EASI at UTSU Street Fest 2018

Why is ACORN slow on enrolment day? Can I automatically enrol in my courses? Can U of T buy better servers?

These were just some of the questions asked at this year’s University of Toronto Student Union Street Festival (UTSU). Held on September 12, the ACORN team, from Enterprise Applications and Solutions Integration (EASI), interacted with close to 1,000 students for five hours.

“Our participation in the UTSU Street Fest is important because each year we hear from students about their needs, goals, issues and ideas relating to important initiatives at U of T,” says Michael Clark, Manager of User Experience & Process Design with EASI.

This year, the ACORN team fielded in-person “Ask Me Anything” (AMA) style questions, with representation from EASI’s business analysts, developers, as well as user experience and process designers. This allowed students to inquire about everything from long-term infrastructure improvements to the details of everyday course enrolment.

So, why does ACORN perform more slowly on peak enrolment days?

On these days thousands of students log into the system, but it can only handle 700 concurrent users. The new system, which will go live on November 19, features a new infrastructure and code base and will be able to handle 15,000 concurrent users.

During Street Fest, ACORN staff also recruited students for the ACORN Student Advisory Team for research activities and tests. When students join the team, they can expect to attend 45-minute sessions that will directly inform improvements to ACORN and applications like the Financial Planning Calculator and GPA Calculator.

“We want to continue to build a community of students who are interested in improving student services,” says Laura Klamot, a user experience designer with EASI. “This includes recruiting students from all divisions, years, programs, campuses and also students with accessibility needs.”

In the near future, the student team will test improvements to ACORN’s mobile experience, U of T Map integrations within ACORN, live chat support with registrars and other U of T advisors, and integrating U of T’s Timetable Builder tool within ACORN.

“The input we received this year was consistent with previous research we’ve conducted with students, and will help keep us on course towards realizing improvements to U of T’s online student experience,” says Clark. “As well, it will help inspire future new initiatives, leveraging the latest capabilities that EASI and the Next Generation Student Information Services Program will have to offer.”

ACORN enrolment: From ‘Black’ to ‘Grey Friday’

It was a tense day full of careful monitoring, communications and coffee consumption. On August 3, over 35,000 Faculty of Arts & Science students logged in to ACORN during the largest enrolment day for U of T.

The system successfully handled the massive number of logins during the Faculty’s “priority drop” enrolment period. Now, a day that was previously known as “Black Friday,” when the system crashed in 2015 and 2016, has become “Grey Friday”, with more planned improvements to come.

This year’s peak enrolment day became brighter due to the efforts of staff from Information Security and Enterprise Architecture (ISEA), Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS), and Enterprise Applications and Solutions Integration (EASI) at Information Technology Services.

Let’s take a look at how the day played out:

Pre-Enrolment Preparation

Laurel Williams preparing for the big day

Laurel Williams preparing for the big day

“Look! There’s a squirrel on my coffee just for ACORN. I was up at 5:30 a.m. and decided to pick up my favourite coffee. It’s such a big day that it’s important to stay fueled,” said Laurel Williams, Information Technology Analyst with EASI. “All of the teams involved are critical to this process. I’ve been working on this project for three to four months and each year we enhance our preparation.”

9 a.m. – First Round of Enrolment

Within the first five seconds of enrolment, 1,000 fourth-year students had logged in.

“I would like to be in the same room as the mainframe to see it smoking!” said Williams.

The mainframe, which looks like a giant, black refrigerator, weighs 1,014 kg and has been working hard since 2012.

In November, the Platform Modernization Project will replace the mainframe with faster and more secure Linux servers and a new code base. It will be able to handle 15,000 simultaneous logins compared to the current 700.

“The new platform will be a lot faster – we’ve removed major bottlenecks in the design and we’re expecting a much better experience next year,” said Frank Boshoff, U of T’s Enterprise Architect.

Twenty minutes after students started enrolling, ACORN was back to normal with near instantaneous login.

