aspect.” In addition, it has saved costs in networking, operating systems, middleware, and database technologies. Time spent on IT-related tasks has been reduced by nearly half. “Already we’re in a better position to integrate between the different enterprises,” says Haykal. “The reporting function is greatly improved, as are the quality of services each entity can provide.”

Preparing for future upgrades

“We’re evaluating the possibility of implementing a number of other Banner systems to further improve our efficiency and service levels, because we now see the value in such investments,” says Piotrowska. “Now that the system is unified, it will be far easier to implement further technologies.”