The following is a body of staff comments given as part of the staff consultation on MyCampus, which was initiated in the wake of the system’s troubled launch in September 2011.
There is very little functionality in this system, I’m amazed that it was chosen as the “best” system that was on offer. The promise of a streamlined system with functionality, visibility and automation seems like a fairy tale when absolutely none of this has materialised. Reporting is impossible. Nothing is automatic. A student record has to be opened in several different places for (still limited) visibility. Documents have to be uploaded in different screens. Certain searches can’t be made with name/date of birth. It can take 15 clicks and several server connection problems to perform a simple task. Surely all of this is unacceptable?
The Student Services queue had a 2 hour wait at registration time, with the answer of “I’m sorry, it’s not working properly” being given to increasingly frustrated students after this lengthy wait. Our reputation must have taken quite a hit during this time alone. The system is just not set up in a way that is useful for staff or students, the very people it was supposedly bought to help.
The answer “I don’t know” is a common one when questions are raised at so-called “training sessions”, with “I would need to check that” being a close second. It really doesn’t offer much in the way of comfort that anyone knows what they are doing after two years of building/enhancing/whatever was supposed to be happening with the new system. Testing seems to have been non existant.
One poorly set up system is not a valid replacement for several useful ones. It just doesn’t deliver. How has this been allowed to happen?
Medicine, Veterinary and Life Sciences
Far too time consuming. All other work now behind as a result, as student enrolment had to be priorotised.
Not user friendly; in fact, user-unfriendly. This is a retrograde step.
Typeface tiny and difficult to read; far too many lines/words/tables on each screen. View can be expanded; however it would then take several stages of scrolling around to see the entire page. This is not a moblie phone!
WebSurf had a “Dyslexia View”. Even without this it was easy to read; clearly set out; not too much info on the one page. MyCampus may disproportionately disadvantage staff and students with visual impairment, which is an Equality issue. In these respects it is a distinct backwards step.
Further disability/equality issues: Lack of Disability information on the system; lack of Absence information; length of time taken to complete taskes; increased screen time; increased stress levels.
Far too much training is required. I have been to five 3-hour workshops and still am not much further forward. This is more than just unfamiliarity or “teething trouble”; I attended one session for WebSurf, learned on the job, and it did not impact significantly on my other work, in fact I learned a lot of useful information about the tasks of Advisers, terminology, etc. MyCampus has significantly added to my workload and removed my attention from elsewhere.
As an Adviser and Course Co-ordinator, the main problem for me is probably communication problems on an extreme scale. Changes in terminology, class codes/lists/email. It has been extremely difficult to communicate with student classes/groups. Very messy, urgently needs resolving. Likely to impact on student feedback and satisfaction.
Terminology virtually unrecognisable, and largely inappropriate. Does not match with any other university systems, student information, etc. Problems with class lists (“rosters”? is this an assumption?), class email addresses, timetables. Significantly impacted on smooth start to term.
Course codes have changed, without teaching staff being informed.
Does not seem to link to other University systems, which I understood was one of the main reasons for bringing it in. Usually enrolled students would be automatically enrolled on the appropriate Moodle but this did not happen, even when course codes on Moodle were changed to the new ones. Made class communication very difficult, particularly as no working class email addresses available then.
Job “Aids” at the training sessions were out of date. Different screens were shown from those on the sheets, even when all instructions followed.
For changing students to a repeat year, this has to be done on several places in the system. After attempting this, then going through with a trainer step by step, trying again, getting stuck, sitting with another trainer, the “Year/Level” info still does not match on all the screens (eg Student Details/Student Summary). Not at all clear what still needs doing to resolve this, or how this will affect “Roster”, exam enrolment, etc, which is a major concern.
“Eligible to Enrol” was particularly problematic and quite random. One student was listed as “Eligible to Enrol: No” but had no “Holds” on his record. I then checked the record of another student with a similar course/route to check the settings and compare with the “problem” student so I could see what needed changing. On returning to the “problem” studen’t record it now said “Eligible to Enrol: Yes”, without me actually changing any settings/info at all.
