Virginia Community College System (VCCS)

VCCS implements one of the world's largest student information systems

DEVELOPMENT
TEAM

Ron Wynn
James Davis
Allan Short
Kevin Barrowclough
Harry Sellers

With 77,334 full-time-equivalent students and a combined credit and non-credit enrollment approaching 350,000 individuals annually, the Virginia Community College System (VCCS) has "big-time" computing needs. But beyond academic record keeping, there is the need to provide students with E-mail and Web applications. VCCS also needs HRIS and a full-fledged accounting system. Its requirements are the college equivalent of a business ERP system.

Over the years, the college computing system grew up in an IBM mainframe CICS environment with a variety of COBOL apps. Now, VCCS has embarked on a multi-college Student Information System (SIS) integration project. This includes converting to a Web-based system utilizing PeopleSoft and an Oracle database running on IBM 580 and SP servers. With 350,000 students on 39 campuses covering the entire state of Virginia, Larry Hengehold, vice chancellor of information technology services at VCCS, believes this is the largest PeopleSoft student information system in the world.

APPLICATION
PROFILE

Project: VCCS multi-college Student Information System

Purpose: To integrate legacy apps to an e-business Web site, allowing real-time Internet access to student registration, E-mail, security, college directories and library resources.

Benefits: Increased services, timely information retrieval and self-service activities.

Platforms: Oracle, PeopleSoft

Rather than write conversion programs to transfer data, such as directory information for hundreds of thousands of students, the project employs the ActiveWorks Integration System, Active Software's message broker technology, to move and translate the data from the legacy system to PeopleSoft. This conversion is being done in four phases, and is scheduled for completion at the end of 2001.

The first phase of the project, begun in June 1999, had a very tight deadline. VCCS wanted the SIS system up and running so students could access records, registration materials, directories and E-mail via the Web in time for classes in November 1999. Hengehold credits ActiveWorks with making it possible for a team of two VCCS IT professionals and one Active Software consultant to design, implement and deploy the initial SIS applications in three person-weeks.

Because ActiveWorks does conversions automatically, it saved programming time and costs. Also, the bi-directional capability of the message broker to move from legacy to the PeopleSoft system, and from PeopleSoft back to legacy, means there is less risk of downtime. If IT runs into a glitch during implementation of a new PeopleSoft SIS app, for example, they can simply move the data back to the legacy system and run the old app until the new one is up and running.

TOOLS

ActiveWorks Integration System from Active Software

ActiveWorks is at the center of the SIS "hub-and-spoke" architecture that provides a central point for sharing data across disparate systems. The project employs the ActiveWorks adapters for PeopleSoft and the Oracle databases. This allows SIS apps to exchange information via bi-directional pathways between the native format and the information broker, so end users accessing the system through PC-based Web browsers receive information seamlessly in real time. Hengehold plans to employ ActiveWorks to handle any messaging needs that arise as SIS expands and matures. For example, when PeopleSoft, Oracle or any other software vendor provides an upgrade or new version, IT will be able to phase in the updated software with ActiveWorks providing whatever data conversion is required between the old and new systems.

"With ActiveWorks, you don't have to worry about integrating different vendors," said Hengehold. "It's an infrastructure piece that you put in your network for your message broker. It allows us to be network-oriented rather than database-oriented."
— Rich Seeley

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