Johns Hopkins students looking for a user-friendly gateway to their school-related financial and academic details can now get a glimpse of the future. Behold ISIS, the Internet Student Information System, whose informational resource page and first usable component go online today. Perhaps not since Stargate, the sci-fi movie and subsequent TV show, have a technological portal and Egypt been so inexorably linked.
The system's acronym refers to the Egyptian deity of the same name. Known as the "mother goddess" and goddess of magic, Isis was a skillful communicator who, according to the ISIS Web page, "understood the power of information."
Seen as phase one, this week's launch is the first of many to take place in the coming months and years.
ISIS (known as the Exeter Project in its development stage) is a Web-based system that will effectively store in one place the records of all current full-time and part-time students. Upon its full implementation in the summer of 2005, students will be able to apply to Johns 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.
How will it work exactly? ISIS is divided into four "modules"--admissions, billing, financial aid and records/registration--that are integrated by a common database and software. The user can sign into the system's home page and link to all existing modules. The 24/7 service will be provided to students, staff and faculty in all eight of the university's academic divisions. The School of Medicine will participate in only the financial aid and billing modules.
The common database will be the first segment implemented. As of March 31, the Homewood admissions staff will be able to manage the prospects applying to the university for 2004. Later this year, high school seniors applying to either Arts and Sciences or Engineering will be asked to enter their biographical information into the system. The admissions offices for the remaining schools, except for the School of Medicine, will be phased in from June to September. SOM will begin its participation in December.
The further implementation of the system will take place piecemeal, with financial aid set to "go live" in early 2004, the student billing segment activated in June 2004 and the records/registration module scheduled for full implementation by June 2005.
Robert Evans, ISIS project director and Hopkins ITS interim director for student services, says a project of this scale cannot be simply switched on all at once. Evans says a methodical approach is required to migrate the data from all the current systems into ISIS, design and configure the modules and alter existing administrative procedures.
"We are not anxious to have the big bang effect," he says. "We have been very cautious due to the sheer amount of data that we are working with. Ultimately, we need to ensure the integrity of that data so as to make sure it's right when we switch over."
With the new system, student information will be shared across modules as soon as it's entered. For example, when a student provides an address and phone number to an admissions office, that information may be instantly viewed by other offices, such as financial aid. By using ISIS, faculty will be able to post grades, manage advisees and monitor class enrollment all in real time. For staff in the admissions, financial aid, student accounts and registrars' offices, ISIS will be a tool to automate repetitive tasks and customize reports, among other features.
"For instance, admissions staff will be able to keep track of all applicants and prospects with this system, and it will remind them when a student is missing documents," he says. "ISIS also sends alerts once an application is complete. It will tell you that this person's application is ready to review, or this person is ready to be admitted, totally removing the need to look at paper files."
The impetus for creating a new student database was to integrate currently disparate systems, allowing users to get all the information they need in one place.
Stephanie Reel, chief information officer and vice provost for information technology, says the functional and technical aspects of ISIS have required a massive collaborative effort. The endeavor began in March 2001 and to date has involved roughly 500 people, including Hopkins ITS personnel and staff from across divisions.
"In order to accomplish the first of many go-live dates for the project, it has taken a high degree of teamwork, coordination and intensive efforts to migrate data from our current systems to ISIS," Reel says. "It's a very deliberate and time-consuming process but one that I'm sure students, faculty and staff will find well worth the wait."
To learn more about ISIS, go to www.jhu.edu/isis.