Valdosta State University Combines Data Integrity with Universal Access

Article excerpt

Valdosta State University understands the necessities of database maintenance: an institution's data must be reliable and it must be accessible. Reliability without accessibility is like a treasure chest with no key.

This Georgia university first implemented SCT Banner2000 administrative software in 1996 to build a database that would be integrated and reliable. Today, VSU is running the Banner2000 Student Information System and Financial Aid System. Since 1996, VSU has successfully processed information for more than 110,000 students using Banner2000. The bulk of VSU's day-to-day administrative computer processing is performed on three Hewlett-Packard minicomputers. These run the Banner 2000 integrated databases, as well as business and financial systems, providing an average of 200 simultaneous users a near-100% online, real-time support environment.

Access is ensured by providing students with three options: via the Web utilizing Banner2000 Web for Students and Web for Faculty & Advisor, via telephone, or via campus kiosks. "We are one of the few schools that support telephone registration, dial-in Web registration and student self-registration utilizing PCs in various student labs," explains Thomas Archibald, assistant to the president for information technology. "Many other institutions are disregarding phone and kiosk accessibility and jumping ahead to Web-only access. But we have a high percentage of working students who do not have access to a PC at work. Students frequently tell me they are grateful that they can check grades, register for classes, or check on their financial status from a phone while on break at work. Those students don't have access to a PC at a local restaurant where they're working. And many others do not have a PC at home, either. But they can always get to a telephone."

Recognizing this fact, VSU has expanded the functions available by phone. The EPOS/Banner2000 Integrated Voice Response system, initially utilized only for student telephone registration, now also provides information about balances owed, financial aid status, office hours, and other information. About one-third of all students register by phone each semester.

Access Via Kiosks

Students also are receptive to the university's eight kiosks, which receive 6,000 hits a month. VSU was the first in the state university system to install the touch-screen information kiosks. They are accessible at various high-traffic locations around the campus, including residence halls, the sports complex, and the library. They offer, among other functions, a means for students to gain access to their data (grades, class schedules, financial aid, etc.) for onscreen viewing and/or printing at any time of the day or night. Visitors to the campus can view campus maps and use the attached telephone to call directly to a "touched" person or department, access VSU's Web home page, and perform other functions.

"The kiosks function as a 24/7 clerk for us," says Archibald. "For example, our visitors center is not staffed on the weekend. …