Stellenbosch University accelerates digital transformation

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Stellenbosch University (SU) has initiated the process to introduce a new campus-wide information system that it says is the single biggest IT system implementation in the institution's 100-year history.

Dubbed SUNStudent, the new system forms part of the university's systems renewal project, and will automate student administration and academic curriculum management.

It says that after a rigorous selection and tender process, the university formed a three-way partnership with Eiffel and Serosoft to replace the university's current and out-dated information systems.

Through the partnership, Eiffel, acting as the accredited service provider for Serosoft, will implement the new system at the university, according to registrar Dr Ronel Retief.

"SUNStudent offers a student information system that automates academic and administrative processes of the university and will take us on the next steps to digital transformation in education. It will directly or indirectly impact each and every staff member and student in the university in a positive manner."

Stellenbosch University's rector and vice-chancellor professor Wim de Villiers adds: "Records have been meticulously kept at this institution since 1918 and we believe this cloud-based, state-of-the-art student information system will be an enabler for our institution's future."

The Western Cape-based institution has tried to be at the forefront of digital transformation within the higher learning space, using technology as a tool to change the world of education.

In 2017, Citrix revealed its work with SU to deliver ICT applications to help students simplify their learning processes and allow them to acquire knowledge anywhere and anytime. At the time, Citrix said it was helping the university deliver a collaborative learning environment across devices and locations through virtualisation technology.

In terms of project implementation, De Villiers says the process will be a phased approach, with the expectation that the final go-live date will be during the course of 2021. This, he says, is taking into account the normal student lifecycle activities and the availability of SU personnel.

"This process will include consultation sessions, regular communication and training of stakeholders across the university," he elaborates. "The SU community can look forward to improved services with modern interfaces, the capability to respond to new and rapidly changing requirements, improved reporting and analytics, and a better overall user experience for staff and students."

Eiffel MD Ian Light says his company believes technology should be an enabler of education, easy to use and efficient in its application.

"Big transformational and system implementations often fail because very little time is spent on the individual's awareness and desire to change, as well as the application of knowledge. Even less time is taken to reinforce the behaviour of individuals."

The project and change management expertise will contribute to a successful project delivery by supporting people through the transitioning process, Light concludes. "This will ensure technology adoption, utilisation of the system and high proficiency levels."

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