Shelldon: Building Software Infrastructure for Higher Ed

With The focus so fully on recruitment and retention in higher education, it is increasingly more important to understand where your students are, how they are progressing, and what their competence is. A management information system can make this all quite simple. With mobile technologies as a tag-along with over 90% of students, complex monitoring tools are at your disposal. New micro-chipped student IDs provide another level of tracking possibility. Some critics list downsides, but the upside is that an aggregating system can be programmed to create needed reports at a moments notice. This data (just as it is in social media, marketing, and sales) can be important to formative and summative updates to core processes within the university department.

Many different options exist for this type of student tracking. Many of them are out of the reach to the individual university department. When universities purchase large-scale solutions, they often miss many nuances of the small department. My solution is to build a system from the ground up. I’ve decided to have a blog that details the journey.

Features in Brief
First task is to develop the different ideas that will form the feature set of the program. One of my must-have features is a system that tracks student progression. Yet, one of the most challenging pieces is to allow for students who have credits already. It is rare that a student will bring zero credits, and be a fresh new college applicant. My second must-have feature is a collection of links, news, and information that supports the student throughout their educational and extracurricular experience. For example, grants, job links, and internships for service learning and practicum. My third grand feature would be a system of reporting for use in analytics, evaluation, and for the production of articles on the process and the implementation of the system.

Student Progression
The first step would be to map the system as it would function best utilizing a paper-based system. A typical 4-year plan would have to be organized. As mentioned earlier, an alternate 3-year, 5-year, and transfer student plan may also be a good idea. The coolest feature would be a mechanism that automatically evaluates a transcript. Most transcripts in Banner (the most-used university MIS system) are formatted the same way with tab delimiters. Evaluation of transcript is just a matter of training the mechanism to parse that data.

Database for Extracurricular Support
Retention is a huge part of the college process for University administrators. Yet, retention is a function of the student’s sense of belonging and progression academically. Therefore, retention is about providing the student with information that engages them, and causes them to see value in the connection with the University. Information on grant, internship, fellowship, service learning, and job opportunities can fill this requirement. Grants can list project, academic, and tuition-support opportunities.

Reporting and Experience Sharing
Writing and spreading the knowledge is a must for academics. Here are several steps In the development process that could be articles topics:
1. Map the process
2. Establish committee
3. Review process
4. Propose new
5. Administrative review by university Offices
6. Public comment
7. Revision
8. Implementation
9. Evaluation

What features would you like to see?