“It’s great that we’ve cleared the first round with lots of time to spare. This session was easier to handle because there were fewer students applicable to login, but wait until 11 a.m. – when we have our largest round of enrolment,” said Sarosh Jamal, Project Manager/Analyst with EIS.

Group shot of team hard at workPart of the team assembled at 215 Huron Street included Frank Boshoff, Sarosh Jamal, Andre Kalamandeen, Gerry Lindo, Paul Day, Laurel Williams, Titus Hsu, Mike Clark, Miki Harmath and Parani Vinayagamoorthy. 

10 a.m. – Second Round

“Wow, we have 3,390 third-year students logged in already at 10 a.m!” said Williams.

By 10:30 a.m. that wave of students had luckily decreased to 1,695, and fifteen minutes later the system had recovered and was ready once again.

While answering students’ questions on Twitter, Facebook and Reddit, Mike Clark, Manager, User Experience & Process Design with EASI, enrolled in his own courses.

“We’ve made more important improvements to ACORN and its underlying infrastructure for this year, and our goal is that the system will perform even better than last year because of those changes,” said Clark. “This day is always a huge load on the system though, so we’ll have to see how things go, especially with ROSI-SWS no longer being around.”

These improvements included optimizing Weblogin to better handle the large volume of login requests, as well as a ‘webload management day’ waiting page where if students tried to log in to ACORN before their scheduled start time, their session would be kept active and prevent Weblogin from having to process repeated login attempts. This further improved the system’s overall performance.

The team also increased the duration and volume of cached registration information in the system to improve performance. And if an individual student made an unusually rapid number  of requests, they would be automatically prompted to prove that they were a human via a “captcha.”

How did these improvements help students?

“Compared to last year, we see that more users are spending a longer time actually logged in the system with fewer logins overall, rather than more time spent attempting to login as in previous years, so that’s a really good sign.” said Jamal. “This year Andre Kalamandeen and the larger developer and test teams helped tune the system so that students enrolled approximately a minute faster.”

Just before the third, and most intense, round of enrolments for second-year students, the team welcomed a surprise visitor.

“I used to have to line up for hours to enrol in classes,” said Bo Wandschneider, U of T’s Chief Information Officer. “Things have really changed since then, and we hope that next year will be even better.”

11 a.m. – Third Round

As expected, the third round of enrolments pushed the system to its limits.

“To prepare for the heaviest loads, we run tests to simulate student logins,” said Williams. “Every time something breaks we try to mitigate the issue.”

Live data on screen to monitor the load on the system

The team used live data to monitor the load on the system, as well as its performance

The User Experience & Process Design team was on-hand to assist students, via email and social media support. The team had also produced pre-enrolment information to help set students’ expectations and provide best practices on such a busy day.

Ibraheem Aziz, fourth-year Rotman Commerce student, on U of T’s Instagram giving tips to students on how to use ACORN

“On the morning of, we were online from 8:30am until mid-afternoon responding to urgent student questions, as well as engaging in broader discussions about the overall experience that students had,” said Clark. “This is a critically important day for students and staff. Luckily, we didn’t see any outright crashes this year and came away with an objectively improved system from previous ‘priority drop’ days.”

At 11:26 there were 3,608 active users who needed to clear the system to accommodate the next round at 12 p.m.

“How low can we go? There are a lot of pending enrolments and we have to clear this session before 12 p.m.” said Vik Chadalawada, Senior Manager of Student Information Systems with EASI.

At 11:41 a.m., there were still 2,975 users, but everyone breathed a sigh of relief as the number of active users dropped to 1,688 by 11:53.

12 p.m. – Fourth round

With the nail-biting part of the day over, the fourth round was a breeze.

“Phew! It’s over!” said Williams.

After an intense four hours, the team gathered for a celebratory lunch.

