Letter to the editor

A recent staff editorial in the September 19, 2016 edition of “The Flyer” newspaper expressed concerns related to the implementation of the Banner system here at Lewis University.  In the article, the author(s) expressed several concerns related to a lack of communications and training accompanying the implementation of Banner.  The author also contends that these concerns hinder student and faculty abilities to conduct efficient advising and registration activities using Banner.

The Banner Implementation Team and the Office of Technology appreciates all feedback we receive from the University community, and we take this feedback under advisement as we work to improve technology resources and support.

However, we believe that the article misrepresents some of the key issues related to the Banner implementation as they relate to advising and registration.  The following is commentary designed to clarify assertions made in the September 19, 2016 editorial:

Relationship between Banner, Blackboard and “myLewis”

In its initial paragraph, the article contends that the University “switched from solely using Blackboard to implementing Banner, more commonly recognized by the title myLewis…”   In reality, Banner, Blackboard, and “myLewis” are three distinct technology resources that serve specific functions within the University.

Banner is an “enterprise resource planning” (ERP) system. An ERP system is a collection of software applications that uses a common database to integrate an organization’s business processes. For Lewis University, this includes such business-critical processes as student services and administration, financial management, human resource management, and data administration.   The Banner system is a stable, vetted technology platform that is widely used in higher education.

Blackboard is a “learning management system” that is designed to develop, administer, and deliver educational technology course and resources.  Blackboard is an independent system that is not a part of Banner implementation.

No changes were made to the Blackboard system during the ERP project.  However, the Blackboard system has been configured to receive course information from the Banner system.

“myLewis” is the new portal that has been installed as part of the ERP implementation. The new portal replaced the “MyCampus” portal, which was used by the University in previous years.  Once logged into the “myLewis” portal, users get access to a customizable web platform that will provide access to ERP (Banner) information and other technology system (such as Blackboard).

In summary, the Banner ERP system and Blackboard system are different systems with differing purposes.  The “myLewis” portal provides access to both solutions (along with a number of other technology systems and resources).

Awareness of Banner System

The article asserts that that there was lack of awareness that the Banner ERP system was being implemented.  Specifically, second paragraph of the September 19th editorial states that “students were unaware of the new program,” and the final paragraph claims “…instructions were not disseminated prior to registration…”

There have been communications targeted to student, faculty, and staff related to course registration using Banner.  The Registrar’s Office has conducted numerous workshops for students, faculty, and staff on using the Banner system for advising.  In addition, the Registrar’s Office has sent email messages to students explaining the new advising and registration processes implemented with Banner.  These messages were accompanied with a PDF document that provided additional details on the process.  The University also produced video resources that gave students, faculty, and staff visual instructions on how to navigate the system in order to complete registration.  Working in conjunction with the Marketing and Communications department, the Implementation Team developed posters that provided information related to the new registration process in Banner.  These posters are still present on campus today.

Moreover, the Banner Implementation Team has made numerous efforts to communicate with the University community on issues related to the Banner system implementation.  The team developed a website (www.lewisu.edu/erp) designed to provide information related to the Banner implementation.  This site also includes a feedback tool that will allow University community members to forward questions related to the implementation.

The Banner Implementation Team and the Office of Technology have worked diligently to bring improved administrative technology resources to the University community.

These tools help facilitate more streamlined administrative processes, which include student advising and registration.   Over the past two years, more than fifty University faculty and staff have worked weekly to install, configure, and deploy services using the Banner system.

These individuals are dedicated members of the University community that work hard to provide the technology services and support the University’s constituency deserves and demands.  A quality ERP system is one of these technology services.

However, the team acknowledges that there is room for improvement in Banner (and how the system is utilized on campus), and we will continually work towards an improved Banner user experience.

If technical support is needed in using Banner, we respond as quickly as the given circumstances allow.

Community feedback is also important in creating appropriate technology solutions (including Banner) that supports the strategic mission of the University.

We welcome the opportunity to discuss how we can improve technology resources and services.  Questions, comments, and/or concerns can be forwarded to the Office of Technology, which is located in the lower level of the Learning Resource Center (LRC).  Commentary and questions can also be submitted in person, via phone (x5950), online (https://servicedesk.lewisu.edu/), or by email (servicedesk@lewisu.edu).

LeRoy Butler, Ph.D.
Associate Vice President for Technology

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