Several problems with fees. Students cannot be classed as “debtors” just because we have changed systems. Makes us appear like a dodgy catalogue company who have set the debt collectors on folk. Not fair to our students and possibly a legal issue; this needs resolving immediately and must not be repeated next year/ever.
The second item on the student homepage is how to enter their debit card details!! Not a good advert for GU!
“Shopping Cart” may be readily understood by students, but as one has written, they thought they were choosing Honours courses, not shopping online at Asda… This is “dumbing down” and completely inappropriate, has been raised in several meetings/forums, with the standard response “the students understand it/no-one else has complained/you are telling the wrong person”. This is not good terminology to use if Glasgow wants to be world-leading and professional.
I am not resistant to change, far from it, but firmly believe that the systems should exist to support us, not vice versa. Unless this balance can be changed I do not see how Management can contuinue to justify MyCampus.
Range of contributors
No need to reiterate the many comments regarding advising with which I concur.
My additional concern has been related to disability information. We have PG students who began their programme (plan?!) in August and registered with the Disability Service then, but I only received the official ‘alerts’ last week (ie end of October) by which time they had been in classes and on placement for nine weeks. During the first attempt to send these out (mid October) the system failed and it took nearly a fortnight to resend the information. The idea of holding onto all of the records until the end of the drop-off/add-on period was not helpful for staff and students here, particularly when the sending then failed.
I don’t have time to run a query every week to find out if any additional students have had their needs recorded; at the moment alerts seem to be going to the student’s advisers and not to me as disability co-ordinator.
My main concern is that I may miss important information which needs to be passed on to colleagues at the earliest possible opportunity.
I contacted the DS in August asking if there would be any specific training available for disability co-ordinators in relation to MyCampus, who relayed my request to SLP, but nothing has come of that, as far as I am aware.
I have to say that the individual staff involved with the disability issues at SLP have been very helpful, but again we are talking about countless work hours, both of tutors and of the SLP team, which have to be added to the overall cost of the project.
The SLP Board had a good representation of academics, advisers, SRC etc. which all sounds like the right way to oversee this kind of complex IT implementation. If we are to learn how to do things better in future how did this board not avert the problems or see the problems coming earlier? Were they not given the right information? Did they not do their oversight role appropriately??
Medicine, Veterinary and Life Sciences
1. One of the biggest problems (and it is still ongoing ) has been staff having the appropriate access levels to make appropriate changes. I assume this may be because we have a professional degree which does not fit into the normal advising role. It is a fixed curriculum. Therefore, all “advising” tasks are carried out by administrators.
Can someone please tell us who can give access? We just seem to go round in circles on this.
2. A related problem, verification of graduation does not show date of birth. I cannot provide the necessary verification to international medical councils without date of birth. I need to be able to see this (all I see in field where there is DOB is **/**/**. At the moment I am jumping between WebSurf and MyCampus. What happens when Websurf is switched off?
Medicine, Veterinary and Life Sciences
I am a new university teacher and have been at the University of Glasgow since 1st September 2011. Despite the fact that I am teaching and administrating on several courses I still do not have any access to My Campus. This is despite the fact that I have logged a helpdesk call on 13th Oct. I chased this call up a week later to be told not sure who deals with this but that they would escalate the call to urgent!! It is now 30th Oct and the call has not yet been acknowledged never mind dealt with and I still have no access to My Campus and instead have to rely on admin support to give me class lists etc that I should be able to get from My Campus.
The detailed comments cover a lot of points. I may be repeating some here but it is surely useful to know the scale of this disaster.
