A model for modernization

Registrar's Office and IT team up on tech projects

UM’s Registrar’s Office was at a tipping point when Joe Hickman became Registrar in 2013. Hickman knew he either needed more staff to meet demand, or he needed an infusion of technology to modernize operations.

More staff simply wasn’t an option.

What Hickman found was a partner willing to invest dollars, expertise and project management services to bring online services to a level that students expect in 2016.

Collaborating with IT, Hickman has launched multiple technology projects simultaneously. Some are big, expensive efforts. Others have been modest investments that could pay big dividends. 

One effort has been to resuscitate 25Live, a resource scheduling software package that UM has owned for years, but never fully implemented. The biggest venture has been implementing DegreeWorks, a degree auditing system that integrates with the Banner student records system to provide students and academic advisers a tool for planning and tracking progress towards graduation. That product cost tens of thousands of dollars and has involved months of consulting, training and implementation. It will go live in time for fall semester.

On the other end of the spectrum, visitors to the Registrar’s website can now engage in a live chat to get questions answered. Hickman himself answers many of those inquiries.

Finally, Hickman’s office has embarked on a project to transform dozens of paper forms into simplified electronic processes.

“The pain point for students is dealing with paper forms and not being able to do business in a modern way at the University,” Hickman says. “We just have a big glut of paper we have to get rid of.”

Hickman credits CIO Matt Riley and others on the IT leadership team for making the transformation possible.

“Matt understands what an enterprise solution can do,” Hickman says. “When we can solve a hundreds-of-man-hours problem with a $60,000 purchase, Matt’s been willing to make the investment.”

The other key was combining tech skills from IT with business process expertise in the Registrar’s Office. Hickman credits assistant CIO Jeff Abbott, who came on board last summer, with making that happen.

“Jeff came in with experience in project management and a fresh set of eyes,” Hickman says. “In the past, folks in my office felt like if they were going to take on a new IT project, we were on our own. Once we had a couple successful projects with IT, we started to realize we’ve got some support.”

Here are some of the collaborative technology projects undertaken to improve student services and staff productivity.

In production

Electronic transcripts

Requests for transcripts are now done electronically through the National Student Clearinghouse. Previously transcript requests were manually processed, printed and mailed. Now electronic transcripts are delivered within 15 minutes and staff time freed up for more valuable work.

Live chat

In collaboration with IT’s web team, the Registrar’s Office has implemented a live chat option on all of it’s departmental web pages and on the UM catalog web pages. The chat feature is available Monday-Friday from 8-5. Hickman says the tool from Olark allows him to see what people are looking at on the web and intervene if it appears someone needs help. Transcripts of chats also provide him a teaching tool to continue to improve customer service.

Going live soon


The degree audit tool will be live with data from three catalogs beginning fall semester 2016. DegreeWorks from Ellucian provides students a powerful tool for tracking academic progress and exploring options for future terms. Academic advisers can view student data and interact with students through the system as well. Hickman says DegreeWorks will also help UM meet federal financial aid and NCAA compliance requirements.

The next step with DegreeWorks will be to add the Student Educational Planner tool that allows students and advisers to collaborate on course planning. It also will integrate with CyberBear for registration and with degree audit for graduation planning.

Paperless processes

Hickman is working with IT’s Enterprise Information Systems group to convert paper processes to electronic processes using Ellucian’s Banner Workflow software. The faculty grade change process has already been converted. The drop/add, change of major and graduation forms are next up. Hickman says they are prioritizing forms based on volume of use.

Just started

Online catalog

IT has purchased CourseLeaf Catalog Management System from Leepfrog to manage UM’s online catalog. The tool integrates with Banner and DegreeWorks and will replace a homegrown tool for gathering catalog data, and a manual web design process that requires hundreds of hours of work by Registrar’s and IT staff. Hickman says he hopes to eventually add the CourseLeaf curriculum management tool to streamline curriculum review and catalog changes. 

Mobile applications

IT recently signed a contract with CampusM and is launching a project to develop and administer a suite of mobile applications that will be accessible on mobile devices and through a web portal. 

Registrar Joe Hickman

Registrar Joe Hickman demonstrates the capabilities of DegreeWorks degree audit system during a recent campus open forum.

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