By Beth Khalifa
Arizona Summer Wildcat
UA students learn to accept waiting in lines, being put on hold to listen to elevator music and using the speed-dial button to access the class registration system as a condition of functioning in a bureaucracy.
But that may become history with UA Access, an electronic service that will provide fingertip access to multiple campus departments.
Computer systems across campus will eventually allow students to access grades from previous semesters, class schedules, information on course availability, financial aid award status and personal data among other things, said Mike Torregrossa, member of SIS 2000, one of two teams working on the project.
SIS 2000 is replacing all current student system processes on the UA's mainframe computer with a re-engineered system called UA Access, which includes the Student Access and UAInfo services.
The UAInfo service will provide access to the "information superhighway," a network that provides information from campus publications nationwide, and global information through a program called Internet, said Karen Warren, UAInfo team member.
"This system will allow us (the UA) to identify ourselves to the world," Warren said.
A prototype of the UA Access system is currently available for use in the Student Union. Information is accessed by entering a personal identification number and is limited to inquiry about addresses, class availability, financial aid awards, class schedules and grades by semester, Torregrossa said.
"It's a pretty big step forward," he said. "We feel it's a milestone because before this system, it wasn't very easy for a student to get information. Now, a student can walk up to a computer for an immediate response, and eventually they will be able to access the system from any computer system."
The UA is one of several major universities that have adapted this system, including MIT, Cal-Berkeley, the University of Michigan and Penn State University, he said.
The project was started at Cornell University, where the software was developed nearly three years ago, Torregrossa said. Since then, about 15 universities have formed a partnership to assist in developing the project.
UA students are taking a liking to the system, trying out the prototype to see which classes have openings.
"I saw one student check on the computer to see if a class was open, and then he went straight to the phone to access the RSVP system," said John Detloff, SIS 2000 team member.
Petri Darby, a media arts senior, said he liked the system because it was easier than trying to get face-to-face advising.
"Sometimes, you don't get the best advising in the world in some places," Darby said.
Future development plans include software and network standards so the system can run on any personal computer or Macintosh on campus, Torregrossa said.
"In a general sense, we want to move all student information systems into computer, and we want to shift the focus of service to the student," he said.
Student suggestions being considered for the future include access to billing statements and financial aid evaluations, as well as the ability to register for classes, carry out transcript transfers and have degree checks, he said.
Many services will be available within two years, but completion may take up to five years depending on funds, Torregrossa said.
The prototype, including the software and the single terminal, cost about $20,000 and was funded by the Provost's Office and the Center for Computing and Information Technology.
Students can give feedback about the system in a section titled "Comments and Questions," or send E-Mail to the system via computer. And so far, feedback has been positive, with students describing the system as "really cool" and saying "it's about time" such a plan was implemented, Torregrossa said.
The UA Access teams will be offering $500 scholarships in the fall to students who come up with the winning name and logo for the system. Anyone interested can send a note through the "Comments and Questions" section of the system or watch for advertisements in the Wildcat. Read Next Article