The course I manage is complex – there are several routes through it with students choosing from a wide range of options that are also taught with other courses. The course alos runs FT, PT and modular. We used to have intelligent staff bringing their intelligence to bear on the administrative problems this complexity inevitably throws up. So we made them all redundant and replaced them with a binary system which cannot cope with complexity. We also introduced this syetm at a time when none of the new administrative staff are familiar with the programmes. This seems to be the same across all administrative services. We were “encouraged” to switch applications admin to RIO earlier this year and since April I am now on my 4th dedicated administrator (promised a 5th next month) – nothing wrong with the staff but where is the familiarity that gives anyone confidence things will work? So we have a broken system and the people trying to fix it don’t know what a working system looks like (it takes determinedly cavalier, bloody minded and obtuse management to bring all these factors together at the same time across a large and complex institution).
Several of our students still cannot enrol (one reason for this seems to be that courses to run next semester don’t have rooms allocated to them; without timetabled rooms MyCampus will not let them in). This means they cannot access the library or other web based student services like Moodle so I have to e-mail course materials. But why some can and some can’t remains a mystery.
Students part way through programmes have been credited with completing courses they never took but are not credited with the courses they took and passed.
Most of our students are getting the wrong fees invoiced. Some of our students who have finished have been invoiced.
Even with the 50 students I am responsible for this has led to a huge volume of individual queries and admin problemswhich are, inevitably very time consuming.
Everyone involved must have spent many many more hours than usual involved in picking up the mess and trying to repair the PR damage. The £13.2 million takes no account of staff time including all the unpaid overtime we are working to keep the ship afloat, to convince students it will get resolved before June 2012 etc.
There is humour in this too though. One day I started early in the morning with a problem that needed to be resolved and watched the e-mails move round the campus as various people passed it on. Towards the end of the day someone who hadn’t read the whole trail asked me to resolve it for them so they could report back.
If this was a bank of course the management would be getting high salaries and bonuses ……. no lets not go there.
System architecture is not user-focused; it is counter-intuitive, difficult to parse and uses lots of special terms which often appear synonymous but actually refer to totally different concepts or processes. There is a lack of helpful links, forcing one instead to use the search function more often than in any system I have ever had to use. The search function is extremely cumbersome; it often proves impossible to find, for instance, a specific course (even if one knows exactly which course one is looking for). That the system operates mostly with numbers (of both students and courses) doesn’t help.
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Ditch a system (Websurf) which worked, spend £14m replacing it with a system (MyCampus) which doesn’t work and, in the process, make Glasgow University a laughing stock. You really couldn’t make it up!
Science and Engineering
Absence Reporting in MyCampus
I ran the “Absence Report by Course” Query for my class; there are a number of problems:
(1) Some students are listed twice in this list but once in the “class roster” lists.
(2) Some of the students have different “level” information in this list compared with other places in MyCampus. e.g.: some students are listed as being in “First Year” in this list but in “Third Year” in the class roster list (and other combinations of wrongness).
(3) I clicked on the “view” bit for the absence reports but there is NO information in most of them bar start and stop times. And some of those periods of absence are listed as being ~6 weeks long, even though I have eyeballed said students as being present in my class during these periods. There is no list of which classes a student has missed during the absence. So, since I can’t access it as I am not a student, is the interface for students as non-intuitive and non-functional as the one for staff?
Also, and most importantly, I am not being emailed when absence reports are uploaded by students in my class so I have no means to check whether a report has been filed other than to go in manually at regular intervals and check myself. This is VERY inefficient and a retrograde step since Websurf.
(Incidentally, I am also not emailed in my capacity as an Adviser and there is no query that I can find to find out which (if any) of my advisees have submitted an absence report.)
Secretary and member SLP Support
Medicine, Veterinary and Life Sciences
Access levels were a huge issue but after months this now hopefully seems to be sorted.
SLP support calls – not enough members of staff seem to be involved – more would be useful.
SLP support calls received. Even although students state whether they are UG or PG it would be useful for course to be picked up Automatically. This would save time with support members having to go off and look up details on my campus (although was still relying slightly on websurf).
Class e-mails proved difficult if students hadn’t registered. Hopefully this will be a one off for continuing students but not new students. A lot of communications with post master who in the end suggested using Programme Plans to e-mail students instead of course e-mails. Course e-mails would only pick up registered students, which at the start of term is not very useful.
