Why is ACORN slow on enrolment day? Can I automatically enrol in my courses? Can U of T buy better servers?
These were just some of the questions asked at this year’s University of Toronto Student Union Street Festival (UTSU). Held on September 12, the ACORN team, from Enterprise Applications and Solutions Integration (EASI), answered thousands of questions for five hours.
“Our participation in the UTSU Street Fest is important because each year we hear from students about their needs, goals, issues and ideas relating to important initiatives at U of T,” says Michael Clark, Manager of User Experience & Process Design with EASI.
This year, the ACORN team fielded in-person “Ask Me Anything” (AMA) style questions, with representation from EASI’s business analysts, developers, as well as user experience and process designers. This allowed students to inquire about everything from long-term infrastructure improvements to the details of everyday course enrolment.
So, why does ACORN perform more slowly on peak enrolment days?
On these days thousands of students log into the system, but it can only handle 700 concurrent users. The new system, which will go live on November 19, features a new infrastructure and code base and will be able to handle 15,000 concurrent users.
During Street Fest, ACORN staff also recruited students for the ACORN Student Advisory Team for research activities and tests. When students join the team, they can expect to attend 45-minute sessions that will directly inform improvements to ACORN and applications like the Financial Planning Calculator and GPA Calculator.
“We want to continue to build a community of students who are interested in improving student services,” says Laura Klamot, a user experience designer with EASI. “This includes recruiting students from all divisions, years, programs, campuses and also students with accessibility needs.”
In the near future, the student team will test improvements to ACORN’s mobile experience, U of T Map integrations within ACORN, live chat support with registrars and other U of T advisors, and integrating U of T’s Timetable Builder tool within ACORN.
“The input we received this year was consistent with previous research we’ve conducted with students, and will help keep us on course towards realizing improvements to U of T’s online student experience,” says Clark. “As well, it will help inspire future initiatives, leveraging the latest capabilities that EASI and the Next Generation Student Information Services Program will have to offer.”