“Way to go everyone! We all worked really hard to make this happen,” said Chadalawada. “We had a plan, we came prepared and it was well executed. We stayed collected as a team throughout the whole process, doing everything we could to mitigate any issues while tackling social media at the same time.  Hopefully the next year will see us evolve from a Grey Friday to a Blue Sky Friday.”

Thank you to everyone on the Grey Friday team, including Client Services Representatives and registrars across the University:
Frank Boshoff
Mike Clark
Paul Day
Zunan Dong
Paul Fardy
Miki Harmath
Matt Hendrickson
Titus Hsu
Sarosh Jamal
Andre Kalamandeen
Gerry Lindo
Jose Parada
Ian Scott
Ted Sikorski
Ken Tsang
Parani Vinayagamoorthy
Matt Wilks
Laurel Williams
Mike Wiseman
Mike Wyers

NGSIS web services: Real-time data, real-time results

Is a student registered, enrolled in a particular course and succeeding academically? In the past, academic advisors would have to consult multiple computer systems as well as ROSI, U of T’s official student information database, for any recent changes.

Now a new solution, called web services, provides staff with real-time data to help create a seamless student experience.

The solution, introduced by Enterprise Applications and Solutions Integration (EASI), provides an instant, secure link to ROSI for specific student information. Currently, U of T divisions rely on large data downloads called batch downloads.

“These batch downloads lead to out-of-date information, a huge duplication of data, and security vulnerabilities – as soon as the download is completed, the data starts becoming stale,” says Frank Boshoff, U of T’s Enterprise Architect. “When divisional applications use web services, they help provide accurate information to students and decrease the number of calls, emails and face-to-face meetings.”

The new approach is based on RESTful services – Representational State Transfer – which is used to build lightweight, maintainable and scalable web services. It allows other authorized systems to access pertinent ROSI data, and authorized systems can update ROSI, potentially saving significant administrator effort.

Batch jobs have to download all records – sometimes thousands – to determine which records have changed. web services works on a record-by-record model and only retrieves necessary records.

While this technology won’t replace batch downloads entirely, it will help when real-time transactions are a priority.

EASI recently introduced web services to the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering, and plans to roll them out to other divisions in the near future.

“We wanted to more tightly integrate our local systems with the data from ROSI and other local and institutional systems of record to improve the user experience,” says Dan Pettigrew, Director of Administrative Systems and Associate Registrar at the Faculty. “In the past, staff sometimes had to consult ROSI and other systems manually because the downloaded ROSI data they were seeing was potentially out of date. We really needed a holistic, real-time view of the student experience.”

On the front lines, web services are already making an impact.

“This has been a dream of mine – it makes our jobs easier and the student experience so much better,” says Leslie Grife, Assistant Director, First Year Academic Services with the Faculty. “Now the Faculty’s Academic Advising system connects directly to the ROSI database. And soon several of our other online services will as well. We can advise students with accurate data, helping them to make better informed decisions.”

In the future, the team will work with U of T’s Information Security and Enterprise Architecture to add an extra layer of security, called OAuth 2.0.

“It comes down to getting the right data to the right person at the right time with minimal effort from the user,” says Boshoff. “Web services enable real-time access to data, which improves the user experience, reducing annoyances and irritation for students, staff and faculty. Things work better when they are designed to work together.”

ROSI CAB: Why collaborative change works at U of T

It has helped to manage students’ course loads better and ensure they receive their OSAP funding sooner. And those are just two of the 30 changes that the ROSI Change Advisory Board (CAB) has implemented over the past two years – enhancing ROSI functionality and improving the overall student experience.

In May 2016, Enterprise Applications and Solutions Integration (EASI) created the CAB to evaluate and prioritize faculty and division requests to change ROSI, the student information system.

The board was originally formed to manage ROSI change and enhancement requests that were backlogged due to the resource-heavy implementation of updates instituted by the Ontario Universities’ Application Centre (OUAC) – the centralized admissions process for all provincial universities.