My Campus Interface with other applications. – Would be useful to have a way of down loading a programme plan – year specific student photographs.
– Students having ‘holds’ due to outstanding August Diet marks. These students were at a disadvantage when
choosing tutorial slots.
– There seemed to be ‘holds’ on 3rd years going into 4th year.
– Timetable clashes.
Medicine, Veterinary and Life Sciences
We had to undergo a lot of training in a short period of time. Returning students had a very difficult time and the feedback I received from them was not good. They were frustrated. It meant a lot more work for me. I found the SLP team to be very helpful and the MVLS Graduate School replied to emails very quickly.
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When the three organisations put forward for this contract made their initial presentations, it was crystal clear at that time that Oracle was far and away the worst. Why this product was chosen over the other two, which were well established within other UK institutions, and which appeared to provide a user-friendly, intuitive experience, I will never know.
I am in the fortunate postition (at the moment) of not having to use MyCampus very much. However, when I’ve tried to use it for something very simple – trying to find out whether a student is registered – I get different results. First time, the student will appear and be shown as not registered. Second time, the system can’t find any student with that name. What’s going on??
This is simply the most appalling software application I have ever had the misfortune to use.
It is clearly not fit for purpose in so many areas and was not properly adapted to the needs of Glasgow University. Despite an extraordinarily long preparation phase by the SLP team, the system has been “made- live” in haste and was clearly not ready.
As an advisor I was asked at very short notice to a “plan” check but was never actually given the correct access to do this!
I hope the review team will consider the real cost including staff time that has been and still is being lost through this process.
Co-incidentally, since the start of the MyCampus system I have been receiving marketing emails from Oracle! Does this mean that the University has give out staff emails for this purpose?
Science and Engineering
A really dreadful system that has caused me and my students so much grief, wasted hours of time and still seems unfit for use.
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Overarching comment: no one listens to academics, so why amI even bothering to write this?
Sub-Overarching comment: having wasted much of my, andothers’, time on this ill-advised and ill-fated project, you now plan to wastemore valuable time on an autopsy. which will probably end up concluding thatthe main authors of this fiasco are blameless. Last month I attended a meetingwith Pat Furze and other SLP people – all of 2 hours which I could have spentfar more profitably. The result: absolutely nothing has happened to ease ourload or to solve the problems.
I concur with the previous comments, so I won’t add my ownin similar vein.
I have just come from a meeting where we were asked to spendeven more of our time adding bits and pieces to the existing plans, where wewere shown how to stop the system from counting 3rd year courses in the 4thyear, and how to modify course lists to accommodate changing courses. So thenightmare continues.
The unpalatable truth is that no one really cares about whatMyCampus does to academics, administrators & students. All that isimportant is for the SMG to get the numbers they want out of the system and forus somehow to learn to live with MeinKampfus.
There is only one lesson to be “learnt”. TheUniversity was sold a dud, something which is unfit for purpose, and theycompounded this by ignoring everything advisers and academics said to themduring the SLP’s implementation. It really is that simple. The smart thingwould be to acknowledge that and try to find a better way forward. Teaching andresearch is being damaged – if you care, then do something about it.
• Training was given on the use of MyCampus too late for staff to be familiar with it before the students started, we were therefore learning alongside the students which looked wholly unprofessional and made us feel stupid in the process.
• The whole system is clunky and non user friendly.
• There is no easy way to locate who our students are within our subjects and even harder to find out the joint honours students
• There is no easy way to locate our disability students.
• Websurf was easier to use and much quicker at finding information.
• The system is slow
• The rosters system does nt automatically update
• We don’t not know what permissions we require as we are not fully aware of what the system can do and what we will need to do until it arises.
• Students are not comfortable using the system and some are not aware of whether they have the appropriate modules or credits on their record which means that administrators are having to double check this and email each individual student.
• The whole system is time consuming as each part does not necessarily “talk to” other parts which means certain things have to be done twice.
