Archive for Monday, January 30, 1995

GLITCH AT KU POSTPONES USER-FRIENDLY ENROLLMENT

January 30, 1995

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A computer system that allows KU students to enroll with a personal computer at home is indefinitely postponed.

A computer glitch will leave students at Kansas University no choice but to remain unsatisfied with a sluggish, 10-year-old enrollment system.

The anticipated new user-friendly system -- scheduled to go on-line in April -- was indefinitely grounded when KU officials realized they didn't have computer capacity to run the new enrollment program.

"I think it is very disappointing and frustrating," said KU Student Body President Sherman Reeves, among the 25,000 students affected by the mega-snag.

It means KU will mail enrollment permits to students in March. At the time and day listed on the permit, students must go to Strong Hall to enroll. Students aren't guaranteed their choice of classes. They are guaranteed a long wait in line.

"The current enrollment process is cumbersome, lethargic and just an all-out pain," Reeves said. "It's extremely inefficient in terms of students' time."

KU computer programmers recently figured out the university's mainframe didn't have the capacity to run the sophisticated enrollment system. A mainframe is a large computer designed to handle information needs of many users.

"This didn't come to light until we had enough of the system built so we could take measurements," said David Gardner, KU's director of computing services.

He said the system "was being designed to handle 150 students enrolling at one time. The computer system we have today could not handle that load."

Had KU attempted the distributed enrollment with the existing Amdahl mainframe, computer response time would have slowed to a crawl. The mainframe also runs KU's payroll, personnel services, student records and electronic-mail systems.

Del Shankel, interim KU chancellor, said the university could take bids on a larger mainframe after consultants determine how much new computer space must be acquired.

The extra mainframe might be bought at a reasonable cost because demand for mainframes has dwindled. Other institutions are buying powerful personal computers instead to do this kind of work, Shankel said.

If distributed enrollment goes on-line at KU, students would enroll from any computer terminal with access to the campus mainframe. After logging on, students could tell if a class is full or if scheduling conflicts exist. The computer also would show students what their tuition and fees are.

Rich Morrell, university registrar, said KU officials had discussed the need for a new enrollment system for at least five years. Not everyone at KU shed a tear when problems were discovered in the new system, however.

"People have had this system 10 years. They know it. Getting a new system creates anxiety," he said. "On the other hand ... many others are saying this change is far overdue."

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