Online Registration Arrives at PC

Online+Registration+Arrives+at+PC

By Manyi Eno
News Editor

It is officially time to toss out the paper, Piedmont. Online registration is finally here.
Last semester, when the campus was buzzing about online registration, it seemed like it would never reach Piedmont by the time classes started back up for the next academic school year.
But little did students know that behind closed doors, administration was working for the past three years to get online registration implemented on the campus. In an interview with President James Mellichamp, he explained the lengthy process that lead to finally getting the program called PilgrimNet, that allows the college to have online registration.
“We started over three years ago looking at software that other universities were using,” Mellichamp said. “We spent almost a year just looking at what our needs were and what was available on the market and deciding which one to go with. We have well over a million dollars invested in this new system.”
 

Mellichamp explained that Piedmont paid the private company, DataTel, for their software called Colleague that allows students, faculty and staff to use online registration.
“That doesn’t include the hundreds of hours that our staff here has spent trying to get it up and running,” said Mellichamp.
In order for online registration to work, everything has to interface seamlessly from the minute a student applies in the Admissions office to when they register in the Registrar’s office, according to Mellichamp.
The old system that Piedmont was using before PilgrimNet, did not interface with all of the offices on campus like the Registrar, Admissions or Financial Aid and prevented Piedmont from getting online registration.
Not only did it take long to install the new system, faculty and staff had to also manually enter all of the old information from the previous program into the new one.
Now with the new program, students are able to look at their current class schedule, view their financial aid status and more.
“The online registration is just one component of it. It is more than just online registration, it is also your email, Moodle and others,” said Mellichamp.
With the arrival of the new technology, students will not have to worry about standing in long lines outside of the Registrar’s office to get the classes they want.
“Last year, being a freshman and having to get up super early just to get in line to be one of the first people was not fun,” said sophomore theatre and mass communications major Jessica Williams.
However, some students are not looking forward to the crash the new program may experience once everyone is on it at the same time when registering for classes.
“I remember from Athens Tech, the previous college I went to, that we had the issue of long lines and some people did not get to register after standing in line all day,” said junior chemistry major Randy Persaud. “Then when online registration was available for the first time, the day that it opened it crashed right away because everybody flooded into it. I fear that may happen [at Piedmont].”
Mellichamp said that administration has thought about what would happen if the system were to crash.
“All of the information that goes into PilgrimNet is stored on computer servers somewhere else; not even on our campus,” he said.
“This is a huge company that hosts very sensitive information and they have redundant computer systems. So if one system goes down, it is immediately picked up by another system that continues to operate. It is far too important to us to have tried to host here on campus on our own servers.”
Mellichamp said that universities do not keep important data on their local servers.
“That’s the hundred thousand dollars a year this company charges us to keep all the data somewhere else. When you interface with [PilgrimNet], you might be using a computer here on the campus, but the interface is not going to one of our servers,” said Mellichamp.
As for navigating the new site, Persuad says that he finds it difficult to get to where he wants.
“There are a bunch of sub links, and you can get kind of lost,” he siad.
“There are very specific links that you have to click on in order to see the class schedules. I feel like some of the links can be merged together and make things a little more simpler.”
Mellichamp said that training is an ongoing process for faculty as much as it is for students.
“Anthony Cox, the Registrar’s office has developed some really neat videos that faculty members can download, and the videos walk them through the program,” he said.
“Faculty members come and go and we have new faculty that joins us every year and the new ones will always have to be trained in the system. Old folks like me might need training more than once,” he said.
When asked what was next for Piedmont in the technology category, Mellichamp said that the Information Technology (IT) department is putting the finishing touches on getting seamless WiFi connectivity all over the campus.
“We’ve been spending a lot of money and resources, to make that happen. I think by the end of this year, you should be able to walk outside, walk inside buildings, go from one end of the campus to the other and have Piedmont WiFi available seamlessly.”
Also, IT is working on getting fiber optic cables for the new student village.
“So when students move in next summer, all of the things they are familiar with on this campus here in the residence halls, will be available [in the village],” he said.
“This is probably one of the biggest technological challenges Piedmont has ever faced,” Mellichamp said about the online registration. “It will take a while for everyone to get used to it, but once you’ve gotten the hang of it, you’ll wonder how did we ever get along without this?”