Purpose of the project
Academic Programming includes the curriculum management for the creation, inactivation, and modification of academic programs and plans, the approval process of program or plan additions/updates, and the publication of the academic calendars. Curriculum management and academic calendars are critical and core functions for the University. Usability, Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) compliance, and accuracy are vital requirements for these functions.
Curriculum management currently consists of a manual process involving Word documents, PDF reports, email messages, and data entry into the academic calendar and student information systems. Gaps and challenges were identified, many involving the long and complex curriculum approval process. Some of these gaps and challenges include:
- the lack of ability to view and search historical curriculum submissions when questions about approval process arise;
- consultation with subject matter experts not always occurring at the right time;
- differential submission methods and report formats across the faculties and other areas;
- existing tools no longer conforming to newly identified needs;
- a highly inefficient manual process involving email, Word/PDF document attachments, copying/pasting, leading to errors, accidental omissions, and the need to clarify.
Academic calendars (undergraduate and graduate) are the documents that relay contractual information to students about the rules they must follow as students to complete, and for the University to grant, any given credential. They cover everything about admissions, academic standings and progress, degree requirements, regulations, and course details. At the University of Waterloo, there are currently two different systems that are used to maintain both versions of the online academic calendars (undergraduate and graduate):
- Academic Calendar Maintenance System (ACMS) for undergraduate studies (since 2006).
- A custom module Web Content Management System (WCMS) for graduate studies (since spring 2016).
The platform upon which the undergraduate calendar is based, Academic Calendar Maintenance System, is no longer supported by the vendor, is unstable, and support resources are constrained. Likewise, the graduate calendar’s processes are supported on a burning platform and is in the midst of an upgrade (i.e., WCMS 2.0 to 3.0 project). The Academic Calendar and Curriculum Management (ACCM) project would replace these systems.
Reducing the risk and improving the overall experience
The Student Information Systems (SIS) steering committee recognized the need to address these concerns. A request for information (RFI) to investigate the costs, potential budget, and review solutions was completed in early 2021, and initiation of this project to evaluate, acquire, and implement system to support academic calendar and curriculum management for undergraduate and graduate studies was born out of this concern and approved in late 2021.
The project, when complete, will facilitate improved information management (resources, data management, versioning, reporting), streamline and automate workflow (co-ordination, review, amendments, approval, and tracking processes for stakeholders), and provide an improved and consistent student experience through the delivery of a sustainable, supported platform and improved services.
The following principles will guide the project stakeholders and teams throughout the life of the project:
- An enterprise solution and platform, meeting the needs of the organization as a whole, is the target outcome.
- User buy-in and inclusion throughout the project is critical.
- The project will follow a systems approach, combining the need for appropriate people, processes, and tools to sustainably support a solution.
- It is noted that both the undergraduate and graduate core requirements align, however, in some instances usage requirements may vary.
- The Registrar’s Office (RO), Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs (GSPA), and Information Systems & Technology (IST) are equal partners throughout the efforts of the related projects.
- Change management approach (Prosci ADKAR) to support changing business processes is used.
How will I be impacted by the project?
Students or other users that view the academic calendars may notice the following:
- Potentially new URL address.
- New look and feel with reorganized navigation and content.
- Different search functions.
Those involved in the curriculum approval process may notice the following:
- New agenda templates and reports presented at committees during the governance process.
- Different methods for building motions for approvals using the platform to do the work instead of a combination of email and PDF/Word documents.
- Improved processes with a more efficient outcome.