$3.5 Million Computer System Causes Concern

Lillian Wu

PeopleSoft Campus Solutions, the online system implemented by Glendale Community College to help students enroll in courses, pay tuition and view financial aid, has faced complaints from students, faculty and staff about enrollment and usability issues.

Superintendent/President of GCC Dawn Lindsay said, “I don’t know how long it’s going to take [to fix it] because I don’t know what other bugs and issues are going to be found. This was designed to help us to streamline our work and there have been some complications that have come out of it that have made it difficult to work with.”

The current situation with PeopleSoft has left students worrying about registration.
“It’s my second time registering online,” nursing student Shirley Mathew said. “The good thing is that you don’t have to come here to [register in person]. The only problem is when you run into problems getting into classes: you have to come here to clear it.

“For my chemistry class, I already took the pre-requisites, but I had to see a counselor to clear it up. Fortunately, my class was still open by the time I officially registered. I’m pretty sure, though, that if I had gone the next day, I would have been on the waitlist.”

Sun Mi Kim, an English major and international student, said she had problems registering for spring semester. “I went to Korea in the winter, so I missed my registration period,” Kim said. “I was on the waitlist for 12 units. I had to go to the classes and get a code from the teachers.

“I didn’t just go one time. I kept asking, and they gave me the permission number, so I can add to the class. I was very nervous, and it was difficult.”

Some GCC faculty and staff members have also been affected by PeopleSoft and have mixed feelings about it.

Instructor of anthropology Wendy Fonarow said, “There have been pros and cons. There’s an issue now with the waitlist. The problem is people who are on the waitlist are added into the class even though there is a cap. Everyone on a waitlist thinks they are in the class.

“In the abstract, it’s a really good system. [Admissions and Records] and students need to get on the same system together. [But] it was a hard time to roll out [PeopleSoft] especially during the enrollment crunch.”

Instructor of information systems Frank Moss said that he was “not a big fan of PeopleSoft.”
While at Oracle, Moss had worked with PeopleSoft in some instances in 1992 and later throughout the years.

“It has not changed a lot especially since 2005,” Moss said. “They have that layer underneath the user interface that scripting language that slows things down. I never liked that.

“I can’t use the PeopleSoft menus on my iPad or on my mobile device because it won’t run. That’s something else that needs to be fixed. That was also a leftover from the PeopleSoft [team].”

Because of the problems, Moss keeps all the grades on his own Excel spreadsheets, “I create my own spreadsheets and just download the data. The only other thing I could do is put in final grades and drop students from the class.”

Dana Nartea, student services program coordinator at GCC, said, “This is quite a complex system, and I am still trying to understand its multiple functionalities. We’re just in the middle of implementing a very important system component, the student degree audit, which enables the student and their counselor to monitor the student’s academic progress.”

Reed Anderson, the director of development and implementation of administrative information services, said that the completion of PeopleSoft took awhile, because it was a completely new system.

“We work on any problems received as they happen. It’s a big system and there are a lot of pieces to it,” said Anderson.

GCC previously had an in-house system developed by the information technology department. The system, which lasted for approximately 20 years, included the registration process, student fee payments and counseling.

In 2003, GCC decided to install Oracle, which is the system used for finance and accounting records. Oracle also attempted to create a new student system, but it failed in development.

Oracle bought PeopleSoft, a competitor that had its own enterprise software, and told GCC it could provide PeopleSoft as an alternative. In November 2007 GCC decided to use PeopleSoft.

The implementation for version 9.0 started in spring 2009. Since its completion, GCC started using the system for summer 2010 registration.
Executive Vice President of Administrative Services Ron Nakasone said, “We had never gone through this process with an enterprise system.”

GCC selected Ciber, a consultant firm, because they had the most experience in implementing PeopleSoft.

“For the PeopleSoft itself, we got it free because we had purchased Oracle,” Nakasone said. “What we paid for Oracle, I don’t remember. I could tell you that we spent about $3.5 million on the implementation for the student system.