“While keeping our focus on the OUAC project, we also wanted to solicit advice from a collaborative team of technical staff at EASI and functional users from registrars’ offices around the University,” says Vik Chadalawada, Senior Manager of Student Information Systems with EASI and founder of the board. “It was important to examine common requests for ROSI enhancements across various divisions and decide which solutions would provide the most benefit to the University.”

To realize the goals of this cross-functional group, Chadalawada worked with Sinisa Markovic, Assistant University Registrar and Director of Operations at Enrolment Services, and Donald Boere, Assistant Principal and Registrar of Innis College.

“This board really bridges the gap between the technical and functional staff,” says Markovic. “It engages the people who understand the work and its impact, and it promotes communication and collaboration.”

Out of a large number of requests from University staff, how does the board select the most important ones?

“Each year we take all of the requests and create a roadmap, which is a living, breathing document,” says Chadalawada. “The CAB reviews a requirements prioritization matrix, and the EASI team then decides what’s possible, what are small wins and what are related items – by doing A you can solve B, C and D.”

Some of the implemented changes include placing a cap on the maximum number of courses students can sign up for in a four-month term instead of an academic session, helping students select lecture-specific tutorials and labs, and improving how the University confirms enrolment for OSAP recipients.

“For the OSAP Confirmation of Enrolment change, we enhanced the matching process and reduced the number of manually confirmed students from 2,000 to 500. This has resulted in 1,500 students receiving financial aid weeks sooner and the administrative processing time decreasing significantly,” says Markovic.

While the board was initially formed to provide insights into priorities, everyone involved soon discovered it was much more.

“As a byproduct of reviewing enhancement requests, members are helping to chart a course for proposing larger information service solutions that can positively impact the experiences of U of T students, faculty and staff” says Donald Boere, Assistant Principal and Registrar of Innis College and chair of the CAB.

Along with Boere, Rodney Branch, Manager of Client Services and Process Integration with EASI, helps to facilitate the board. He works with Miki Harmath, Manager of Application Development and Matt Hendrickson, Technical Lead with EASI to provide expertise with planning and implementation.

The team continues to host monthly meetings, providing insight into enrolment and directions that the student information systems need to take.

“It’s important to tap into these communities. They’re not just here to tell us to change a specific function or create a new feature within an application,” says Chadalawada “The broader purpose of this group is to educate us on where IT development needs to focus its time, energy and money to improve the overall student experience and that contribution is absolutely invaluable.”

 

EASI would like to thank the ROSI Change Advisory Board:

  • Donald Boere – CAB Chair and Assistant Principal and Registrar, Innis College
  • Rodney Branch – Manager of Client Services & Process Integration, Enterprise Applications and Solutions Integration
  • Vikram Chadawalada – Senior Manager of Student Information Systems, Enterprise Applications and Solutions Integration
  • Miki Harmath – Manager, Application Development, Enterprise Applications and Solutions Integration
  • Matt Hendrickson – Technical Lead, Enterprise Applications and Solutions Integration
  • Kelly Jay – Senior Information Systems Analyst, Enterprise Applications and Solutions Integration
  • Tamara Jones – Associate Director, Enrolment Services & Records, Faculty of Arts & Science
  • Sofia Joot – Assistant Registrar, Records & Enrolment Services, John H. Daniels Faulty of Architecture, Landscape and Design
  • Josie Lalonde – Associate Director, Student Services & Senior Manager, School of Graduate Studies
  • Tim Linden – Registrarial Administrator, Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education
  • Gerry Lindo – Project Manager, Enterprise Applications and Solutions Integration
  • Sinisa Markovic – Assistant University Registrar and Director of Operations, Enrolment Services
  • Andrea McGee – Registrar & Assistant Dean, Students, John H. Daniels Faulty of Architecture, Landscape and Design
  • Mari Motrich – Application Developer & Data Analyst, University of Toronto Scarborough
  • Neil Neebar – Registrar & Director of Enrolment Management, University of Toronto Mississauga
  • Naureen Nizam – Associate Registrar & Director of Systems & Operation, University of Toronto Scarborough
  • Dan Pettigrew – Director of Administrative Systems & Associate Registrar, Information Systems, Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering
  • Joanne Sukhai – Information Systems Analyst, Enterprise Applications and Solutions Integration
  • Ryan Woolfrey – Associate Faculty Registrar & Director, Registration, Enrolment, Scheduling & Systems Management, Faculty of Arts & Science

 

Top five FAQs: NGSIS Platform Modernization project

Enterprise Applications and Solutions Integration (EASI) and Next Generation Student Information Services (NGSIS) have been working to modernize U of T’s student information system, ROSI. This project involves converting over 2 million lines of code and replacing the mainframe server to improve system performance and capacity and real-time integration with other applications.

Throughout October and November 2017, the EASI team met and consulted with 21 academic divisions and 6 administrative units. Here are the top five FAQs:

  1. When is the NGSIS Platform Modernization being implemented?
    The change from the mainframe server to the more efficient and robust server infrastructure, as well as the updated code, is  scheduled from end of day November 16 to the morning of November 19, 2018.
  2. Which systems will be affected from end of day November 16 to the morning of November 19?
    ROSI and ROSI Express (admin facing)
    • ACORN, associated applications and SWS (student-facing)
    • Other systems dependent on the mainframe and connecting to ROSI and ROSI data:
    • Degree Explorer
    • MyRes
    • eMarks
    • Varsity Blues Registration System
    Note: The Learning Portal will not be affected.
  3. After the cutover, will other student- and staff-facing systems be different? ACORN, Degree Explorer, and Course Finder will operate in exactly the same way, as will ROSI Express, eMarks, StarRes, and MyRes.
  4. Will I be able to use the function (PF) keys?
    Most of the function key actions will require the use of mouse clicks. You can still use the “enter” key for most enter functions, but many keyboard functions (like paging up and down with PF7 and PF8) will require a mouse click.
  5. Can users still type direct commands to get from menu to menu?
    Direct commands will still be the main way of navigating around ROSI. You will type menu selections, then use mouse clicks for paging, returning to a previous screen, etc.

U of T launches student financial planning calculator

Tuition is just the beginning. Housing, utilities, food, textbooks, transit and recreation costs all add up, and managing expenses can often become an overwhelming task for busy students. But the Financial Planning Calculator, now available to all U of T students, is helping them to easily and accurately predict their living costs for a year – setting them up for academic and future success.

“When we interviewed students before developing this application, we discovered that they didn’t know how to budget, how much to budget or didn’t have effective tools, aside from calculating everything manually using a spreadsheet,” says Laura Klamot, a user experience designer with U of T’s Enterprise Applications and Solutions Integration department (EASI). “Now students have a simple, customizable tool they can use each year to plan ahead.”

Since its launch in February 2016, the calculator has helped over 14,152 undergraduate students. Now the application is available to all graduate and second-entry students.

“It’s hard to predict what everything will cost – especially food and recreation,” says Yanna Ding, a first-year Faculty of Arts & Science student. “When I graduate I don’t want to have a lot of debt, so I want to manage my finances closely. I’ll also need to develop economic independence, and a tool like this could really help in my future planning.”

The tool helps students quickly predict how much it will cost to live in Toronto, an often difficult task for those who are unfamiliar with the area. It is also highly customizable for each individual depending on their program, year of study, residency status and campus. The application will suggest specific resources for awards and financial aid to help them save money and manage expenses.

“If you’re spending more money on meals, compared to your peers, then the application will notify you and offer resources such as U of T’s Food Services, and there’s also information about cooking for yourself,” says Michael Clark, manager of User Experience and Process Design at EASI.

The team is planning to solicit feedback and make improvements for future releases.

