Improving curriculum data quality with better tools

Every student in the University of Edinburgh is enrolled on a degree programme and has some sort of “degree programme table” (DPT): a set of rules which guide the individual courses they’ll take during their studies.

For some programmes, the DPT is just a selection of the courses you must take each year. Others add choices for students (“select French 1A or Arabic 1A”) or let them select from a wide range of courses (“select any level 10 courses in the Moray House School of Education”). These rules are joined together with simple and/or logic.

On Wednesday we released a new version of our DPT editor. Those familiar with the old editor will be pleased to see a big UI update, plus features to natively support core courses and unstructured degrees. More exciting to us though are changes to improve the quality of future DPTs.

Continue reading “Improving curriculum data quality with better tools”

SITS User Conference 2014

This past summer, representatives from the SSP team attended the annual SITS user conference. (Yes, it has taken this long for us to type up our notes.)

Ruth McCallum and Peter Pratt represented the team in giving a presentation called “Taking e:Vision to a new frontier”. This demonstrated some of the recent work we have done using Bootstrap and other custom CSS/JS. Following the presentation we have been in contact with several other universities who are interested in sharing techniques with us, and hope to keep in contact with them. We were also recognised for our achievements by winning the Tribal University of the Year award for 2014!

University of the Year award
Team manager Defeng Ma proudly displays our University of the Year award

Overall, the conference focused on some of the new functionality and improvements which we will be seeing in SITS 8.7.1 and 8.8.0. Below are some highlights from the sessions that we attended.

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Testing Times – Python unittest and Selenium

In the SSP we have been putting together a small suite of performance tests to use as before/after checks in the SITS upgrade. In the SSP we have a mixture of IS and non-IS staff, so it was important to come up with a procedure which was:

  1. Easily maintainable
  2. Accessible to team members who don’t come from a programming background

Selenium was a natural choice, since it is already being used elsewhere in the department, and it has a handy interface which lets you record tests easily.

Continue reading “Testing Times – Python unittest and Selenium”

Overlapping projects: two sides of the same coin

Over the past few months in IS SSP we have been working on two major SITS projects: UG Paperless and Direct Paperless Admissions. Both projects have come out of the push towards moving away from paper applications and doing all of our admissions processing online. The UG Admissions project was first implemented last year and is now in its second iteration. Direct Admissions will be released for the first time this fall. Continue reading “Overlapping projects: two sides of the same coin”

Bursary Management first releases

A new development was implemented in July 2014 to enable processing of Access Bursary applications within EUCLID.

Access Bursaries are one type of a number of centrally and locally administered bursaries and scholarships available from the University of Edinburgh.  Access Bursaries are centrally administered by the Student Administration department.

The internal user base is very small, and the main business user worked closely with the project team to produce a tailored solution.

The project was implemented mid-cycle and therefore started in the middle of the process.  All applications for 2014/5 had already been received, reviewed and scored in the legacy system.  Data was exported from the legacy system to create fund bid records in EUCLID.

Bursary staff have a suite of screens allowing them to:

  • View basic application data and imported references
  • Make initial decision (award, reject  or place on waiting list)
  • Allocate the applicant to a specific bursary fund
  • Release bursary transactions to Finance for payment (due September 2014)

A further release is scheduled for October 2014, to include an online Application Form, Reference request and upload, and staff application processing with full application data.

Jon Martin and Morag Iannetta

Online Registration Phase 2 implemented

Online Registration was implemented late 2013, enabling all students registering on programmes starting on or after 01 January 2014 to register online.  The process allows students to confirm personal details, submit queries regarding information held, and to register for, or decline places on, programmes.  If the student requires Immigration clearance, they are only partially registered via the online registration process: Immigration Compliance staff at the University will then check appropriate documentation and complete the registration for the student.

In the Summer of 2014 the Online Registration functionality was enhanced ahead of the registration period for the main annual cohort of students:

  • Additional protected characteristics questions have been added to the registration process to satisfy HESA requirements
  • When registered/partially registered, students are able to view, update and upload documentation for passports and visas via student self-service for Immigration Compliance
  • Immigration Compliance functionality has been enhanced to allow users to mark documentation as checked, to request further documentation, and allows the user to complete the registration process for international students from ‘Immigration Overview’ screens in addition to ‘Validate International Documentation’ screens.

Jon Martin and Morag Iannetta

Winner of Tribal University of Year Award

During Tribal SITS:Vision Annual Customer Conference 2014 in the Celtic Manor resort, Newport on 15th – 16th July, Tribal has announced their customer awards for 4 different categories and the overall award “Tribal University of Year”

The 4 categories are

  • Most Improved Student Experience
  • Outstanding use of Innovation and Technology
  • People, Process, Performance
  • Improving Efficiency, Achieving Effectiveness

We have been named as the winner of the overall award “Tribal University of Year”, and also named as the runner up for the following three categories “Outstanding use of Innovation and Technology”, “People, Process, Performance” and “Improving Efficiency, Achieving Effectiveness”.

