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Bi-Co kicks off $4 million tech upgrade

Haverford and Bryn Mawr are undergoing a comprehensive, $4 million upgrade to merge the two campuses on the same administrative platforms.

The SEADs project, short for “seamless administrative services,” kicked off in March 2012 with the goal of overhauling data systems and bringing the two colleges closer together.

When the technology overhaul, which will unfold over four years, is complete, the Bi-Co will operate on the same class registration, identity management and payment systems. The upgrade will also streamline cross-campus access to facilities and create a joint data warehouse for Bi-Co systems.

“The way a student or faculty member lives their lives should be no different from what they can do on one campus or another,” said Spencer Golden ’81, who heads the project at Haverford. “It should be completely invisible.”

Golden says the cost of all these projects should add up to $4 million, which will be split between the two colleges according to relative benefit.

Both Golden and Janet Scannell, director of Computing Services at Bryn Mawr, say the project is a big task for staff, who are implementing these upgrades in addition to their usual work. A large portion of the cost is paying for temporary support staff and consultants.

“It’s costing a fair amount of money, although we’re doing it much less expensively than many of our peers” by using open source software and combining resources with Bryn Mawr, said Golden. “It’s long overdue, and I know we in IT – and I think folks around campus – are pleased we’re finally taking [Haverford] into the twenty-first century.”

Currently, colleges in the Tri-Co are housed on three different class registration and advising systems. While both Bryn Mawr and Swarthmore are already using fairly sophisticated registration software, “Haverford is still running on its 30-year-old, custom-built software,” Golden said.

click to see more details about each project
click to see more details about each project

By next August, Haverford will have migrated onto PeopleSoft, Bryn Mawr’s current registration system. Swarthmore won’t be included in the merge as it already has a separate and well-functioning system of its own, Golden says.

Bryn Mawr is also in the process of swapping out its OneCard system for Haverford’s. When the upgrade is complete, which could be as soon as June 2013, students should be able to access more buildings and use their card to pay for books, library fees, and meals at dining halls and campus cafes across the Bi-Co.

Students and their parents will also be able to go online to add money to the new cards, which will operate on debit rather than credit as they do now.

The College is also replacing its human resources software, the system which keeps track of students, staff and faculty and their role at the College. Currently, changing and updating information is manual and laborious, sometimes requiring custom coding and strings of emails just to update a staff member’s profile, Golden says.

From Haverford College website

Although all the software under the project is commercially vended, Golden says the Bi-Co hopes to move toward more open-source software, which is freely distributed, wherever possible. For example, this past summer they replaced the college’s existing financial management system with software by Kuali, a non-profit corporation which produces widely-used, open-source higher education software.

While SEADs is technically run by staff in IITS at Haverford and IS at Bryn Mawr, the broad nature of the technology upgrade means it draws on higher-level administrators and staff in departments across campus. The entire advisory committee meets about once every six weeks.

The committee has a few other projects planned which haven’t kicked off yet. Among them, there are plans to create an online system to schedule non-academic spaces on both campuses. In January, they will also assemble a committee to look into creating an application so students can access course information, grades and registration from a phone or mobile device.

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