One Full Academic Year on Workday Student

Though we rolled out Workday Student in Feb 2019 in a limited fashion, the wider rollout to all students began in May 2019. Then, starting in July, we moved to Workday as our system of record. As is common with such major transitions, we continued to use Banner in parallel for a semester for a handful of things by synchronizing data between the two systems. We have a home grown degree audit system that relied on Banner we decided it is not worth moving because of the disruption it would have caused for our seniors and the faculty advisors. It turned out to be the right decision given what happened in March!

I am very happy to report that we have successfully completed a full academic year in Workday student. With the degree completion for seniors and academic honors entered on May 31 and transcripts reflecting them, it has been a thrilling ride! Thanks to the core team that consisted of staff members from the Registrar’s Office, Student Financial Services, Office of Institutional Research and of course, LTS, working so hard to make all of this happen. We could not have gotten here without Alchemy and Workday! We also had involvement from several other departments such as Dean of Students, International Student office, Study Abroad, and the Provost’s office. So, it indeed took a village but we all worked with enormous focus and in coordination to make it all happen…

We continue to use Slate for our undergraduate admissions, but use Workday for Admissions for our Summer programs including pre college programs. We also continue to use PowerFaids for financial aid. We decided to onboard the class of 2023 only in Workday, so we needed to have the Slate and PowerFaids integration working solidly for this. We got this done and onboarded those students successfully and initiated them to a checklist in Workday.

At the same time, we opened up self service for a handful of things for continuing students, such as updating their addresses and emergency contact information. In July we ran the first bill for all students. Every one of these was nerve wracking when you do them for the first time. But the focus, coordination and repeated testing got us through them.

The realtime financial data you see in Workday is a very different approach than generating statements at specified times in other systems. As I had written earlier, we switched to Nelnet for billing earlier in the year and Nelnet set up for billing statements to be available. We wanted everyone to see the realtime information on Workday and use Nelnet to just make payments. This required careful explanation, new documentation and answering a ton of questions from the parents and students.

Every student can set up additional accounts in Workday for those who would have access to their student financials and they are called Third Party Users (TPU). This is in contrast to previous system where they only had accounts in billing and payment systems such as Nelnet. We chose to go with the TPU approach which meant we needed SSO (Single Sign On) for them to log in to Nelnet, which we quickly built using our SAML SSO setup. I am mentioning this because, by making certain choices, we were also assuming certain responsibilities for supporting them, but with the kind of technical features that Workday provides, we have been able to implement them fairly quickly.

We have a very successful student data warehouse called WANDA (originally built on Blackboard Analytics) and in a record time, LTS staff with some consultant help from Blackboard, had it working with Workday as a data source. This was a huge accomplishment and none of the end users noticed any changes. Similarly, a host of other web applications began relying on Workday as a data source and because of the way these are architected, we were able to transition these fairly quickly.

Then came the registrations in August, which worked remarkably well. I have already written about these. Special cohorts and First Years registered and we learned a fair amount from this to prepare for all students registering in November. As I had mentioned earlier, the sheer amount of data available for us before the registration and after has already resulted in knowing more about the way the students plan for registration. This is going to be so handy when we open up the registration for upcoming Fall! All students did their add drops in Workday, again, without a lot of issues.

We began the curriculum planning for 2020-2021 academic year in November and it went smooth. Because of the way academic periods are set up in Workday, we needed to make some adjustments to how Winter Term needs to be handled and we did it in a way that made life easy for our colleagues in student financial services!

We have some unique Wellesley processes such as declaring for a major and choosing an advisor and we decided to keep it that way and integrate the data with Workday. Similarly, we have other apps such as applying for leave, study abroad and transfer of credit, all of which remained as web application and we were able to integrate these quick. Our long range plan is to transition as many of them as we can to Workday.

We then had a very successful registration in November for all classes. In December all the faculty entered grades for the students in Workday and we transitioned to producing transcripts from Workday in early January and worked with Parchment on a whole new process for transcript requests. Wellesley has had a very compact and unique transcript layout that would be hard for any system to replicate easily, so in the interim, we decided to use that layout and use the Webservices for transcripts from Workday to produce the transcripts. This has given us tremendous flexibility. The transcript is far more readable now than before and we have added some new features.

Spring semester began without any issues. In February we began the processes related to graduating our seniors. This required us to learn and test the Workday configurations and processes and adopt to them. While we were in the middle of all of this, COVID-19 struck! We quickly needed to act on a whole bunch of things while preparing to successfully graduate our seniors. We needed to change the grading modes for all Spring classes, and for the first time ever, we had to record mid term grades for students, completely redo Summer terms which had already registrations for students etc. I will spare you the details, but we got them all done.

And we completed the administrative processes to graduate the qualified seniors on 5/31 and transmitted the information to Scrip Safe for an e-Diploma on the same day (we have done this for the first time). So, that completes the cycle.

Did we have bumps on the road? Of course. Did we overcome them? Of course. Sometimes working with Alchemy and Workday to find solutions. Sometimes finding workarounds and integrations but several times, Workday delivering solutions in record time. Were there any show stoppers? Nothing I can think of. The team managed everything well and through strong communication to the community, we were able to move on.

We took this as an opportunity to fold a fair amount of what our Physical Education department was doing. We moved a separate registration for their courses directly into Workday so that the students now register for them just like other courses. They are graded in Workday and athletic team memberships are recorded in Workday and Team GPAs are calculated using reports in Workday. There are several such things that have centralized processed, improved transparency of both processes and data and frankly, because of all of this, the silos of knowledge is fast becoming a distributed one.

We have also taken advantage of features in Workday to centralize a lot of information. Whether it is the mailbox number and the combination for the lock to advising notes by the class deans to various documents including a copy of agreements students sign and their unofficial transcripts, we use the Student Documents feature to store them. And through the appropriate security, they are made visible to the right groups. We have adopted the Waitlist functionality in Workday for the summer term and not use the home grown one and our expectation is that we will decommission the home grown apps like this as we move more of the functions directly to Workday.

We are excited to be able to roll out the Academic Planning and Academic Requirements in the Fall and sharing the Academic Progress Report to students and advisors then. We think this will be a tremendous set of tools that will assist in advising and help students plan for fulfilling requirements as well as explore the rich curriculum.


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