SASS team navigates remote work and drives initiatives forward
April 16, 2020
On Friday, March 13, each member of the Student and Academic Support Systems (SASS) team along with others in IT signed a remote work agreement without fully knowing if the department’s operations would be impacted by the transition to remote work that would begin on March 16. The team was ready and willing to hold each other accountable, go the extra mile, and maintain the high level of quality we are accustomed to, but to have the entirety of the team work remotely was uncharted territory.
Due to exceptional IT leadership and outstanding dedication, flexibility, and communication demonstrated by every member of the SASS team and other collaborators within IT, the last month has been very productive. Here are a few highlights:
- Faculty Grade Submission (FGS) went live – FGS is a Yale custom application, developed in React, which allows faculty members or their proxies to enter grades for the students in their courses. The new user interface features a graphical representation of grades as they are entered and the ability to easily upload grades from a spreadsheet. FGS will be piloted by the School of Nursing later this month.
- Operational Data Store (ODS) went live – The ODS is fed by Banner but structured to make reporting simpler and more efficient. By handling complex calculations and data transformations in the ODS, the SASS team will be able to quickly deliver reports to end-users, while also minimizing direct queries against the Banner student system.
- CampusGroups (YaleConnect) went live – Through CampusGroups, incoming Yale College students will access “Class of 2024: Important Dates and Deadlines.” This list will be the students’ guide to everything they are required to complete over the summer. The list will also contain a link to the “Housing & Advising Survey.” The survey provides students with the opportunity to tell Yale about their interests and preferences when it comes to living arrangements. Their responses are shared with their residential college dean, their first-year counselor (“FroCo”), and the head of their college, who will use the information to determine which residential college and suite each student will live in.
- Dissertation Progress Reporting and Submission (DPRS) Phase II went live – DPRS is used by graduate school students pursuing their Ph.D. degree to report their research progress during each academic year. The main functions that were released in Phase II: Bulk creation of DPRs, functionality for students returning after a gap in their academic term or year, and addition of three critical Jaspersoft embedded reports to the administrative screens.
- Student Experience (YaleHub) milestones achieved – The YaleHub is a new portal for applications, links, alerts, tasks, and to-dos that students will use to manage their day to day needs and requirements. The YaleHub project passed the Design Gate and the React/GraphQL/Node.js technology stack was approved by Yale’s Technical Architecture Committee (TAC).
- COVID-19 related projects – Several projects have been completed or are currently being developed to support students, faculty, and staff during the pandemic.
- Development of “Dorm Room Essential Items” surveys to allow students to coordinate the shipment of items they may have left behind in their room or suite.
- Developing solutions for students to change course grade modes.
- New Banner database processes were created to automatically convert grade modes for various schools and push room and board reimbursements to the AR system.
- Several Brio reports were converted to Jaspersoft reports to support remote access.
- Modifications to the Cap and Gown student self-service page were made to allow students to purchase and ship commencement regalia.
The success of the past month could not have come without an essential rerouting of what it means to function within the workplace, especially since the workplace is now remote. After speaking to a few team members, it is apparent that clear communication and technology have been integral to the team’s achievements.
When asked why the group has been able to successfully transition to working remotely, Jaime Tryon, Business Systems Analyst, said “I think it’s probably a combination of things - the managers have done a really good job of maintaining clear, consistent communication channels. Also, I think most people on the team have well-defined responsibilities with tasks that can be completed remotely. For me, priorities have been very clear.”
Jaime also stated that trust is a large part in maintaining a sense of community and effective communication. Kate Hathaway, a manager on the team, praised the team’s capability to shift from in-person work to a remote environment: “We have capable, motivated people, and the team already had high standards in place. We’ve also transitioned some of our favorite office routines online - things like the Cornelius coffee break, Fran’s coffee club, and our team gatherings. Everyone has been really creative in coming up with ideas for engaging a large group – the Exercise in Self Discovery survey, the virtual escape room, and PechaKucha.”
According to Cornelius Hughes, Software Engineer, technology has played an integral role in the transition, stating that: “Communication via Teams, Zoom and email has been very important to the team’s success in the past few weeks.”
Meeting these milestones required the unified effort of nearly all of IT and the dedication of many colleagues across the Yale campus. We all appreciate Yale’s efforts to protect students, faculty, and staff and doubly appreciate the comradery and enthusiasm of those who were involved in these efforts. Despite our new remote environment, the SASS team has achieved interconnectivity and success during these challenging times.