By Dorany Pineda
On the second day of the Fall 2017 semester, the new Student Information System crashed while thousands of students at East Los Angeles College signed up for classes.
Ruben Arenas, ELAC’s dean of institutional advancement, was at one of the SIS welcome stations by the Fiscal Office helping students navigate the system when he noticed it started slowing down.
“We’re not sure what happened, but it could’ve been that there was more traffic than the number of servers could handle,” Arenas said.
The system, which Arenas said was down between four to six hours, left the entire campus on gridlock.
“We couldn’t do anything during those hours,” Arenas said. He expressed how impressed he was by the patience of students during the malfunction.
An email was sent Aug. 29 around 11:30 a.m. to staff and administrators at ELAC notifying them that the system was down.
The sender wrote that he had been told that the District Office’s Information Technology department was adding servers to help speed up the system.
Last week, after numerous add codes were reportedly not working, department chairs were given add slips––the previous method of adding classes that the SIS system was supposed to replace.
The add slips were distributed as a backup in case the add codes didn’t work or a faculty member didn’t feel comfortable using them, Arenas said.
He added that one of the reasons the add codes weren’t working was because the codes were mixed up.
If an instructor is teaching five classes, he explained, they get add codes that are specific to each class. It’s likely that some of the add codes weren’t working because they weren’t the correct ones for that class.
According to Vice President of Continuing Education and Workforce Development Armida Ornelas, these aren’t the only inconsistencies that the new SIS system is having.
“There have been several issues in terms of the technical difficulties the district has had with rolling [SIS] out,” Ornelas said. “From issues of prerequisites, from coding, from students not being able to navigate between [the old system and the new], it’s just been on and on with different issues.”
In response, admissions and student services workers have been working long hours doing manual inputs for applications and add slips, Ornelas said.
As a result of these system problems, enrollment has seen a dip, but it’s hard to tell how much it has actually been affected, she added.
“We’re doing so much manual inputting that we’re not caught up with all the applications and everything else,” Ornelas said.
But administration is trying to be as proactive as possible, vice president of student services Julie Benavides said.
They’re calling together an SOS team composed of faculty, administrators and the Associated Student Union to organize a Boom Festival.
At the Boom Festival, she continued, “all the players, like financial aid, admissions, the learning assistance center, distance education, are coming together to figure out how we can help get the students who weren’t able to get into classes.” The plan is to offer them additional, short-term classes.
They’re hope is to have the Boom Festival sometime between September and October.
Despite all the problems, everyone is still confident that the problems will be resolved.
“I’m optimistic, though, that once the district works out this initial roll out, SIS will actually work okay. I think this is just the trial and error part of rolling out a major new system,” Ornelas said.