FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

General

Why do we need a new Student Info rmation System?

Our current Adabas Natural in-house-designed Student Information System (SIS), which had been developed continuously since 1989, reached the end of its lifecycle. The system technology is out of date, programming skills are scarce, and key development and support staff are due to retire.

Strategically, we must broaden access through increased flexibility in our operations. This includes also being able to administer non-traditional courses and programmes, semesters and quarters, hybrid learning, etc. In addition, we require accurate, real-time data presented via user-friendly analytics and dashboards to make better-informed, effective institutional decisions.

This project is not limited to one organisational environment only but is an institution-wide initiative.

How does this project align with the University's overall strategy?

The project supports five of SU’s six core strategic themes that will take the University forward into the next century. These are as follows:

  • A thriving Stellenbosch University
    During the external evaluation of the Registrar’s Division (RD) in 2017, the review panel observed that the Student Information System project (as it was called at the time) was probably one of the most critical factors in achieving the strategic priorities of not only the RD, but of the institution as a whole. The SUNStudent project (as it has since been named) will ensure the delivery of a fit-for-purpose system, which will bring about profound and sustainable change and regeneration in all facets of the administration of the student lifecycle – from recruitment to graduation and beyond. The system will also enable improved reporting on student data. A student administration and information system that is agile, adaptive and responsive will go a long way towards seeing SU thrive.
  • A transformative student experience
    The system will provide a unique, personalised student experience by delivering comprehensive, premium-quality support services and guidance to our student community, and enabling accurate, timeous and appropriate communication to targeted student cohorts.
  • Purposeful partnerships and inclusive networks
    The system will help enhance and expand engagement opportunities for, and strengthen SU’s ties with, our substantial alumni communities.
  • Networked and collaborative teaching and learning
    The project will support the digital strategy as a basis for digital fluency. It will also ensure the continuous renewal of the University’s academic programmes through a systematic process with clearly assigned roles and responsibilities for the various role-players.
  • Employer of choice
    The system will help enhance the well-being of our staff by creating an enabling environment for greater efficiency and increased productivity. This will add to their sense of purpose and value in the institution, as they contribute to SU’s value of excellence.
Who is involved in this project?

All personnel in supporting and academic functions who interact with students, utilise student information and/or perform academic administrative tasks or processes. This include all the campusses in Stellenbosch, Tygerberg, Worcester, Bellville and Saldanha.

What is the scope of this project?

It covers the following student information capabilities which will go live in stages based on the student lifecycle:
Phase 1: Applications/Admissions – Recruitment – Catalog for Applications/Admissions
Phase 2: Programme progression of students – Readmissions (assessment of students to continue studies) – Scheduling of venues and allocation of classes – Society and sport club management – Curriculum management – Disciplinary action – Registration – Co-curricular information – Elections – Mentoring/academic support – Phase 2 capabilities Catalogue
Phase 3: Postgraduate management – Dining-hall meal booking management – Student accounts/fees – Residence management – Thesis management – Financial aid – Student assessment/marks capturing – Exam concessions (e.g. additional writing time) – Degree audits and graduation – Official reporting – Exam management – Summer/winter schools – HEMIS – SUNi – Student loan repayments – Textbooks Ordering -Short Courses

What is the timeline for this project?

Although the systems renewal project originally started in 2013, implementation of SUNStudent started in May 2018, with a phased approach go live dates and a planned final completion date of end Q1 2022. Refer to the Project Management tab.
Phase 1: February to March 2021
Phase 2: November to December 2021
Phase 3: January to March 2022

Where can I view the project plan?

Please refer to the “Project management” tab on the SUNStudent website.

How are the project milestones aligned with SU's academic calendar?

Project capabilities will go live as and when the activity is required to start in the course of an academic year.
Also refer to the “Project management”tab on the SUNStudent website.

What is expected of me with regard to the project?

For the Blueprint or User Acceptance Testing phases of the project, we need you to attend workshops or training sessions and provide input as and when required. Please make use of this opportunity to ask questions, voice any concerns and provide feedback.

How and when will SU communicate about the project?

Various channels will be used to communicate. These include the SUNStudent website, the e-newsletters to personnel, and focused messages on the institutional website. SUNStudent email messages – other management meetings, SU personnel sessions.

What if I have questions about the project?

