2015 Year in Review & What’s Next in 2016

2015 was a productive year for NGSIS as we continued on our mission to modernize U of T’s online services with new impactful products and enhanced existing ones. Let’s review some of the highlights before we look ahead to what’s next in 2016.

2015 Review


  • The new Student Web Service and NGSIS flagship product launched in late June for students and has had over 3 million logins in the first 6 months of service.

Degree Explorer

  • Nearly all undergraduate programs are now using Degree Explorer.
  • We’ve seen usage rates significantly grow year over year and in 2015 we approached 600,000 logins.


  • A cross-functional process streamline effort resulted in broad, impactful changes to the November convocation experience.
  • For the first time at U of T, students were able to request and distribute E-tickets for the November ceremonies. Accompanying these changes were a fully redesigned student graduation request process and RSVP web service launched on ACORN.

Business Intelligence – Student Life

  • In partnership with NGSIS, Student Life has implemented several core products in recent years, including the Co-Curricular Record and the Career Learning Network. In order to maximize the utility of these products, the Business Intelligence team worked with Student Life to deliver key analytics for these tools.

Curriculum Management (CM)

  • Curriculum Management will serve as the basis for an authoritative source of course and program information at the University. U of T has negotiated an agreement with KualiCo, the commercial affiliate of the Kuali Foundation, to develop a cloud-based learning Curriculum Management system. NGSIS will be piloting the use of CM with a sample division in consideration of a full rollout of the product at U of T.

Academic Calendar

  • NGSIS has been working on a new content management system tailored for academic calendar publication. The specialized website allows divisions to maintain non-curricular content, select divisional branding, and provide access to tools that can import course and program information from Curriculum Management.


  • ACORN was the first application deployed on a new Cisco and IBM foundation. The IBM foundation provides an integrated platform for critical applications. This enables ACORN to provide a more convenient, well-performing and available application for students. This infrastructure will enable more applications to be built to ACORN’s standards in the future.

Strategic Plan

  • For a program as diverse as NGSIS, it is imperative to have a guiding strategic plan to help coordinate the moving pieces and facilitate ongoing success. Cathy Eberts, NGSIS Program Director, and the NGSIS leadership team worked with our sponsors, stakeholders and key individuals to craft a three year strategic plan. This effort was carried out in stages over a number of months, with the final draft presented to our sponsors and NGSIS Core Team towards the end of 2015. The plan will be released publicly in phases, beginning with our list of initiatives for 2016.


What’s Next in 2016

With over fifty individual projects on the roster for 2016, and the first year of our 2016-2018 strategic plan underway, we are set up for one of our most ambitious years to date. Here’s a glimpse at what we have in store within each of our five strategic priority areas.


Academic and Life Experience


  • Building on the foundation put in place in 2015, we will produce an optimized mobile experience for ACORN, a staff view of the student interface, a timetable generator and a number of enhancements to course enrolment this year.

Degree Explorer

  • In early 2016, we will implement significant changes to the student degree planner and are looking forward to introduce Degree Explorer to graduate students in 2016.


  • StarRez has been one of the most successful administrative products to date within NGSIS. 2016 will mark the first time the University has all 13 core residences using the same administrative system, with Trinity College joining.


Student Records

We’ll be making a number of small but impactful improvements to the records services of ROSI and ACORN this year. The largest effort will focus on adapting to changes in how we receive applicant data from the Ontario Universities’ Application Centre (OUAC).


Curriculum Design and Development

For staff and faculty we are working on two core systems that will help improve the processes for initiating and maintaining courses, as well as providing a robust suite of tools for instructors to manage their course information. These are two of NGSIS’s flagship projects for 2016.


Student Finances


  • We are looking forward to offering a completely redesigned finances section of ACORN in 2016. This will include online credit card payment for tuition and fees, an online U of T grant application, a new awards and financial aid module and a broad effort to boost levels of financial literacy.

In addition to the work on ACORN, we have two impactful efforts underway:

  • Towards the middle of 2016, we are looking to implement a new student accounts module that will eventually replace the existing ROSI student accounts module. This will ease some of the reconciliation issues we currently face and in the future will help to facilitate greater clarity and more timely information for students.
  • Secondly, we are exploring options for implementing a proper student awards module. These are early days for this initiative and when it’s completed, this will provide students as well as staff with a much better experience for managing the thousands of financial awards available at U of T.


Planning and Analytics

The Business Intelligence team will build off several years of strong results by continuing to analyze the vast quantities of data available to decision makers at U of T. This year’s focus will be on admissions, student retention and course evaluations.