The Johns Hopkins Gazette: September 30, 2002
September 30, 2002
VOL. 32, NO. 5


IT Revs Up Student Services

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette
Johns Hopkins Gazette Online Edition

Today, a Hopkins student can hop on the Internet and, in one sitting, register for courses, view his full class schedule and then e-mail a "mission accomplished" to his faculty adviser. But the real beauty of the scene, according to Alice Brainerd, is that the student doesn't even have to step foot on a Hopkins campus.

According to Brainerd, director of student services for Hopkins Information Technology Services, this is no longer your older brother's Johns Hopkins.

In the past two years, Hopkins ITS staff have upgraded computer-related services and added a wealth of new ones, all intended to save students both time and money. In addition to online registration, the university now provides to students Web-based e-mail, remote and secure access to library resources, discounted software and laptop computers, and wireless, high-speed Internet access on all campuses, among a host of other services.

"What we are trying to do is provide more information, better information and easier access to information," Brainerd says. "We are trying to make the life of the student easier."

Stephanie Reel, chief information officer and vice provost for information technology, says that roughly two years ago it was decided that much more had to be done on the IT side to bring all Hopkins students fully into the 21st century.

"It's been exciting to work with our students, providing them with technology to help them create a virtual sense of community, to empower them to take advantage of self-service tools and to allow them to access the resources of Hopkins anywhere and anytime," Reel says. "Our goal is to ensure that technology really does improve the quality of their experience at Johns Hopkins."

To help accomplish this goal, Hopkins ITS staff met during the past 18 months with both undergraduate and graduate groups to find out exactly what students' needs are.

One major complaint they received from students, Brainerd says, centered around the long lines and multihour waits associated with the registration process. To remedy the situation, the university created a student Web registration system that allows users to update biographical information in the Registrar's Office, add/drop courses and view current and former course schedules, all from remote locations. The service was fully implemented in April so that when this year's freshman class arrived on campus, most had already registered for fall courses from their homes.

Web registration is currently available to students at Homewood and the Bloomberg School of Public Health. The Peabody Institute and SAIS will offer the service later this fall. The changes are not necessary at the schools of Nursing and Medicine, which have their own registration systems.

Seen as a stopgap measure, the current method of Web registration will eventually be supplanted by Internet Student Information Services (formerly known as the Exeter Project)--a Web-based system that will effectively store in one place the records of all current full-time and part-time students. Upon the ISIS system's full implementation, students will be able to apply to Hopkins, register for classes, receive their grades and access financial aid and billing information through a single portal that is just a mouse-click away.

To connect to the Internet, many JHU students are using laptop computers that they purchased at discounted prices, as this time last year the university introduced the Hopkins Mobile Computing Program. The initiative allows students, and faculty and staff, the opportunity to purchase from a group of four specially priced Dell and IBM laptop computers that are either delivered straight to their homes or are waiting for them when they arrive at Hopkins. Once on campus, students can surf the Net using the high-speed connections that have been installed in all the dorms, or tap into the many new wireless access points scattered throughout the Hopkins enterprise. (A full list of wireless sites is available at .cfm.)

Dean Zarriello, director of network services, says that much work has been done in the past year to provide reliable connections on all the campuses. New main Internet feeds have been installed at Homewood and East Baltimore, and upgrades have been made to network electronics.

Two student-related IT projects currently nearing completion are a new enterprisewide student directory, to be published in early 2003, and the more imminent Experts and Opportunities Network, or EON, a Web site that will allow users to find out about research opportunities and research expertise across all schools and divisions of the university.

The new student directory will help to create what Reel calls a "virtual community," allowing students to connect with each other, and learn more about the makeup of their class. With EON, located at, Hopkins affiliates will be able to post and search research and other opportunities for graduate and undergraduate students, and also maintain an extensive expertise profile.

"EON is an example of where we are trying to improve the quality of life for students," Reel says. "It's giving the students an opportunity to get to know what interests they have in common."

Arun Nagarajan, a senior majoring in computer science and chair of the Hopkins Academic Computing Policy Advisory Committee, says that the difference between the Hopkins he knew as a freshman and the current version is "startling."

"So much has changed, not just in the infrastructure, but in the attitude toward student needs," Nagarajan says. "There has been a lot more collaboration between Hopkins ITS and students and, as a result, students can now check their classes online, add/drop online, access their e-mail anywhere--lots of good things."

Nagarajan says his group will continue to work with Hopkins ITS staff members to refine the current services, such as providing wireless access for those with Apple computers and expanding the online hours of the registration system.

Reel says she can promise students that while much has been done, much more is to come.

"We have done some pretty cool stuff, and we would love to do more. We will do more," she says. "Stay tuned."