“I’m happy we’re providing this tool to students as it will help them make informed decisions about their finances,” says Clark. “We’re focused on improving the student experience, and this tool is an example of how we can approach that objective from a different direction and offer value to our community.”

See a demo of the Financial Planning Calculator

Reinventing ROSI: Q&A with U of T’s Enterprise Architect

It’s a project that will convert 2 million lines of code, replace a 1,014 kg mainframe server and will modernize U of T’s registrarial system, ROSI, for years to come. Set to launch in spring 2018, the Next Generation Student Information Services (NGSIS) has been updating the system’s code and hardware to enhance services for staff and students.

Led by U of T’s Enterprise Applications and Solutions Integration department (EASI), the NGSIS Platform Modernization project is focused on improving system performance and capacity, and real-time integration with other applications.

Frank Boshoff, Enterprise Architect at U of T and one of the project leaders, explains how the conversion will evolve, how it will affect users and what’s planned for the future.

Why is EASI replacing ROSI’s platform and how will this happen?
The university implemented ROSI in 1996 as a solution to the Y2K bug – the pre-existing system used two-digit dates and needed to be replaced before 2000. ROSI uses Natural code and runs off of a mainframe, which is a large server. While this technology served us for 21 years, it’s now time to update it.

In 2015, we started working with an IBM business partner to convert over 2 million lines of Natural code into Java – a more flexible and common code that could run off of smaller, web application servers. U of T’s Information Technology Services has created a private cloud with 48 servers. Six of these servers, also known as blades, are equivalent to the current mainframe and are much more cost effective. If one blade fails, then the servers will transfer the load to another one.

What are the overall benefits of the new system?
If you look at general systems theory, the more flexible a system is the more resilient it will be. The new platform will provide a foundation for future interoperability and “boundaryless information flow.” In the past the university has had many silos, and now we’ll be able to get the right information to the right people at the right time.

What are the direct benefits to users?
The system will be able to handle much more volume. In the past, it could handle 700 concurrent users during enrolment. Soon it will be able to handle up to 15,000 concurrent users, which is equivalent to all first-year enrolments and enrolments at UTM and UTSC.

IT professionals around the university will be able to securely integrate the system into their divisions because Java is a common computer language. As a result, it will have more longevity, and longevity is key for the university’s administrative systems that need to run for decades.

The new system will be entirely web based, with single sign-on using UTORid, and for the first time the system is compatible with Mac computers.

How has IT architecture evolved at U of T over the years?
I was an architect at IBM for 14 years in global services and in business consulting services. One of my colleagues summed my role up beautifully – architects compellingly trivialize the complex. Being an architect is a multi-layered function and, depending on the organization’s needs, they can work at the project or strategy level, or both at the same time. Since I started working at U of T 10 years ago, this role has become more important – linking the university’s mission and strategy to the IT strategy.

What is the future of ROSI?
We will be rolling out the new system to users in spring 2018, and they will notice that it is very similar to what they’ve used before. Now that we have a more flexible platform, we can build on this in the future and will continue to improve the system, and integrate more easily with other systems – in the divisions and in the cloud.

Co-op students contribute to EASI

It was a fast four months, but the ten co-op students who joined Enterprise Applications and Solutions Integration (EASI) this past summer gained a wealth of experience – from developing applications to analyzing data and improving user experience.

“We have a lot of projects on the go and really needed the extra help over the summer,” says Cathy Eberts, Director of U of T’s Enterprise Applications and Solutions Integration. “Implementing a co-op program boosted our capacity while directing this need to those who could benefit most – students looking for that much-needed job experience.”

The program, sponsored by Next Generation Student Information Services (NGSIS), included students from Seneca College, George Brown College, Ryerson University and the University of Toronto. From May to August, the recruits made major contributions to IT at the institution.

“I learned a lot! At school you learn things blindly and you don’t really participate in large projects,” says Saba Karamsoltani, who studies computer science at Ryerson University. “But working at U of T gave me a better sense of how to work with others.”

