Our Work: Student System Business Case

The data nerve-center of the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ distance education program (eLearning) was a custom-built FileMaker Pro application. However, the application couldn’t integrate with newer systems, including the program’s website and the University’s student information and course management systems.

Although eLearning knew something needed to be done with the FileMaker application, they were unsure of the best course of action and of what other changes they should make to their IT landscape.

The Solution

After performing a high-level functional analysis of eLearning’s processes and systems, Resource Data created a business case for replacing multiple eLearning systems—including the FileMaker application—with a single integrated application.

In the document, we described

  • The current situation
  • A vision for the future
  • Why the current systems couldn’t achieve this vision
  • Recommended short-term helps
  • Recommended the way forward for long-term solutions

To illustrate the differences between as-is and envisioned states, we diagrammed both data flows. The as-is flow was a spider web of manual processes, workarounds, and users interacting with numerous systems. The envisioned state was a stark contrast: a third fewer systems, all tied together, with users only working with a couple key systems.

One of our recommendations was to define requirements for a replacement system, which eLearning asked us to complete as a follow-on project. These requirements—and the 29 detailed process diagrams—became the core of eLearning’s request for proposals (RFP) for a commercial system.

Our Approach

We came into the project with an open mind, looking to understand eLearning’s challenges and business needs. With this perspective, the participation of the eLearning’s staff and faculty was a critical component to our success. We interacted with them through a variety of methods, including

  • Preliminary questionnaires
  • Group discussions
  • Individual interviews
  • Job shadowing (watching staff perform their functions in the systems)