Feature story for ICT News, University of Sydney
Feature story for ICT News online monthly newsletter (University of Sydney) FlexSIS credit module boosts operational efficiency
February 2007, 934 words

Since its operation was devolved from the Student Centre to faculties in September, the FlexSIS credit module has helped faculties to increase operational efficiency in a number of ways.

Chris Angwin, undergraduate student advisor at the Faculty of Science, says that it has helped his work a great deal. "It has made the process so much quicker, and streamlined it. It cuts out a lot of the redundancy."

Richard Andrew, an admissions coordinator at the Faculty of Economics and Business, says: "In terms of having information available, it's now so much more reliable that a student's credit is actually going to make it onto their record."

Until last year, the administration of credit (also known as 'advanced standing') involved the practice, left over from the era of the SRS student administration system, of relying on the Student Centre to perform data entry.

Because of its academic nature, a student's application for credit is always assessed by a faculty. In the past, the faculty would send details to the Student Centre, where staff would enter them into FlexSIS.

Senior managers decided that the University would benefit if processing was devolved to faculties. With the aim of further developing FlexSIS to enable this, a new working party first met in April 2005.

There were several key business drivers behind the new development.

  • It was considered important to reduce administrative overhead by simplifying business processes, to reduce the cost of supporting and administering satellite systems used in some faculties, to improve data quality by reducing duplicate data maintenance, and to improve the level of service to students through faster processing of credit applications.
  • Timely credit assessment is critical when students are selecting a university.
  • It was also considered important to leverage earlier investments in FlexSIS.

But other benefits have also derived from the devolution. One is the convenience of seeing the student's record updated immediately.

"Now with the credit module, you see it all happen and I think that works out pretty well," says Economics & Business's Richard Andrew.

Jonathan Crabbe, undergraduate team leader at the Faculty of Law, agrees.

"Absolutely. Just to know that it's gone straight on there. Student records were fairly good. Normally when we sent them down they'd be up within 24 hours, 48 hours. But there's definitely an advantage in being able to load it straight away.

"It's just knowing that it's done, and also the time as well, because sometimes students want to get a transcript straight away, and they've just come back with some cross-institutional credit. You can say, 'look, it's on there, you can get your transcript straight away'. So it's just that immediacy."

The Faculties of Economics & Business and Law add credit after the enrolment is completed. Some faculties, however, add credit before an offer is made. For them, there is the added advantage that processing times have been cut significantly.

Science's Chris Angwin says "At this sort of time, when everyone's so run off their feet, I'd say for every student it has cut it down by a week."

When a student puts in an application needing assessment, if it's something that the Faculty of Science hasn't already assessed they must send the application to a school. The school assesses the credit and returns a recommendation to the faculty office. The faculty then makes an offer of credit. The student returns the offer indicating whether they wish to accept the credit or not. In the past, at this point the faculty would need to send a document to the Student Centre for data entry.

"So that process, at this time of year, could take from two to four weeks for a single subject. Now, we're cutting at least a week off that, so instead of taking two to four, we're taking one to three," says Angwin.

"And then, if there is a problem, if somehow credit has been missed being put on and the student comes to us, we can fix it at that very point, instead of having to draw up something to send down to records and putting it on and waiting, once again, for a good week or so."

At the International Office, where staff must put credit offers on offer letters which are then sent to overseas applicants, turnaround has improved since the new credit module was devolved.

Manuela Bogdan, an admissions coordinator, says it's significantly faster and clearer. Upon initial assessment she normally sends the student's application to a faculty for a credit decision. It comes back within two weeks. As soon as she receives it, she enters it into the system and reissues a conditional or firm offer letter, showing the credit offered.

"So the student knows at a really early point how much credit they're expecting.

"And then we can always change it as well, so if the faculty leader decides to add more credit, it's just a quick [entry]."

The Student Centre also has been impressed with the performance of the module.

"I've had no complaints," confirms Emma Hastings, assistant manager for student records. "I've had no [comments like] why can't it do this and why can't it do that."

She says that the module has been able to cater to all faculties, regardless of the point in the process at which they add credit to the student's record. People are using it in different ways, indicating flexibility.

"It worked well before it was released to the faculties, and the extra development that was put in as a result of the project has only added to its functionality beautifully."

"It's one of the most user-friendly modules on FlexSIS."