Getting Connected

By Jake Miller

NIU Connect, the new student information system that will replace the current system in the fall of 2008, kicked off in the Altgeld auditorium Monday with a briefing about the progress and future of the new program.

NIU Connect will use the PeopleSoft software, which is part of the Oracle Corporation.

Learning more about NIU Connect

The new system will not have an effect on students until the 2008-2009 school year, when each student will exclusively use NIU Connect.

Two companies, one of which is Oracle Corporation, the largest enterprise Software Company in the world, and CIBER Corporation, will provide the software, technical support and support for implementation of the program.

NIU President John Peters said he feels very strongly about the partners that NIU has chosen to provide the new student system.

“[Oracle and CIBER] are the best in their field and I am very, very pleased to join them as we move forward,” Peters said.

“NIU has been quick to adopt new ideas, new approaches and new technologies to help our students.”

The program will replace the complete mainframe that is available online. It is a total overhaul of not only the Student Information System, but other departments as well.

NIU Connect will improve the campus community, recruitment, financial aid, student records, student financial records and academic advising, Peters said.

Why it’s time to change

The change is needed because the current system has an aging infrastructure, some staff have not received training with the old system, data accessibility is limited and the risk of identity theft is constantly on the rise, said Steven Pace, assistant director of the computer services division of Finance and Facilities.

With Oracle having worked on several classified programs for government agencies in Washington, D.C., security will not be a concern with the implementation of the Peoplesoft program provided by Oracle, said Ralph Seferian, vice president of Oracle Corporation.

The program began in January following approval by the Board of Trustees at a board meeting in December. NIU Connect will be introduced in phases, beginning in August 2007 when the Admissions Module will be completely live.

Financial records will be complete in January 2008 with student records and student financial records fully functional in March 2008.

It will replace the complete online interface and will replace programs such as WebConnect.

Planning the system

NIU Connect is the culmination of 10 years of planning and discussions, said Eddie Williams, vice president of Operations, Finance and Facilities.

It provides a complete plan for finances, human resources and student information.

With the introduction of such a system, challenges are going to arise, Williams said.

Russ Wheeler, president of CIBER Corp, said the two most important things for the implementation of the program to run smoothly is that timely decisions are made and that everyone operates and functions as a cohesive team.

Wheeler assured the audience that NIU will receive total support from CIBER.

“We will not and have not let any of our 175 institutions fail, and we don’t plan on starting now,” he said.

At the kick-off, Peters enforced the idea that the changes are great for the university but are most important for the students.

For example, with the new program, students will have access to their accounts 24 hours a day, seven days a week, from anywhere in the world.

A team of 61 employees, headed by project manager Brian Brim, will work on the project.

NIU Connect will be based out of the former John Deere building on the far west side of campus, which NIU now owns.