Please send an e-mail to sunstudent@sun.ac.za . Your request will be referred to the Project Management Committee (PMC) for attention, and escalation if required.

Will my role be affected by the SUNStudent implementation?

At this stage, it is not clear whether and in what way roles will be affected. It is envisaged that the system will bring efficiencies that will enable staff to work smarter, not harder. The real impact of this will only become visible after implementation and will not be the same across the institution. It will be up to the specific environment to assess the impact of new functionalities in the system on existing job descriptions, and to make the necessary adjustments accordingly.

What functionalities will students be able to access on their mobile phones?

The application is device-agnostic, which means the system can be accessed from any device with internet access. Each user’s access to capabilities and data (whether on a desktop, laptop, tablet or phone) will be managed by their assigned role.

What does the blueprint design phase entail?

The functionality of the Serosoft Academia system and SU’s requirements for a particular business capability are noted down in a capability blueprint document completed by Serosoft. Once SU has received the blueprint from Serosoft, the University reviews it, agrees with Serosoft on any required changes, and signs it off. Serosoft will then use this document to configure our system.

What is a blueprint document?

A blueprint document sets out SU process flows and requirements for each capability. Also refer to the Terminologies tab.

How does the blueprint document sign-off process work?

For each capability a Responsible person(s) (functional subject matter expert (SME)) will be identified, who will manage the process of getting the blueprint document completed and approved. The Responsible person(s) will identify other stakeholders (Consulted) to help them complete the document. The final sign-off is the responsibility of the Accountable person(s) (usually a Senior or Chief Director) who will own the capability going forward, and the Steering Committee Chair. Important issues/decisions highlighted during the review process will be included in the blueprint documents and escalated to the relevant person or structure for review and sign-off. All effort will be made to fast-track escalations/decisions so as not to delay the project.

Who are the Accountable and Responsible owners?

These role-players are currently being identified and approved. Refer to the Blueprint process tab & Phase 1 RACI diagram

SUNStudent and SUNFin are two parallel projects that both affect the University's processes. Where do these two systems intersect?

The most important intersections are student fees, bursaries and loans. Both projects have integration workstreams and teams who are identifying, analysing, designing and implementing the integrations that will be required.

How will My.SUN be impacted by SUNStudent?

SUNStudent will offer a “Student Portal”, and “centralise” a significant portion of functionality that student and academic staff will use. My.SUN catered for bringing together the various independent applications – many of these former applications will now be replaced with functionality within SUNStudent. The way My.SUN will be utilised is also being considered as part of the Digital Media review of SU website utilization.

What is the difference between Academia and SUNStudent?

Academia is what Serosoft call their Student Information System product that they sell globally. You will see their branding and logo throughout the system as an indicator. The term, SUNStudent, was adopted when the project initially kicked-off to first select a brand new Student Information System and then manage the implementation thereof. Sometimes these terms are used interchangeably, but SUNStudent has endeared to be the Academia product configured and integrated in our environment.

New Technology

What will the impact be if the internet is down?

The risk of downtime is mitigated by having redundant network routes to and from the (primary and secondary) data centres where SUNStudent is hosted, and by eliminating single points of failure between the data centres and the campuses. In the unlikely event that internet connectivity from one of the campuses are cut (e.g. catastrophic fibre breaks), access to SUNStudent can still be achieved through other means (e.g. using cellular networks). This is because SUNStudent is hosted on an off-campus data centre managed by “cloud” providers like Microsoft, Amazon, Oracle, etc. who have additional redundancies in place to mitigate connectivity problems in different regions of the world. As these “cloud” providers offer regional South African infrastructure, we will be further insolated from international internet connectivity problems.

Project Management

What is the Covid-19 impact on the project timelines and deliverables.

At this point in time it seems that the Covid-19 pandemic will not impact our project timelines and deliverables as planned.

SUNStudent Training

When will training for the SUNStudent system be conducted?

Training will be a very important aspect of this project and will be scheduled according to project deliverables. Refer to the Training Schedule link.

How will training be conducted?

Capability training will either be conducted face-to-face or remotely/virtually. Due to COVID 19 the phase 1 capability training sessions (Orientation, CRP and UAT) will be conducted remotely/virtually by SU and Serosoft using Microsoft Teams. Face-to-face training might happen in future and will be condcuted by SU and Serosoft in a SU computer lab.