Over the past year, Information Technology Services and campus partners unveiled several major components of Project MAUI (short for Made At the University of Iowa), a new student-information system that was custom developed by a team of UI software engineers. Just a couple weeks ago, they went live with the last big pieces of MAUI, the modules used for financial aid and billing.
The homegrown student record system manages vast amounts of data, including nearly 1 million communications per year for more than 300,000 prospective students, 40,000 applicants, and 4,500 first-year students. In the same time period, the system facilitates the disbursement of over $300 million in financial aid and the collection of $450 million in tuition, fees, and charges. The UI’s 30,000 enrolled students register for classes online, generating up to a million transactions per day.
Development efforts kicked off in 2006, after the university investigated vended solutions to replace its 30-year-old record system and discovered that the products on the market didn’t meet all of the institution’s needs. In building MAUI, developers used the existing student self-service portal (ISIS) as a basis, but addressed technical limitations of the old systems with a more contemporary interface, better integration with other systems, and additional features and functionality.
“ITS has provided the university with a fantastic tool,” says UI Director of Admissions Emil Rinderspacher. “By having a system built by our own internal staff, we have the flexibility to shape our technology in the future, adding enhancements that work specifically for us.”
An online student portal allows users to view schedules, grades, and financial aid information, and to receive and pay their U-bills electronically. Integrations with the UI’s course-management system and a student success early intervention system help officials identify at-risk students so the university can reach out to provide them with any extra resources they may need.
Freshmen applicants can now find out within 48 hours whether they have been accepted to the UI, sparing them the inconvenience of waiting a couple weeks to receive a decision. That’s possible because MAUI is able to read data submitted by the applicants and apply business rules to determine whether they meet the basic criteria for admission, the honors program, and certain scholarships. The new system also automates processes for placement testing and transcript submission.
Rinderspacher says MAUI is a great step forward for the admissions office, in part because it allows staff to work remotely – which is vital to those who are on the road representing the UI at high school visits, college fairs, and other recruiting events. He says MAUI is so intuitive that new members of the admissions team get up to speed quickly, and that the new built-in communication engine, Dispatch, is a major improvement from the previous system.
Other UI offices share similar stories about how MAUI streamlines work and provides better access to information. Staff in the Academic Advising Center like the “my advisees” page, which allows advisors to review caseloads from a variety of parameters. They say a feature that allows students to add or drop courses online during the first week of class is much more efficient than the old paper method, and it allows the advisors to easily track which advisees make changes to their schedules.
“Students also like the new degree audit format, which is more user friendly and easy to read,” says Lisa Ingram, assistant provost for enrollment management and director of the Advising Center.
Beth Cole, senior associate director of the Office of Student Financial Aid, says MAUI saves staff time by automatically creating session-based costs of attendance using tuition and fees tied directly to their program of study. MAUI allows financial aid staff members to check student eligibility before releasing aid to billing, eliminates paper flow with automated tasks based on specific criteria, and allows real-time simulations for awarding, requesting, and disbursing aid. One of the biggest changes, Cole says, is that automated communications can now be sent with the click of a button.
“Project MAUI represents a monumental effort and tremendous collaboration between ITS and Provost Office Functional Units,” says Mike Noel, senior director of ITS-Administrative Information Systems. “Our initial vision has been realized, and we now have a solid foundation to build on.”
Noel says MAUI has already proven its flexibility and expandability in supporting new gender codes for admissions and the first-week add/drop course functionality for student records.
The custom-built system may even become a model for other schools. ITS has already heard from colleagues at other institutions who are interested in developing MAUI-like solutions of their own.