Revamped DARS Will Offer More Options



Late last week, students visiting the MyUB Web site had the chance to test drive a pilot of a new DARS program that offered real-time data and an opportunity to see what would happen if a student changed his or her major selection.

The pilot, available from Oct. 1 to 5, tested an upgrade from a mainframe computer system to a client-server computer system and was "the last lap in a two-year upgrade," stated Shelley Frederick, assistant vice provost in enrollment and planning and head of the project, in an e-mail.

The "what if' portion of the upgrade is new to the Web but not to UB, according to Frederick. Students interested in seeing how their requirements matched up against another major could request a DARS report under that major and see the changes. That method of checking major requirements is also what students enrolled in double majors use to see the status of their second major.

As for minor requirements, neither the current program nor the upgrade show students the completion of a minor because, said Frederick, the coding it would require is complex and new skills would be needed.

In addition, the requirements between departments are not yet standardized enough to allow an easy transition to computer. For example, an engineering student minoring in economics would run into difficulties because the major requirements would exempt him or her from the foreign language requirement, while the minor would require intermediate competency.

Then, too, minor requirements are frequently vague and defined by the student pursuing the major, stated Frederick, although she added that "once we become more familiar with the new features in DARS we can revisit that topic and others."

The DARS system was tested initially by students in the business administration, psychology and social sciences interdisciplinary majors, but was posted on MyUB during the trial period and made available to any student who logged on.

Although the feedback from the test period is still being compiled, Frederick said so far, "the response has been very positive."

The upgrade will also benefit system administrators, according to an e-mail from Maureen Faulhaber, information technology manager of administrative computing services.

"Administrative offices responsible for maintaining DARS rules related to degree requirements will benefit from the ease of use of the GUI [graphical user interface] in the new product," she stated. "The user interface in the old product was difficult to work with."

The new system will go into regular use as soon as all the problems are worked out; Frederick hopes to have it operative "in the near future."

The upgrade was a collaborative effort between staff in Administrative Computing, Records and Registration, Transfer and Articulation Services, Enrollment and Planning, Admissions and the DARS team.