Rebekah Tjelmeland

New features in the student record system make scheduling appointments and sharing information much more convenient for University of Iowa students and their advisors.

In addition to putting key tasks in a single, easy-to-access site, the new features eliminate the need for departments to have distinct systems. This aligns with one of the OneIT@Iowa IT efficiency projects underway at the UI: streamlining the application portfolio to reduce redundancy. So far, the advising notes feature has combined six systems and the scheduler has merged four.

“In the past, students had to use different systems to schedule with different advisors,” says Rebekah Tjelmeland, the application developer in Information Technology Services who led the implementation with partners from the Academic Advising Center. “When a student switched advisors—for example, when moving from central advising to a departmental advisor—they’d have to switch to another system. It was confusing.”

The ability to schedule advising appointments is now built into the Iowa Student Information System, where students register for classes and access essential information like financial aid and grades, and “MAUI,” the administrative portal of the student-record system. The scheduler integrates with Microsoft Exchange and Office 365 calendaring, and students get email reminders for appointments. Advisors can indicate which blocks of time are open, and postponing a day of appointments due to illness is a one-step task.

The advising notes feature, launched in January 2015, allows advisors and departmental staff to house and share information in a central location. Ten colleges and 78 departments have adopted the feature, which contains over a million notes and nearly 43,000 files for 90,000 students. Notes may include questions or concerns raised by a student; referrals or cautions mentioned by an advisor; reasons for course adds/drops; or policies and procedures discussed.

“Before, there were multiple systems on different technologies that didn’t talk to each other. Staff involved with helping a student couldn’t view each other’s notes for updates; they relied mainly on information shared by email,” Tjelmeland says. “This makes it much easier to work together and follow what’s going on with a student, and notes can be shared with the student.”

Both new features were built to be easily extendable to other units. Financial aid counselors are now using the scheduling app, and this fall the Registrar’s Office will start using the notes.