• To be honest have nothing good to say about MyCampus.
My first concern visceral reaction to this system was when it was showcased to the College of Arts and the words Add to Cart came to view. It is true that it’s clunky and over-elaborate front-end was causing me alarm, but on first reading the words ‘Add to Cart’ and noticing that none of the Senior Management or implementation folk winced, I knew they had no realistic conception of how our students would perceive this, and how staff would feel their work in teaching and research devalued and debased. So, I wrote to the Clerk of Court saying:
I understand that the ‘add to cart’ function seems on the face of it to be a rather trivial thing to be so angry about, and I understand that it might even be defended on the grounds that the users, who I will always think of as students, would be familiar with this interface element, but this runs more deeply than that.
Metaphors are important, and the metaphor of the shopping cart (we don’t even call them ‘carts’ in this country!) obtrudes the idea of the commercial relationship at the very front of the students’ relationship with the university. They won’t think of themselves as joining a community, or starting an engagement with an intellectual life, or even simply starting a new phased of their education; they will just be buying stuff, like they’d buy music, or another 100 texts for their phone.
This changes at a very fundamental level the relationship between the students and their tutors, the students and the university, and between the university and its management. It immediately twists and devalues our relationship with our students.
As far as I see it
* The university’s first goal is to create new knowledge, preserve what’s known, and to pass that on to another generation.
* A second goal is to deploy that knowledge into society, by creating an intellectually sophisticated population
* It’s only a third goal to educate any individual in particular. Getting money from the students may cover the costs of this, but it’s got to be wrong for all the reasons I’ve just given, to put the funding of a third-level activity right at the front of the students’ initial experience.
I wrote this on the 22nd April this year and, only after prompting him for a reply on the 16th May, did I receive the following response on the 17th May:
I said to you that I’d discuss the metaphor issue with the SLP Board, which I did. I understand and respect your concerns about the Add to Cart feature, but they don’t appear to be widely felt. That said, we will seek feedback from users of the system as we implement it. The Add to Cart feature is not something we can change without a lot of expense, but if there is a general aversion to it, then we will consider whether the expense would be justified.
There are many ways in which the Oracle system in Queen’s, Belfast is not comparable to our own, the complexity of our broad degree structure in Arts and Social Science is one example, but it is comparable in having an Add to Cart function. Queen’s have now managed to have this removed; I do not know at what expense, but that expense is justifiable if we don’t want our students to be so disappointed with us that they create an open Facebook forum “The awkward moment when MyCampus fails us and we want WebSurf back” or an online petition: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/glasgowmycampus/
So, that was my initial concern in April. I tried to raise the issue and many others at the ‘training sessions’ but the SLP team were clearly exhausted and in many ways just as irritated as we, the trainees, were by the system. Our only difference was that their lives were now almost fully-invested in making this system a success, for how else could they justify what they had been doing since 2008. I have used inverted commas around ‘training sessions’ because, and I add, through no fault of their own, these sessions taught me very little that I would actually need when I came to use the system with my new and continuing students. There would have been too much to learn because of the overwhelming complexity and unintuitive nature of the system, that we skimmed lightly over the surface and came away having wasted another three hours of our time.
Let me move ahead to August, and here I will copy from a message I sent to the Clerk of Senate. [I should add that this was a misdirection; I ought to have sent this directly to the Course Team and the V-P Learning and Teaching. So be it.] From 8th August onwards I have spent hour upon hour fighting with a user-hostile, inefficient, and counter-intiuitive computer system for which I have had to, far to frequently, apologise to our incoming students and my continuing students. So much time and so much stress, yet this is meant to reduce administrative workloads. So, let me give you an example of the mendacity of this claim.
