“Something has got to hold it together. I’m saying my prayers to Elmer, the Greek god of glue.”
— Tom Robbins, “Still Life with Woodpecker”
Brace yourselves; registration is coming.
At last Friday’s Student Government meeting (SG), Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Registrar Joe Loffredo presented an update on GeneSIS, the school’s new student information system (See “SG Update” on page 5.). With a planned Monday, April 9 launch, the system will take effect for fall quarter registration later next month.
The new system has got some seriously impressive perks. There’s an advanced course search and even a shopping cart to store multiple potential class lists. And with its appointment system, a generation of students may never have to brave RIT’s dreaded 6 a.m. registrations.
Sporting a laundry list of enticing features, GeneSIS has the potential to hit it out of the park. However it doesn’t, and that’s what’s disappointing: While the system’s bells and whistles are highly appealing, it ultimately fails to provide the same basic amenities as its 33-year-old predecessor.
The need for an upgrade is clear. According to Loffredo, RIT installed its current system in 1979. Over the years, administrators have found creative ways to patch the aging system into RIT’s growing infrastructure. With those capable of supporting its legacy hardware reaching retirement age, it’s an unsustainable model. And with the semester system on the horizon, there was really no better time to upgrade.
My problem comes with the project team’s apparent reluctance to customize the software, a fact Loffredo himself criticized. Though the reason was not readily apparent at last Friday’s meeting, the Institute’s implementation of GeneSIS is default in every way — straight out of the box with no customizations.
I don’t care that the system’s interface is white and purple — one superficial complaint leveled at SG last week. I’m more concerned with its functionality. There’s no easy way to simply browse classes; you’re forced to use the program’s search function. And while it is nicely designed, it’s not appropriate in every situation.
The default class view is also confusing, and it lists a series of cryptic alphabetic codes in addition to the current numeric ones. Designed for use after semester conversion, they will display nothing for the next year. Even worse, in my opinion, there’s no way of choosing to display classes in a specific college.
I understand it’s a work in progress. Even when it’s done, there will still be a learning curve. What angers me is the project’s apparent priority on cutting-edge “convenience” over core functionality. In my three years here, I have seen the Institute work at integrating the aging SIS into a growing campus. With a newer, far more customizable system, it appears they have failed to take even simple conveniences into consideration.
I applaud RIT for taking the initiative to replace SIS, and I especially appreciate Loffredo’s forthrightness with its shortcomings. It takes balls to stand in front of an audience and admit your project’s shortcomings. And while I feel the team will likely address these concerns in time, I urge them to consider them up front. You’ve got an incredible piece of software; use it to your full potential.
As for my fellow students, your best weapon is knowledge. Read up on GeneSIS. Check out the training literature the project has posted online or visit the system itself. Educate yourself so that fall registration goes as smoothly as possible. In the end, though, you shouldn’t have to. That’s the core problem I see in the current project’s approach: It treats education alone, rather than preventive action, as the fix for the system’s flaws.