An interview with Gail White, Executive Director, Student Engagement and Registrar
Thanks for your time today Gail. It’s been 6 months since you joined as Executive Director, Student Engagement and Registrar. What excites you the most about your role?
I’ve been fortunate to have joined the University at a time when the commitment to student success has resulted in the establishment of a series of transformational projects intended to improve the range of experiences that contribute to student success. The most exciting thing about all of this is the opportunity to work with colleagues on practical measures to improve the experience of staff and students.
You’re the Business Owner for Project Beacon. What does that mean?
It means I take accountability for the decisions that guide the project. The outcomes of the project will drastically improve the student and staff experience in terms of student administration and curriculum management, which is very important to me. I also get to chair the Project Beacon Steering Group, which is a committee comprised of colleagues from across the university including central offices, IT, Macquarie International, Future Students and Faculties. We guide the project and make decisions about the strategic direction for the project which we then recommend to the Project Board for endorsement.
What is Project Beacon?
Project Beacon includes the selection and implementation of a new Curriculum Management System and Student Management System to replace our existing Webforms, Handbook and AMIS systems.
The name ‘Beacon’ clearly fits with the objectives for the project, which are focused on improving the student experience at Macquarie University. Project Beacon will light the way on our journey towards modernising our business processes, practices and systems to offer a greatly improved experience for both staff and students.
What is the CMS?
It’s our new Curriculum Management System. We went out to market for a new CMS in mid-2018 and selected Factor5’s CourseLoop technology. It’s a new product to the market developed for higher education institutions by higher education professionals. They are a vendor that truly understands our requirements and we are very pleased to be working with them.
Who else uses CourseLoop by Factor5?
We’re the 6th university to sign up with them. They are also working with UNSW, UoW, Monash, QUT and Murdoch and they all raved about them when we did the reference checks as part of the procurement process.
What will CourseLoop replace?
It will replace our existing Webforms system, which is a homegrown system that has served us well to date, but is ready to retire now that we are transforming out curriculum. CourseLoop will also replace our existing Handbook and Handbook Admin systems. This will happen over a series of implementations between Dec 2018 and August 2019.
What’s the difference between a CMS and an SMS?
A CMS is the system we will use to manage, govern and publish our curriculum information. A SMS, or Student Management System, is what we use to administer student data. The two need to work in cohesion with each other, but they are two very different systems.
What’s happening in terms of replacing AMIS, our existing SMS?
We know that AMIS is on its ‘last legs’ and is due for upgrade or replacement. We’ve gone to market with an expression of interest (EOI) to better understand what offerings there are by all vendors who play in this space and see which one best aligns to the direction we want to take our student and staff experience in.
When will we know what is happening with AMIS?
We aim to have the results of the EOI by mid-October, including a recommendation on next steps.
This seems like a big program of work. What are the expected benefits of Project Beacon?
It’s fundamentally about transforming the staff and student experience to ensure we are using fit-for-purpose, easy to use systems. This will result in it being ‘easier to do business with us’ for students – easier to enrol, easier to navigate their courses, easier to access information. For staff this means allowing them to focus on work that really matters and adds value rather than on manual data entry and spending time ‘administering’ student data. As a university, we will have better access to data which will allow us to make better informed decisions – giving us real business analytics. For academic staff, it means they dedicate more time to advising students rather than spending so much time helping them to navigate systems and confusing course information.
At the end of the day, it’s really about making it easy and more enjoyable for everyone.
Thanks, Gail. It’s been a pleasure chatting with you today. It sounds like really exciting times to come. Will you check back with us as Project Beacon progresses to keep us up to date?
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