I had to explain to a student yesterday that, if she wanted to switch from History to Sociology and there was a one hour clash with a Sociology lecture and a Psychology Lab., she would need to change her Psychology Lab time first. However, to do this successfully she would have to withdraw from Psychology 1B, then Psychology 1A, and then re-enroll in Psychology 1A (making sure not to book a clashing Lab time) and then 1B. This entails enrolling from all classes: tutorials, lans and lectures, and it must be done in that order. But she would not then be sure that she would get back into the class because Psychology will, by now have closed enrolment. Only if she manages to do all of this successfully, can she then enrol in Sociology 1A and 1B, and only then remove History 1B and then 1A. And the process must be done in this order: Psych 1B, 1A, Psych 1A, 1B, Sociology 1A, 1B, and then History 1B, 1A, all because of a one hour clash with a Psychology Lab. To do this will easily take a couple of hours and she runs the risk of losing a her first choice class.
This is utterly preposterous, wasteful of everyone’s time, energy and good-will, and it is not a ‘teething’ or ‘unfamiliarity’ problem.
One of my Senior Honours advisees wrote to me saying “It’s quite sad seeing how much things have changed at the university since my first year back in 2008, many services being changed or withdrawn. Not sure what all the new freshers will make of Glasgow Uni and this My Campus business, first impressions and all that…”
I can only assume that the people who have foisted this on us, disregarding at every turn the legitimate and persistent concerns of staff and students, are strangers to shame and, it seems, from the amount of money that is thrown after this sinking-fund, blithely unaware that there is a financial crisis. I believe, through an FOI request, that the Student Lifecycle Support and Development Team is being established with effect from 1/10/11, with an expected cost for the financial year 2011/12 of £418,000. That sounds like the projected savings of the implemented ‘MyCampus’ for this year will be eaten up immediately.
Dr Ronald Knox, previously Assistant Chief Adviser in Arts but currently a student with a life-time’s experience as a member of the University and a Senior Adviser is on record as saying:
On nearly every point of comparison available to me, Mycampus compares very badly with Websurf, and it has wasted days of time for students and advisers. I am above all concerned about students who have not enrolled on their preferred courses because the obscurity of the system has misled them into thinking that their preferred courses were full (when in fact there are available tutorials hidden on a further screen); and I am also concerned that students and advisers have been so beset with mechanical problems that they have not had time to discuss the major academic issues which need to govern choice.
I know of no adviser in Arts or any other College who is content with this system, yet no-one listens to us, and when there’s a chance for a vigorous and informed debate, the agenda is rigged and maundering begins. By the time the item is reached, some folk have had to leave the meeting, bitterly disappointed as you will see, and others are frustrated. If this is what was intended by the SMG, they succeeded.
I am passionate about my work and about my students experience and their futures, I have a happy and optimistic spirit, but I have been working all hours God sends to get on top of work because of MyCampus which is both cumbersome and inaccurate. Cumbersome doesn’t even come close. I used to approve a student’s curriculum and experience a certain joy in having done my advising well and sent the student, well-informed and contented, on their way. Now, well now, I “Remove” their “Service Indicators”, which means nothing and takes between seven and thirteen clicks if I get it right, otherwise I can end up heaven knows where. None of us improved by this and it’s bringing the University in to disrepute as a Public Sector IT disaster.
Writing this now is taking yet more time that should not have had to be devoted to trying to put right something which should never have come into existence. The emphasis now must be on sorting the whole thing out, but we are told that we cannot migrate the data; that may be true of all of the data, but it is not true of some of the data, the necessary data, and the taught postgraduate student data exists, I believe, in Websurf and MyCampus. So, migrate the information we need, continue with Websurf and, if you must, because there will be too much egg on too many faces*, pare down MyCampus, lose the Add to Cart function, introduce British English, and try again but more carefully and listening to the people in-house, like Computing Science, who know about these things.
Finally, I do think it is interesting that both the Chief Adviser in Arts, Dr Heather Lloyd, and the Chief Adviser in Science, Dr Iain Allison, both resigned before this system was finally implemented and unleashed upon us. How wise they were.
* “because there will be too much egg on too many faces” is never a good reason to spend more money on a sinking fund.
For comments and discussion on this article, see the page for our MyCampus December feature.