Academic journal article College and University

Web-Enabled Systems for Student Access

Academic journal article College and University

Web-Enabled Systems for Student Access

Article excerpt

Abstract

California State University, Fullerton is spearheading the development of a suite of server-based, Web-enabled applications that distribute the functionality of its Student Information System software to external customers without modifying the mainframe applications or databases. The cost-effective, secure, and rapidly deployable business solution involves using the Internet along with an Information Request Broker (IRB) to perform complex operations while leveraging legacy functionality.

Introduction

Test Web, a California State University, Fullerton (CSU, Fullerton) student, has been traveling around the South Seas over the summer. As he throws his suitcase on the bed in his tropical island hotel, he suddenly remembers he hasn't registered for fall classes. He sighs and shakes his head as he thinks of how mad his advisor will be if he doesn't take Sociology 101 again this semester. Then he stops. Smiling, he remembers the new Web-enabled system CSU, Fullerton has just installed on its Student Information System. "This is going to be a piece of cake," he thinks as he heads for the beach.

The story of Test Web is fiction, but CSU, Fullerton is working to make it a reality. The university is striving to be a change agent in higher education and views the Internet as a new tool to distribute information systems' functionality to new and existing clients.

This new tool kit creates opportunities to leverage legacy functionality that did not exist two years ago. CSU, Fullerton, like most other universities, has invested many years and millions of dollars developing, enhancing, and maintaining sophisticated, legacy-based student systems. These systems contain complex business logic that powers the thousands of daily transactions that keep the classrooms open and research ongoing. The problem: in this model, legacy application functionality exists only for a small audience of captive clients with a direct connection to CSU, Fullerton mainframe facilities (i.e., a very small, in-house audience). And until recently, distributing services to remote clients using the client/server or dumb terminal models has been extremely difficult and expensive.

Thinking"Outside the Box"

CSU, Fullerton is changing the rules. It is organizing a consortium to spearhead the development of a suite of serverbased, Web-enabled applications that distribute the functionality of its Student Information System software to the external customers without modifying the mainframe applications.

The goals of the CSU, Fullerton consortium project are to:

Provide application functionality to new distributed users by giving them access via the Internet with no need to deploy a propriety backbone network.

Reduce operating cost through elimination of administrative overhead.

Increase student satisfaction through new service physics.

Provide interoperability by using a standard Web browser running on any platform.

Extend the life of legacy systems and associated investments through implementation of the foregoing.

Jim Blackburn, Director of Admissions and Records at CSU, Fullerton, said, "With almost 90 percent of our students working and commuting, Webenabling registration has a great deal of value to them as our customers. Similarly, our faculty would be substantially better served by being able to use the Web as a secure and convenient gradereporting device."

To provide a good business case for CSU, Fullerton, the server-based middleware solution had to tap the 'value' of IS, rather than replicating its functionality in a Web implementation. Any viable solution must provide/be:

Interoperability-The solution must be capable of supporting a thin client (the standard Web browser).

Connectivity-Application functionality can be accessed from anywhere serviced by the Internet.

Access to existing applications-To achieve maximum value, the user must tap functionality, both applications and data, that are in the current IS legacy systems. …

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