Karamsoltani worked on a large, multi-year project called the NGSIS Platform Modernization project – a project that will migrate the student system of record (ROSI) from an IBM mainframe to a distributed Linux platform. Five others – Nariman Saftarli, Nancy Mai, Thomas Marmer, Balkar Rana and Joshua Longhi – were also part of this vital effort.

Beyond application development, the co-op experience also extended Business Intelligence with Valerie Gilchrist and Mark Franciscus, and to User Experience and Process Design.

“In Computer Science at U of T, I study back-end development. While I’m still focused on back-end development, I’ve gained an appreciation for front-end design,” says Adnan Bhuiyan. “I didn’t realize how important it is to test different application prototypes and how rigorous the process should be.”

Bhuiyan used HTML and CSS to build an application that students can use to calculate their current as well as cumulative GPAs. He then worked with EASI’s User Experience and Process Design team to test designs with different users.

From an analytical standpoint, fellow co-op student Jason Sparks captured the Return on Investment (ROI) of the wide variety of current enterprise application projects.

“I hit the ground running and it was a great experience,” says Sparks, a Marketing Management and Financial Services student at George Brown College. “I analyzed 13 different projects and it was amazing to see the cost savings. Kronos, a time management system, saved U of T $14,622 in material costs in the past year after moving from a paper to a computer-based system.”

The program was so successful that Eberts plans to continue it next year.

“We had an outstanding group of students this summer.  Staff are already asking me how we can make this happen again next year – I think most of us feel very fortunate to work at U of T and it’s our way of giving back to the community.  Given enough physical space – expect the EASI co-op program to return again next year!”

Future ACORN features: U of T students have their say at Street Fest 2017

New friends, new activities and a new school year were all part of UTSU’s Street Festival orientation 2017. And on September 12, students also voted on ACORN’s newest feature – helping to determine the future of the application that serves more than 75,000 users.

This year, over 10,000 students from U of T’s three campuses descended on the St. George campus, and 941 voted on how to improve the online academics, finance and student life service. With the sun shining and music pumping, the energetic ACORN team from Enterprise Applications and Solutions Integration (EASI) encouraged students to place a sticker on one of five potential features.

“I chose for the Next Steps Planner because it could notify me about important dates and deadlines and how they affect my schedule,” said Ezra Fleisch, an Arts & Science student. “I found ROSI, the old system, really slow and cumbersome. ACORN is much easier to use with drop down menus, and searching for courses has become a streamlined process.”

And the winning feature? With a rainbow of 444 multi-colored stickers, the Auto Enrol Via Cart won by a landslide. This function would attempt to enrol students in course sections that they pre-select in their enrolment cart. It was by far the most complex idea up for discussion and is now an intriguing option to consider.

Other features included live chat help, a next steps planner, U of T map integration and an improved invoicing system.

“I’m definitely voting for the auto enrol feature – it would save time and would be so convenient,” said Maria Vo, another Arts and Science student. “I already like the system because it easily shows my schedule and potential conflicts, but it’s great to try to improve it further.”

Gaining insight into the student experience was exactly what the ACORN and Next Generation Student Information Services team wanted.

“The UTSU Street Fest is a great opportunity to have face-to-face discussions with students, so we can learn what they like, dislike and what they’d like to see happen in the future,” said Mike Clark, manager of User Experience and Process Design at EASI. “The day was a whirlwind, and I want to thank the team – they brought great energy to the day and the level of engagement with students really helps us plan future areas to explore.”

What’s next for ACORN?

“We’re going to continue to improve the performance of ACORN on peak load days, include more personalization and create better integration with other services. And we’ll definitely be at Street Fest next year to gather even more student input!”

Thanks to this year’s UTSU Street Fest team:
Mike Clark
Alex Dault
Laura Klamot
Stefanos Kythreotis
Evan Moir