Focus on user experience, enhancements mark three-year anniversary of LionPATH

October 23, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State’s student information system, LionPATH, has hit the three-year mark, since its phased launch that began in fall 2015. The milestone comes during a time marked by notable improvements and a sharpened focus on the user experience.

LionPATH is the engine behind many core University functions. It now has 300,000+ users by role — students, faculty, advisers, staff, delegates, authorized payers, with some users having multiple roles. Millions of transactions are conducted annually on the system — admissions, student record maintenance, course scheduling, transcript generation, degree auditing, billing, awarding of student aid. LionPATH also provides data for other critical systems, such as Starfish and Canvas.

“Without question, LionPATH continues to advance our effectiveness and efficiency on many levels,” noted David Gray, senior vice president for Finance and Business. “The system has been stable and operational within the institution for some time, and users have progressed from learning how to use the system to learning how to best leverage it. This shift has naturally unearthed potential system improvements, and also compels us to take a closer look at some of our University processes and practices.”

Students

Improvements made to address students’ top needs are:

  • A new student interface — introduced to address student feedback about the initial look and navigation — earned LionPATH an immediate 77 percent increase in student satisfaction.
  • Students now receive email notifications when they are enrolled in a waitlisted course, and when a grade has been posted or changed.
  • Students can download their complete semester class schedule for import into common calendar apps.

Faculty and staff

Several enhancements made to address faculty and staff needs include:

  • A new Transfer Credit Tool became operational and was accessed 19,000+ times during its first month.
  • A late-drop indicator was added to the Class Roster to inform faculty earlier in the semester of a student’s enrollment status.
  • Processes were streamlined thanks to a new Batch Advisor Assignment functionality.
  • Penn State student ID numbers were added to each screen in the Advisor Center.
  • The LionPATH Development and Maintenance Organization (LDMO) periodically conducts surveys and focus groups to learn about features and functionality that are important to faculty and staff. The LDMO also works closely with the LionPATH Governance Committee and key administrative offices to determine how to best prioritize requests and new system features.

“Gaining perspective from throughout the University is critical to our work,” noted LDMO Director Stephanie Szakal. “We strive to understand the needs of students, faculty, staff and others, and we also look to industry best practices in order to shape our efforts.”

A look ahead

In the coming months, the user experience will continue to be a focus. In July 2019, the LDMO will implement a full system upgrade to ensure LionPATH harnesses the latest enhancements of Oracle’s PeopleSoft application. The upgrade will offer improvements to the system’s navigation and appearance, while only minimal impact to business processes is expected.

Szakal noted, “The LDMO is in the midst of the preparations required for the upgrade. We are currently examining the lineup of system enhancements and comparing those to the needs and requests we’ve captured from the University community. While we are formalizing the plan, I am excited that the upgrade will align well with many things we’ve heard from our users.”

As upgrade details are finalized, the LDMO will share planned usability improvements throughout the next several months leading to the July target. In addition, they will continue to work with University audiences to test features prior to deployment.

“The ongoing development and leveraging of LionPATH are critical to our success as an institution,” said Executive Vice President and Provost Nick Jones. “We will continue to engage students, faculty and staff to provide a student information system that is robust, useful, and that ultimately contributes to the achievement of academic goals.”

LionPATH was the first enterprise system to be implemented by the Enterprise Project Management Office. The second enterprise system, WorkLion, the University’s human resource and payroll system, launched in December 2017. The University’s third enterprise system, SIMBA, will replace the current IBIS system and is scheduled to launch in July 2020.

“LionPATH has undergone many enhancements great and small since its launch in 2015,” said Michael Büsges, director of Penn State’s Enterprise Project Management Office, which managed implementation and is responsible for continued support of the system. “We weren’t without our initial challenges, especially in terms of the student experience, but thanks to the efforts of many, LionPATH has evolved into a more effective, user-friendly system that will serve the institution well for years to come.”

Last Updated November 05, 2018