Welcome to ROSI, 2.O

April 24, 2012

You can’t be a University of Toronto student and not know ROSI, something of a campus queen. Essentially, the Repository of Student Information is the university’s requisite online database/network for all information related to your admission and academic performance. It allows you to do anything from add and drop courses, to vote in student elections, order transcripts and update addresses. Really, it’s like your mom away from home.

But you also can’t be a University of Toronto student without having had countless woes and worries involving the rather dysfunctional system over the years. From over-congestion to delays in updates, and in many ways, a generally limited network for the average student, ROSI’s been known to be far more frustrating than reliable.

So it might intrigue you to know (if you haven’t heard the rumours already), that ROSI is currently undergoing a renovation of sorts, and may very well no longer be the ROSI you once knew with a new name to boost, as voted by students (in other words, prepare for the worst). Jill Matus, Vice-Provost, Students, gave me a bit of a sneak peek into what we can expect going into the summer and new year.

The Messenger: What are the changes to ROSI, and will they be significant?

Jill Matus: The proposed changes to ROSI are part of the larger Next Generation Student Information System (NGSIS) project. This new system will bring more services to students from across the university’s departments and make them available through a consistent interface. Students want a much more user-friendly interface that provides an integrated set of services and information resources. The collection of services should do the running around in the background so students needn’t go from office to office, re-entering information, to perform the transactions they are required to do. Also, the desire for around-the-clock availability is frequently heard, as well as real-time updates to course selections and enrolment.

We have started along a number of paths. Areas identified as being overly complex for students are being reviewed and rethought through “process streamlining” exercises. These exercises bring together subject matter experts, including students in many cases, to document current processes and then think out-of-the-box to design better ways to do things.

For example, we have released the first stage of a new university map as part of the “Wayfinding” project. The objective is to make visible all kinds of important information related to getting around the University such as “where are the accessible entrances to buildings?”, “where can I find a place to eat?”, “where are my classes located?” In addition, students and others will be able to create new map layers that would improve ability to find things on the campuses. Note that the current map works for St. George and that UTM and UTSC maps will follow.

We are also performing process streamlining on residence assignment, student fees, and working on introducing an institutionally approved co-curricular record, among others.

ROSI 2.0's New University Map

ROSI 2.0's New University Map (soon to include UTSC and UTM)

TM: Is this going to make ROSI more efficient for the majority of students?

JM: Definitely – we know that you are here to learn and do. Interacting with the university to register, select your courses, join a club, find a fitness class, should not absorb a lot of your time. A principle behind NGSIS is to identify opportunities for efficiency and realize them through process change, better information flow and improve the interface for accessing what you need. Another key objective is to streamline and reduce many of the steps to achieve an outcome. For instance, you may have to visit a faculty office, a department office, and a university office such as Admissions and Awards. We will streamline processes so that they require fewer steps, but also aim to move information around, not move the student around. The new system will also increase centralization of data and processes. We want to realize economies-of-scale and consistency on processes that affect everyone at the university but which may currently be offered differently in many units. We also want to reduce duplicate collection of common information. For example, a student should not have to recreate their contact information every time they want to interact with a university service. There should be a centralized identity/contact database available to all University services.

TM: So will ROSI still be the ROSI we know?

JM: First, we should note that ROSI performs many critical functions at the university well. It also feeds a number of other divisional and departmental information systems and data requirements. ROSI’s database will still exist while we are transitioning to the services provided by the NGSIS program. What students will see is an increased volume of online services that are easier to locate and will operate in a more standardized manner. And we have just run a tri-campus student contest to rename the new ROSI! The results will be announced very soon!

TM: And why these changes now?

JM: ROSI was designed and built in the 1990s, before we could have anticipated technology advances such as mobile devices capable of interacting with information systems, before the Internet became pervasive as a way to seek information or conduct business, and before people expected to interact with the university anywhere, anytime, on the platforms with which they are most familiar. The ROSI platform, because of its architecture, is not capable of effectively operating in our regularly changing world. As well, advances in computing and data communication enable us to do far more than imagined [now than] when ROSI was developed.

To be able to take advantage of these advances in technology, we need to have a new, flexible and modern platform. We are also very aware that a student’s life at the university is not just based on taking a set of courses to earn a degree. Their co- curricular activities, relationships with other students and faculty, cultural and volunteer participation are all formative elements of their time at U of T. The breadth of opportunities available needs to be more visible and accessible. Those opportunities realized should be recorded such that, when leaving the university, a student’s path may be recognized and saved. We hope to better expose the breadth of opportunities within the NGSIS program, to make them more visible and available to students.