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Student Information System Argumentative

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The creation and management of accurate, up-to-date information regarding a student’s academic career is critically important in the management of a university. Previously, the USF Honors College relied heavily on paper records for this initiative. This research focuses on the design and implementation of a comprehensive student information system and user interface to replace the current paper records. Honors College Staff are able to directly access all aspects of a student’s academic progress through a secure, online interface embedded in the college’s website. The system utilizes user authentication, displaying only information necessary for an individual’s duties. Additionally, each sub-system has authentication allowing authorized users to create or update information in that sub-system. All data is thoroughly reviewed and validated on the server before actual record alteration occurs. In addition to a staff user interface, this system features a student user interface, allowing users to access information and submit requests electronically, saving both completion and processing time.

All data is stored securely on SQL servers managed by the USF IT department. Standard best practices are employed throughout the system to ensure the highest possible level of security and standardization. The system features a complex logging system to track all users’ access and ensure conformity to data access guidelines. This system is expected to increase the efficiency of the college’s record management thereby decreasing the work hours needed to access and deliver student records to users throughout the day, and again later to file these records. It is anticipated that this system will increase the efficiency of the department, and allow staff to better serve students.

Problem Statement
The creation and management of accurate, up-to-date information regarding a student’s academic career is critically important in the management of a university. Previously, the USF Honors College relied heavily on paper records for this initiative. While paper records are a traditional way of managing student data there are several drawbacks to this method. First, paper records may be difficult to manage and track. The physical exertion required to retrieve, alter, and re-file paper records are all non-value added activities. Additionally, it is only possible for one user to alter physical records at a time. Finally, data integrity and logging is difficult. 2|Page

Introduction
This research will focus on the design, implementation, testing, and analysis of a comprehensive, integrated, semi-autonomous student information system (SIS) and user interface (UI) to replace the paper records. Honors College staff will be able to directly access all aspects of a student’s academic progress with the Honors College through a secure, online interface embedded in the college’s website. The system will utilize a system of user authentication, displaying only the information necessary for an individual staff member’s duties. In addition, each sub-system will have authentication which will allow authorized users to create, update, or remove specific information in that system. All data will be thoroughly reviewed and validated on the server before actual record alteration occurs. This system is expected to increase the efficiency of the college’s record management and staff. Significantly fewer man hours will be necessary to access and deliver student records to users throughout the day, and later to file these records again. It is anticipated that this system will increase the efficiency of the department, and allow staff to better serve students.

Objectives
The objectives of this project include creating an easy to use and comprehend system, ensure data integrity and validation, maintain visual conformity throughout the system, increase efficiency and convenience for staff and student users and contain a strong error-handling system.

Design Constraints
USF Web & Data Guidelines
The USF Honors College website follows all relevant USF web and data guidelines as outlined by USF IT. These guidelines are required for all official USF websites. Highlights include: department contact information at the bottom of all pages. Webmaster contact information readily available, disclosure of all external links and inclusion of the USF logo, with link to www.usf.edu on all pages in the upper lefthand corner.

Users with Limited Computer Knowledge
The layout and styling of the site was specifically chosen to assist users with limited computer knowledge. While most college students are technologically savvy, and easily able to navigate online and complete complex tasks, many Honors staff are still less comfortable integrating with online resources. This fact was carefully considered during the development of the SIS and every step was taken to create a user friendly environment. Consistent layouts, styling and formatting were used to increase user efficiency and acceptance. Additionally, graphical formats are used whenever possible, including graphs, charts, icons, font styling, colors, and lists. For utilities specifically designed for a designated staff member, that staff member was consulted during each phase of development and all user input was 3|Page

carefully considered and integrated into the design of the utility, providing it did not conflict with the global conformity of the overall system.

Background and Site Statistics
Prior to the SIS project the Honors College relied exclusively on paper records and a small collection of electronic tables for all data management. The Honors College website was a simple static site with limited content on general admissions requirements and related information. The SIS utilizes portions of code and utilities found freely online, but is otherwise completely original and entirely designed in house by the Honors College IT Design Team.