Tribal Award pic
Award for Tribal University of Year

The following are our entries for the four categories of Tribal customer awards:

Most Improved Student Experience

Why: In University of Edinburgh, we have implemented the student self-service project from August 2013. It provides a number of functions to allow student to:

  • view their details in the university portal;
  • update a set of personal records in eVision.
  • perform online registration including requests for programme changes and submission of immigration documents in eVision.

The benefits include:

  • Student can view their real time data
  • Students can register online
  • Students are informed when they have not matriculated and what actions they must take
  • More timely data – students are recorded as registered earlier and queries can be actioned immediately rather than when the paper form is found
  • Removal of paper-based process;
  • Data entered by the source
  • Student Administration and their temps no longer needs to undertake manual keying.  The amount of corrections to data by Student Admin has dropped 90% compared to a year ago.

Since August 2013 until end of May:

Details Updated

Volume of changes



Known as name


Mobile/personal email


Emergency contact


Students have completed online registration (with Start date >= 1 Jan 14)



Outstanding use of Innovation and Technology

Why: The University of Edinburgh has always delivered the majority of functionality through e:Vision. From two years ago, we started to integrate other web development technology and frameworks (like Bootstrap, JQuery plugins, Ajax etc.) into our SITS eVision to improve the user interface design and system performance combining with the latest development in eVision from Tribal. Now we have established a set of frameworks for our own development which deliver a much improved UI and good performance. This has reduced the overall development costs and improved the building quality. In the same time, the user experience with our recently development has been improved.

The technology we have used included

– Using Bootstrap toward responsive design

– Use global stylesheet (CSS) across eVision and use LESS framework to manage changes

– Testing framework to allow automated testing for bug and performance

– Integration eVision process with database programme (PL/SQL) to improve performance

– Configuration management using Project to detect dependency between different ongoing project works and support works and to manage the deploying changes across different environments

We have delivered a number of projects using these framework include paperless admission, student self-services, direct admission, UKBA data capture and management etc., Student bursary management.


People, Process, Performance


We have developed the marks upload function to upload exam marks and the resit marks in eVision directly two years ago which schools can upload the marks from any exam into SITS. The marks are validated automatically before saved into the system.  Recently we have worked with Tribal to develop the similar function for award upload which allows the schools to upload the award directly into eVision and control when the results for a programme are published to students.

The benefits of these two functions include

  • Both of these functions have delivered control to the end user so they can better supports students who have queries resulting from the processes.
  • Students will have access to consistent guidance on what resources are available for support following publication of end of stage results.
  • The upload and keying process will systematically validate against the student record.
  • The system will provide Schools with oversight of students expecting to graduate at a particular time of year, and allow them to identify missing or incorrect information
  • Schools owning programmes will have control over when Awards are made available to students.
  • The current reliance on Academic Registry keying awards into EUCLID will be removed.
  • Scope for errors in keying will be reduced


Improving Efficiency, Achieving Effectiveness

(same entry as most improved student experience, see above)


SITS Technical Working Group and STUTALK User Group Meetings

The SITS Technical Working Group and STUTALK User Group meetings take place every six months. Every time meetings are held in different locations and are organized by different Universities. The last meeting took place on the 22nd and 23rd of May and was hosted by the University of Bristol. We had two representatives from the Student System Partnership Team (SSP) – Tomasz Pogoda and Jon Martin.
The purpose of the Technical Working Group meeting was to discuss issues related to the SITS software updates, new features of the latest software version 8.7.1, de-suported components and the Document Manager tool.
On the STUTALK User Group Meeting we had a chance to discuss – What are institutions using STUTALK for and what they have done in terms of the STUTALK implementation. Also a new features and the road map were presented by the Tribal.

On both meetings there was a number of presentations delivered. There were three presentations delivered by Tribal:

Email Configuration, troubleshooting and attachments – In this presentation a new email features which will be available from version 8.7.1 have been presented.
E:Vision, HTML5, Accessibility & Responsive Design– Tribal The overview of new features related to the Mobile strategy, responsive design and HTML5 has been presented.
STUTALK 2.0 – in this presentation the features of the new version of STUTALK have been presented.

There was one presentation delivered by the Kings College London:

STUTALK and mobile timetabling – presentation given by Kings College London.

We also had a chance to share our recent experience with Bootstrap/Jquery/CSS stylesheet within our SITS configuration. The  topic of our presentation was: Improving the e:Vision user Interface using JQuery and Bootstrap.
We have recived a very positive feedback and most of the institutions were highly interested in our experience.

The presentation slides BootstrapTWG_Edinburgh_University and minutes from both meetings STUTALK User Group Meeting  Technical Working User Group Meeting

Testing Times in the SSP

For a recent project we needed to establish some base line timings using selenium and the process had to be automated.  We solved this by combining Firebug and Selenium and producing HAR files.

This article outlines combing firebug and netexport which gives you a very handy export for analysing all of your timings.  Your can then use the HAR viewer to have a look and see what is going on.

Another approach which we tried was – using a REST based proxy tool to record the har files.  This means you don’t have to use the firebug part so could be used cross browser.

We also are having a look at a couple of javascript based testing tools which are well worth a look: