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Integration

Prior to moving forward with any implementation we first determined how we perceived the overall system functioning. Some questions that we asked ourselves follow.

Who Would Receive a Pipeline Account?
The initial use of Pipeline with the Banner Web for Student product was to provide inquiry access for credit students for the Summer, 2000 semester. These students would be able to access schedule, transcripts, student billing status, hold information, and financial aid status. This was an issue for us on the initial load of the system and to determine how we wanted the SCT Banner events to trigger account creation. We decided to implement Pipeline for only students that were taking a credit course, due to the more stable nature of that student population. (Eventually, we will add non-credit students, but only after implementing the WEB payment module.) Thus, we only initially loaded/created Pipeline accounts for all registered students taking a credit course. In addition we went back only one year in the Banner system and created accounts for those students that had previously taken a credit course. Future account creations would be triggered by entry into the Banner system.

How would students activate their accounts?
We decided that we did not want to distribute mailings with a username and password. To overcome this we built a front-end account activation form. This form asks the students four pieces of information, which are then checked against the Banner system. If these pieces of information match the account is then activated. We also ask the students to answer one of three questions; this provides the ability to authenticate users over the phone to provide remote support. Lastly this form asks the students to set their own Pipeline password, which then updates their Pipeline password.

Pipeline Account Set-Up Screen Shot

After clicking on the Finish button another form displays listing their username. Once the username is obtained you can login. If information doesn't match on the main account activation form information displays the fields that may contain the possible errors.

How would we integrate the Campus Pipeline Email system?
North Shore is a GroupWise shop, recently converted from an older ineffective POP mail system. The GroupWise email offers full client capabilities including email, shared calendar, shared distribution lists, shared folders and documents, etc. In addition, an excellent WEB interface is available that provides many of the features of the full client. Campus Pipeline on the other hand, is solely a Web based email that does not provide all of the enhanced features that GroupWise has. Based on these facts it was determined that we would continue to use GroupWise for all full-time faculty and staff. The Campus Pipeline email system would serve as the core email system for our students and adjunct faculty.

The IMAP configuration ability within Campus Pipeline allowed us to fully integrate the GroupWise email system, thus providing a consistent email base for full time faculty and staff. Communications and training sessions were provided on how to integrate GroupWise into Campus Pipeline. Full-time faculty and staff when accessing Pipeline email actually access their GroupWise email via the IMAP configuration. Full time faculty and staff now have four ways that they can access their email:

  • GroupWise Client
  • GroupWise Web interface
  • Campus Pipeline
  • Pop based mail system

To further complicate matters we wanted the domain name to be the same for each mail system (nscc.mass.edu). Our first attempt at this integration was to have incoming mail be directed to the Novell GroupWise server. If an account existed on that system it would accept it, otherwise it would then forward it to the Pipeline server. This strategy initially didn't work even after contacting Novell technical support.

We then focused our efforts on having incoming mail be accepted by the Pipeline server. This scenario would be more difficult because all NSCC members had Pipeline accounts and those that had GroupWise accounts had the same email address. The plan called for all mail to be accepted by the Pipeline server and to enable the auto forward feature that would automatically forward email to the GroupWise server. We enabled this feature for all Full time employees who had identical account names on both the Pipeline and GroupWise systems. Unfortunately this was extremely unreliable and worked for only short periods of time before it stopped forwarding the mail appropriately. This strategy should have worked, however we believe this problems lies within the Campus Pipeline email system. By the way we were the first Pipeline account to try this.

After a week of grappling with this issue we again called Novell and spoke to someone with more experience in these matters. This time we were told that our original plan could in fact work. After spending two hours on the phone with a technician and after editing Novell startup configuration files we had the mail properly forwarding to the correct systems. Novell reimbursed us for the first phone call in which they provided incorrect information. Note: This same process can be emulated if you use Microsoft Exchange.

The diagram below denotes how we implemented email:

Diagram showing how email was implemented.

What is the Account Naming Convention?
Out of the box SCT simply doesn't provide the ability to setup your own naming convention, which was unacceptable to us. We decided to develop our own logic for account creation to use a similar naming convention that we had in place for faculty and staff. Our faculty and staff naming convention is the first initial of the first name, followed by up to seven characters of the last name. We used this same convention, however two digits were added to the username to differentiate possible duplicate accounts.

Examples
Patrick Thomas pthomas01@nscc.mass.edu
Paul Thomas pthomas02@nscc.mass.edu

What 24x7 Services Would be Required?
With this pending implementation students and faculty would have access to these services anytime/anywhere via the WEB. All of the administrative services (registration, inquiry to grades and schedule, financial aid status) are dependent on the Banner database being available. Six month's prior to the start of this implementation we knew that the access to Banner would have to be drastically improved. The prior backup scheme kept the Banner production system unavailable from 7:30pm to 7:30am five days per week. To provide the necessary access to these services our backup scheme was automated and system unavailability is now only one night per week.

How Would Account Activation Errors be Identified and Supported?
From past experience with on-line course development and administration, and with the potential huge numbers of activations expected, we knew that providing easily accessible Help for Account Activation/Maintenance would be critical to expand the number of NSCC staff who could assist students with account issues .To address the problem of providing phone support and to quickly identify any account problems, a new Banner form was developed. This form came into being after discussing possible solutions, all of which were cumbersome and would not easily allow non-IS college support personnel to assist students. Below is the newly developed form "GXICPMN".

Screen shot of GXICPMN form

This form allows our department and more recently the non-IS support departments (registrar, etc) to quickly identify and correct any account activation issues. Note: Without this form the support departments would have treated every account issue as an IT problem. The forms functionality and its intended uses are:

  • Identify a student over the phone (it contains the answer to the question they answered when activating their Pipeline account).
  • Quickly identify any inaccuracies on the required four fields of information that must be filled out on the Pipeline account activation form. (First name, last name, date of birth, social security number)
  • It displays whether the Pipeline account has already been activated. If the account is already activated the form displays the users username. If the user has forgotten their password it can be reset with this form.
  • Event synchronization - If any events are out of sync, for example, a course registration that didn't update Pipeline, which would cause the main Pipeline screen not to show that particular course resource area. Full synchronization between Pipeline and Banner can be accomplished by clicking on the synchronize button.
  • If we have a student that has not attended NSCC in over a year and a half they would have a Banner record but no Pipeline account. The Pipeline account can be generated by simply clicking the generate account button.
  • Lastly, if for some reason a student cannot activate their account, only as a last resort, the Pipeline account can be deleted and then regenerated.

What SCT Web Services would be enabled?
This was an area that required input from various departments. See the Implementation plan for team setups.