Despite missed admissions launch, end date still set
OneCarolina will go live with its new admissions program in July after the $85-million program failed to launch its new system last month, according to William Hogue, USC’s vice president for information technology and chief information officer.
“What wasn’t working well was the flow of information from module to module. That has to be perfect, because otherwise the other system gets corrupted,” Hogue says. “Because of the academic calendar, even if we could have fixed that in a month, it would be inappropriate to make a switch right in the middle of an application process.”
Nevertheless, Hogue said that the program was still on track for completion by December 2014.
OneCarolina is a program intended to overhaul, modernize and streamline USC’s digital academic and administrative services across all eight campuses. For students, that means the much-maligned
VIP site, where they currently register and pay fees, will be replaced by the program from SunGard Banner, an off-the-shelf software used at thousands of universities.
“Our current legacy system that we have is highly customized to what we do and how we do things,” said OneCarolina Project Director Bob Swab. “With the benefits of implementing an off-the-shelf software, you get the benefit of the collective knowledge of their customer base.”
In line with the trend of outsourcing the university’s technology services in order to avoid costly in-house customization and its accompanying problems, USC’s Blackboard site will be hosted by Blackboard instead of its own servers starting Jan. 1 of next year. Hogue said this is akin to how Microsoft Outlook now hosts the student email system. USC’s in-house Blackboard servers have been unreliable, leading to multiple system shutdowns and complaints from students.
“It will give us better reliability, greater redundancy and a much quicker path to upgrade to new versions of Blackboard as Blackboard is released,” Hogue said.
Hogue said the university’s current information technology infrastructure was built in 1975 and has been changed hundreds of thousands of times. The system is simply too old to mesh with a world of Internet and personal computers.
“It was built pre-Web,” Hogue said. “It was built before people had their own devices, so there were no design considerations built into the software to allow self-service, remote access and access using a handheld device.”
OneCarolina will allow students to better access USC’s systems through their mobile devices, Hogue said.
Swab says that OneCarolina currently has about 30 to 35 university employees and 10 to 15 contractors working on the project.
Students, faculty and staff have been hearing about the program for some time. The board of trustees approved planning for the program in 2004, but a failed initial effort to get state funding and the economic downturn put the project on hold.
“I feel like I’ve been pregnant with this puppy for a long, long time,” Hogue said at Friday’s retreat. “I’m looking forward to moving it along. Believe me, when I hear a sense of urgency from some of you around this table, let’s get this done, I could not agree more.”
Swab said the project only began in earnest last year. Hogue said that when the project began, the university was already seeking to tackle about 30 years of “deferred maintenance” on its technology systems, but now it is working on about 40 years.