A Conversation with Help Desk Manager Jason Victor on the occasion of Fairfield’s launch and full rollout of rSmart’s OneCampus as my.Fairfield.edu, January 30, 2017
What was the initial reason your institution was looking at updating its portal services?
Before our move to OneCampus, Fairfield had a campus portal — something we had worked with, but it wasn’t “loved”. While in one sense our old, legacy portal served its purpose, we had several ongoing issues in terms of its functionality and its feature set. We wanted more.
We had been looking for our portal replacement, though there was no particular pressure and we could take the time we needed to make sure our next step would be the right one. We finally did step up our search about two years ago. Our CIO during that time was keen to make a change, and we in ITS got a lot of encouragement from our EVP as well. So, making a change was an expectation that we were all looking forward to.
What were some of the most important features you were looking for?
There were many things to consider, but four main goals stood out:
(1) Mobile accessibility was a critical feature, not available with the old portal; (2) an intuitive user interface was another goal, especially for our help desk people; (3) cost efficiency was necessarily a real consideration, understood by everyone but felt more strongly at the executive levels; and (4) search — for the first time! This would offer the level of convenience students expect.
After running a legacy portal that wasn’t really “loved”, was there a sense that it was “time” for an update?
Oh, yes! We were careful about making our choices, but there was a real sense that it was time to “move on”.
When did Fairfield select rSmart’s OneCampus?
In March 2016. It met those four big goals I mentioned, and the story goes on from there. There’s a lot of functionality built into that product, and you truly get the idea that you are giving your campus a real update: OneCampus is more than a replacement portal — it’s like taking a step into the future.
“While in one sense our old, legacy portal served its purpose, we had several ongoing issues in terms of its functionality and its feature set. We wanted more. OneCampus is more than a replacement portal — it’s like taking a step into the future.” — Jason Victor
Did you shut down and replace the old portal with OneCampus right away?
No, we chose to run the old portal in parallel with our implementation work on OneCampus, as we wanted to make a thoughtful transition. We purposely took some time building out the implementation because we wanted to take full advantage of the features of OneCampus. Yes, it’s true that you can get the system going in a compressed timeframe if you want to. Technically it’s not a difficult implementation. But we wanted to be as careful with the implementation as we were with the product selection. This also gave us the opportunity to test out the new system thoroughly during the transition phase.
What’s an example of taking “full advantage” of OneCampus?
OneCampus allows content creators to manage their own content. Previously, with our old portal, if a department wanted to post content, they had to come to us and have a discussion about what they wanted, and so forth. Now, with OneCampus, we have the ability to shift all the content maintenance over to the departments. Long term, both the departments and ITS will save time and energy with this distributed strategy. And the departments will have a sense of autonomy. But for our campus, that did involve taking some time initially, educating the departments on what to do.
So, it’s possible for IT departments at other institutions to choose to take on more of the initial work in terms of uploading data for the departments, thereby taking less time to a launch date?
Yes. We’ve seen examples of other schools that started out by having IT upload all the data for the departments — some of these institutions were live with OneCampus in only a few weeks!
But for us, implementation wasn’t just a matter of setting up the initial infrastructure and then quickly uploading all the data for the departments. We consciously made an investment in time — almost a year — to get everyone in the departments up to speed, feeling “used to” the new system, and very comfortable with it. This investment in giving departments the ability to take charge of their own content, right from the start, will be a long-term value for us.
Are all the departments ready now? Are there any stragglers?
We’ve reached out to everyone. There is just a small handful who haven’t addressed the transition yet, but the great majority of departments can be deemed “all set”. It is still possible for any stragglers to come on board any time after our launch date — January 30, 2017 — of course. And the system will continue to be dynamic into the future. But helping everyone make the transition was one reason we planned to run the old portal alongside the new OneCampus implementation until the campus seemed ready to do without the old portal.
From your experience, are there any departments that are the most important ones to have ready when an institution goes live with OneCampus?
Registration is one. Certainly the IT department is another. At Fairfield we have an ERP system, and since a lot of the information there is self-service, access to that system is critical. Payroll, grades — all the administrative services should be among the initial group of tasks, if a campus is going to use a staged strategy for getting the departments up live with their content. An institution might also want to be sure to have the LMS, e-mail, the library, and other basic services represented in the initial launch. For this, think in terms of anything most students and faculty would use on a daily basis.
What’s an example of something that could be added on later?
Well, just as one example, we have an institutional research department, and if for some reason they needed to be added on after our launch, it wouldn’t be a big deal.
How easily does OneCampus integrate with other campus systems? Which was the most challenging?
I’d say the most complex was the ERP system, but frankly, even that wasn’t really difficult. On the whole, it was fairly simple to integrate OneCampus with other systems on campus.
As for the biggest challenge, I’d say it was the fact that we had to replace our authentication system. We have a single sign-on for all campus services. Once that was configured for OneCampus, everything else was to be fairly straight foreword from a technical point of view. But in our case — and this may not be the same for many other institutions — there was a special circumstance: Our original authentication system was tied to our portal. The company that made the portal was also the company that made the old authentication system! So when we decided to leave the portal, we knew we’d be needing a new authentication system. Not only were we transitioning the portal; we were also going to have to transition the authentication system.
You are now live with OneCampus — on schedule, with your January 30, 2017 rollout. Does that mean the transition period is over now? Has your old, legacy portal been taken down?
Yes. we have finally made our official rollout of OneCampus, and the default page for my.Fairfield.edu now goes to the OneCampus implementation rather than the old portal home page.
Are you expecting an easy transition for your users?
Yes, one of the nice things with OneCampus is that when you — as a user — log in through the main page (my.Fairfield.edu) for the first time, you get an overlay with instructions that explain how to use it. In addition to that, we created a task that is permanently at the top — simple instructions on “how to use this site”. And we have a link to the video about “search, click, and done”. But of course, students these days just intuitively know what to do with a search window!
My guess is, that once the students see a search box, and when they realize that they can use the service from their mobile phones, they are going to think, “Finally!”
For more information about my.Fairfield.edu, watch this video: