For most of you, it’s registration time. The time every semester when students of a certain classification camp out in front of their computers, as if waiting for a Justin Bieber concert, to be the first into myACU to register for the next semester’s classes. Even if you manage to get past the login screen, registration is a daunting task as you have to deal with SunGard’s second-rate attempt at a college database service known as “Banner.”
The interface is shoddy to say the least and up until a few years ago it didn’t display properly in any other browser besides Internet Explorer. Truth be told, it is quite an upgrade from the old method of crowding into Moody Coliseum and filling out registration cards at various tables, but it would seem that this application of technology hasn’t completely made this a smooth experience.
For example, when I was registering this past week, most of my classes went through easily, except for one. The reason? “Adviser.” That one word is literally all it gave as an error message. Does this mean I need to contact my adviser? Does it mean I need to contact the adviser for the department of the class I’m registering for? Do I need to buy them both a sandwich? Who knows.
ACU is known for being a technologically advanced campus, but SunGard’s student-end interface (I can’t speak for the faculty’s side of things) leaves a lot to be desired. It’s made all the more confusing when a different username and password separate from myACU is used to login when the auto-login fails; a frequent occurrence.
But one does not simply change their campus database structure. Banner is integrated everywhere. Your Banner ID on your student card is referenced in the Banner system every time you swipe into Chapel, buy lunch or try to get inside of a locked building after-hours.
And change might just be on the way. Late last year, SunGard announced a merger with Datatel, a similar database management company. The higher education arm of SunGard, which includes the Banner software, is going to be changing hands. Time will tell if we can see improvement because of this.
But to whatever software engineer has or will have control over the future of Banner, heed my advice: Before releasing something that will become the core of thousands of colleges the world over, make sure it is usable. Test it rigorously with college students and faculty to see if they can effectively navigate your system, make improvements as needed. It may just make the difference in theirs’, and ultimately your future.