A project to design an integrated, digitised student support system, which tracks studentsʼ data all the way from application to graduation and makes everything accessible in one place, was launched on Monday, 13 August.
UCT won a bid to benefit from the expertise of four international IBM consultants who will be spending the next five weeks on campus designing a process model for the system.
The UCT project was one of four announced at an event in Cape Town on Monday to introduce recipients of the pro-bono IBM consulting service to the IBM sub-teams here to work with them as part of the company’s Corporate Service Corps (CSC) programme. The event was hosted by the Western Cape Department of Economic Development and Tourism (DEDAT).
Other than UCT, the others who will benefit include DEDAT itself, FoodForward South Africa (FFSA), and the Cape Digital Foundation (CDF).
UCT registrar Royston Pillay said at the event that the IBM and Digital Opportunity Trust initiative was a social enterprise with huge potential for broader positive community impact “because of the values that underpin it and its accompanying fundamental ethos”.
The four projects all related to one another in some way in respect of systems advancement, the fourth industrial revolution, and artificial intelligence, all modern challenges that are profoundly inter-connected and inter-dependent.
“On their own, and in aggregate, the four initiatives associated with this project have the potential to make a huge difference.”
“On their own, and in aggregate, the four initiatives associated with this project have the potential to make a huge difference to advancing the interests of our community in Cape Town, and the wider Western Cape,” Pillay added.
Centralising the systems
UCT’s proposal for the system was written by Naziema Jappie, director of the Centre for Educational Testing for Access and Placement (CETAP).
“My experience was that what we needed at UCT is an integrated student management system.
“This would span from online applications right through to graduation, where we would have all of their information on one system that’s easily accessible.”
The different processes that are currently being used will have to be analysed and taken into account.
“We have limited financial resources, and we don’t have the capacity to do the groundwork.”
Centralising the systems is no small task, however.
“We have limited financial resources, and we don’t have the capacity to do the groundwork,” Jappie explained.
“We wanted IBM to come and design a process model for us for an integrated digitised student management system. So they’re not going to actually implement a system. They’re going to come and look at what we have, and they’re going to design the process model.”
The plan is for the consultants to present their recommendations by 6 September, for UCT to take forward.
“It’s not an easy system in the sense that it won’t happen overnight, it will take time. It could take two years, up to three years. This is because we need everyone’s involvement, and I think that’s the important thing. Everyone has to be together in this,” she added.
Assisting the students
“When I wrote the proposal I was thinking from the point of UCT and where this university wants to go in the next 10, 20 years.”
The new system will benefit the institution as a whole, as well as individual students. The system would also allow for effective financial planning.
“I think it will give the university organisational efficiency in terms of its administrative side, and also in terms of service levels and delivery to students,” Jappie said.
The IBM consultants who will work on the process model hail from around the globe. They are Pradeep M. Samuel (India), Ellen Knickle (Canada), Megha Gupta (USA), and Imelda Gutierez Herrera (Mexico).
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