When Lana Dancy begins her Banner training course in Hoagland 130 for a small group of testers from the Office of the University Registrar, two projectors beam light onto the wall behind her. It is a Thursday in March and for most of the attendees this will be their first glimpse of Banner 7 software. As designated testers, it is their job to provide feedback to help fine-tune the system before its launch over Labor Day weekend, September 2-4, 2006.
When the group begins the log-in process, it is immediately clear the new software is different from the current version. Rather than accessing Banner via Citrix (a software interface), the group instead opens Internet Explorer and navigates to a Web page. A plug-in launches a page that asks each user for their UC Davis log-in identification, Kerberos password, and the password provided by their hard token--a special security device that generates a one-time password. The testers are then taken into a test version of Banner 7.
The projectors at the front of the room now display the current and new Banner versions. Banner 6, on the left, suddenly looks dated--vaguely resembling a Windows 95 interface--whereas Banner 7 looks up-to-date, with a larger viewing area, navigation tabs that resemble something you might find on Amazon.com, and a menu that looks similar to Microsoft Word. Holding the mouse over one of the icons at the top of the page reveals a pop-up bubble that describes the icon's function. Dancy directs the group to open one of the forms; the testers dive in and explore Banner 7's new features.What Is Banner?
Banner is the main software interface for controlling and organizing vast amounts of student data, everything from admission information to course enrollment, final grades, and financial aid. In use since 1993, UC Davis launched Banner 6 in 2000. The current upgrade to Banner 7 is need ed in order to meet federal requirements for financial aid and for the university to continue to receive support from the software's maker, SunGard SCT.
SunGard SCT may not have the name recognition of a brand like Microsoft, but their Banner student information system is used by many universities across the country. Although SunGard SCT provides the base software for more than 1,000 forms, the UC Davis team has created or modified an additional 400 forms that are unique to the campus.
Immediately, the Banner 7 testers notice that access from a Web browser is a major improvement -- the forms can be viewed practically anywhere there is an Internet connection -- but the newer version of the software also has additional modifications that reflect new security concerns and changing educational norms. Just some of the new and improved features include:
- Concurrent curriculum. This feature supports admission, enrollment, and graduation of a student on an unlimited number of programs, such as degree programs, extension courses, and certificate programs.
- Data history. With the addition of Concurrent Curriculum tables to Banner, some of the existing data will no longer be overwritten by new entries.
- Protection of personally identifiable information. The new system features powerful security measures and improved protection of sensitive biographic and demographic data.
- Multiple identification management.This enhancement is designed to prevent the accidental creation of duplicate identifications for students.
- New architecture. Banner 7 is now an open API (Application Programming Interface) architecture, which means better integration with other applications.
- Enhanced user interface. In addition to a larger screen size, which allows more information to be displayed, Banner 7 contains new fonts, icons, and separator bars plus prompts for labels and fields. Keyboard quick keys are also still available.
- Online help. Quick and easy access to online support is available via the Internet.
After an hour and a half of exploring the new Banner environment, the session for Office of the University Registrar winds down. As they file out the door to head back to their offices, Dancy tells them, "Go back and play with it."
In the following weeks, Dancy will conduct similar sessions for designated testers from the Financial Aid Office, Undergraduate Admissions, and the Office of Graduate Studies. Each office will test the Banner 7 forms specific to their unit and provide feedback to the Banner development team to eliminate software bugs prior to the September launch date. To learn more about the Banner upgrade, visit sis.ucdavis.edu/future.htm.PREPARING FOR THE BANNER 7 UPGRADE
The Banner Student Information System will be upgraded to Banner 7 over Labor Day weekend, September 2-4, 2006. To help prepare, Banner users are encouraged to check their workstations and to sign up for training.
Banner users are asked to make sure their workstation can access the new system. Web browsers that work with Banner 7 are: Microsoft Internet Explorer 6, Mozilla Firefox 1.0 (Windows) and Safari 1.2 (Macintosh). The new software also has a larger interface, 1024 by 768 pixels, which may not work on 15-inch or some 17-inch monitors. Prior to the implementation, Banner users will be emailed information about how they can install the required plug-in. For information about browser requirements and how to check your monitor, visit the Banner 7 Web site, sis.ucdavis.edu/future.htm.
Training for Banner users starts in late August and early September and will feature two sepa rate courses: an overview class and a hands-on workshop. Classes are open to all Banner users and sign-ups begin in May through Staff Development and Professional Services (sdps.ucdavis.edu). For new Banner users, the last introductory class for the current system, Banner 6, will be held on July 27. The first introductory class for Banner 7 will be held on September 12. For more information about Banner 7 training, contact Lana Dancy, Banner Student Information System Trainer (email@example.com) or visit bannertraining.ucdavis.edu.