Stanford Report Online

Stanford Report, October 18, 2000
Improvements to Axess system will give faculty more data on students, classes, Printup says

Registrar Roger Printup made a presentation to the Faculty Senate Thursday on improvements to the Axess computer system that promise to make for a more efficient system that faculty will be able to use to gather enhanced information on their courses and students.

The current mainframe-based system was installed in 1983 -- "which in terms of computer systems was pre-Ice Age," he said -- and is written in SPIRES, a database and programming language developed at Stanford for which programmers are now difficult to find.

The new software, being purchased from PeopleSoft as part of a $20 million project, will handle undergraduate and graduate admission, and will be used to collect tuition, provide for enhanced internal and external reporting and compile student records. The university also has purchased PeopleSoft software for human resources, benefits and payroll.

"One of the great deficiencies of our existing system is that it left out a major chunk of the university," Printup said. "Our current system does not have any access for faculty to information about the courses and their students. And this system will provide us with that. Faculty will have access to the class lists of the classes they're teaching. Isn't this a shocking innovation?"

Faculty will enter grades via the web, he added, which prompted a question from John Bravman, vice provost for undergraduate education, who wondered if that meant faculty members would have to manually enter each grade for large classes --- a task often assigned to someone else. Printup said he is looking into the option of delegating authority.

Ultimately, Printup said, the system will help track requirements for majors and minors.

He warned, however, that at the beginning, "there will be a different way of managing courses that will be difficult to get installed the first time." He also said there will be training for those who will use the software in their day-to-day jobs.