12/1/2009 – 12/01/2010
Total Unique Visits: 126,808 Total Unique Visitors: 59,393 Pageviews: 416,954 Avg. Time on Site: 3:27 Most Searched Keywords (Google): 1. USF Honors College 2. USF Honors 3. Honors College 4. Honors College USF 5. Honors 6. Honors USF 7. USF AP Credit 8. 7 Year Medical Programs 9. USF Honors Program 10. USF Dual Enrollment Most Popular Content: 1. Homepage 2. Staff Home Page (Restricted Access) 3. Calendar of Events 4. 7 yr. Medical Program Estimated % New Visitors: 43.07% Traffic Direct: 30.28% Search Engines: 37.26% Referring Sites: 32.47% (USF.edu 12.1 5. Admissions Requirements 6. Student Information Home Page (Restricted Access) 7. Online Forms 8. Honors Scholarships 9. AP, IB, DE Credit Equivalencies 10. About the Honors College 11. Advising Home 12. Thesis 13. Honors Curriculum 14. Honors Staff 15. General Education Requirements 16. FAQs 17. Honors Community 18. FreshPeople Tips 19. Event RSVP 20. Orientation Home

4|Page

Fig 1. Google Analytics for http://honors.usf.edu Visited by: All 50 States, Canada, Mexico, Belize, Honduras, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Panama, Venezuela, Columbia, Guyana, Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, Chile, Russia, Poland, Romania, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Hungary, Czech Republic, China, Mongolia, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, India, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Saudi Arabia, Jordan Israel, Lebanon, Cyprus, UAE, Qatar, Burma, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand, Melanesia, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania,
Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo, Nigeria, Botswana, South Africa, Norway, Finland, Sweden, Estonia, Lithuania, Denmark, United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, France, Switzerland, Austria, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Slovenia, Bosnia, Albania, Greece, Http://honors.usf.edu • • • • • • 492 unique web pages (318 of those are interactive and dynamic) 13,865 files 9.6GB of total space 70mb of Database data over 10,000 database queries 13,457 student records • • • • • • 846 newsletter submissions 3,593 FreshPeople 5 event attendees 5,866 RSVPs 360 Calendar events 162 ‘Congratulations’ 40 Special Announcements

* Statistical data as reported by Google Analytics 5|Page

Self-Education
As a Mechanical Engineering student I had little opportunity to be exposed to computer programming, database design, or web development. As a Student Assistant for the Honors College during my freshman year I observed the current state of data management at the college and desired to help improve it. Through online resources such as W3schools.org I self-instructed myself on web and data design and management practices.

Servers, Software, and Equipment
It is currently the belief of the USF IT department, and the Honors College technology development team that it is in the best interests of all involved to have USF IT manage all hardware related to the storage of student records. All data is stored securely on SQL servers managed by the USF IT department allowing management of the system by a very small team. Standard best practices are Fig 2. SIS System Log employed throughout the system to ensure the highest possible level of security and standardization. The system also features a complex logging system to track all users’ access to the system and ensure conformity to data access guidelines.

Design
Design Languages
HTML, hypertext markup language, was used for all basic layout and placement of objects. CSS, cascading style sheets, is utilized for styling and design flourishes to ensure global conformity and ease of design alterations on a global scale. ASP, active server pages, is utilized for all real time content development and data organization. Finally, SQL, structured query language, is employed for all data management, retrieval, and storage.

Layout
It was desired to keep the navigation and layout of the Honors College website as simplistic as possible, while still retaining the ability to list all relevant pages. Future scalability was also considered during the selection of a navigation system. To conform to standard USF web practices, the USF Honors College designed a tiered menu system and utilized many of the top tier wordings employed on usf.edu, including: Prospective Students, Current Students, Community and Scholarships. Additional top tier categories include: FreshPeople Tips, Honors College Events, Communications and Honors College Forms. Subordinate menu items are placed under appropriate categories. Every effort was made to ensure each item occurred only once in the menu.

This is implemented throughout the navigation 6|Page system save one specific instance, the Accelerated Programs. It was determined that since the Accelerated Programs were a mission critical aspect of the College, and equally important to both incoming and current students they be repeated under both sections. Appendix A includes a graphical depiction of the navigation schema. The SIS was developed as a module compilation of applications and utilities. This allows the system to be fully scalable. Each application relies on basic student information contained in a central file, but is otherwise independent of other system. This model also allows for modular access, dependent on a staff members required access to the system.

Accessibility
“Best Practices” All web and data “best practices” were utilized during the development of the data and web portions of this project. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Markup Validation Fig 3. Text-Only version of home page Service was utilized to ensure conformity with all markup standards. The HTML 4.01 Transitional format was selected as the language of development. Cross Browser Compatibility The SIS is regularly tested, and designed to display and function correctly in a wide variety of operating systems and browsers. The SIS designed to operate at full capacity on the following systems: •

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