“We’ve had a Title V grant that helped, we’ve had financial aid money that has helped, and we’ve had some college money. But 90 plus percent has been Measure G.”

Title V is a grant that helps with the overall campus. Measure G allowed improvements to college facilities and information technologies.
The funds were spent on servers, hardware, Ciber consultants and personnel to install them.

Board of Trustees President Anthony Tartaglia said, “We have spent a lot of money on this program. These systems are not inexpensive.”
GCC completed many of its goals when they implemented PeopleSoft.

The first goal was selecting an enterprise system, which meant a fully integrated system that would share databases. With the older GCC system, a student had to inform multiple offices about a new address. But with PeopleSoft, a student could type their address online and the modules would be able to access it at once.
Another goal was to upgrade the existing student service system. This meant giving students more information online about admission and records, financial aid and student fees.

The final goal was adding a system to the Garfield campus. “Our old system didn’t have all the functionality that Garfield needed,” Nakasone said.

Nakasone gave a few examples of “the bells and whistles” that GCC still has “to get right.” GCC is trying to improve the student education plan for counseling and the Board of Governors fee waiver application for financial aid.

Currently, students who pay with a credit card and want a refund will receive it by check. GCC would like the refund to go directly to the credit card. The “functionality is there,” but they “haven’t got it to work and fully test it yet.”

Additional improvements include student notifications for billing, warnings about failing classes and informing waitlisted students that they are in a class.

Lindsay stressed how important it was for PeopleSoft to work. “We need to make sure that we can get the reports out of it, because a lot of the decisions the college makes is based on the data that comes out of the PeopleSoft information. We have a tremendous need to make sure that we get this thing right.”

Tartaglia said, “As a campus, we have seen integration problems with PeopleSoft. The board of trustees wants to make sure the system works appropriately for the campus, and we are doing everything to ensure that the dollars are spent properly.”

In the areas that worked, Lindsay said that PeopleSoft has “done a good job of facilitating the needs of the various user groups.”
“The students or the faculty or staff are utilizing the sections that are working really well,” she said.

Fonarow said, “It’s good to implement a new system and technology. One of the best potential aspects is the Glendale account where we could have direct contact with the students. It provides an official way for students and teachers to reach out to each other.”

Many students also saw the benefits of using the system. Kim said, “I could see my classes in the shopping cart. [Going] online is easy to register for classes.”

For Mathew, “not waiting in line” was the best part. “I took classes here in high school and in order to register for classes, I had to come here and show them my counselor’s signature. It was a very long process, so I think online registration is much faster and in some cases easier.”

Students and faculty have suggestions for improving PeopleSoft. An easy to view format with information such as registration dates is one of the requests from Mathew.

“For some reason, the format confuses me,” Mathew said. “The important stuff is on the side and sometimes I don’t read the sides. It should be in the middle when you first log on.”

Before, students were unable to look at their unofficial transcripts online. Mathew is “glad” that the option is available now.

“It’s hard for me to look it up because I have to go to academic [and other tabs]. Put it in a different format. I always want to look at my transcript and what I need to do now, because college is all about planning for the future. I want to have easy access to that and how much I owe.”

Moss said, “It would be nice if they could implement a grade book and attendance records. But integrating it with the rest of the database might be a challenge.

“It would be interesting if we could perhaps get a student project together and make changes to the database and application.”

Moss suggested giving the students a chance to work on the issues by providing them with class credit or a wage. Students can gain work experience and learn how to solve current problems.

“I know for a fact that we have very talented students who could help out with the program,” Moss said. “My goal has always been to apply real world problems to the class.”

Lindsay would like the campus “to continue keeping us aware of what the frustrations and the issues are.”

“Our assurance to the students is that as we continue to have problems with the software that make it not user friendly as it should be, then we need to fix it,” Lindsay said.