Yukon buys new student information system

The Yukon Department of Education says a new system for tracking student information will be more user-friendly than its glitchy predecessor.

The Yukon Department of Education says a new system for tracking student information will be more user-friendly than its glitchy predecessor.

The department announced this week that it will be moving to a new web-based system called Aspen. That’s because the territory’s existing Yukon Student Information System, or YSIS, will be discontinued in 2016.

The new system, like the old one, keeps track of attendance, grades, graduation requirements, individual learning plans and basic demographic information.

“In technology life, five years later, we actually got a lot of life out of that system,” said Nicole Morgan, director for learning support services for the Department of Education.

Going to a website, as opposed to going through a specific server, means staff can use mobile devices to log in and it won’t matter what type of operating system a computer uses, Morgan said.

Up until two years ago, she was using YSIS herself as a school counsellor.

She describes a program that sometimes wouldn’t work if too many people were logged on. In other cases, if they accidentally signed out of the system, teachers would have to wait half an hour before they could sign back in.

It also didn’t automatically save any changes made, so teachers could accidentally lose their work halfway through a project.

Many teachers and staff don’t find the existing system easy to use, Morgan said.

In 2013, users were surveyed about weaknesses in the current system and desired features for a new one.

But the government doesn’t intend to make the survey results public. They were never intended to be, Morgan said.

Counsellors and administrators receive training on Aspen in May, Morgan said. That’s so they can start working on timetables and class scheduling for the next year.

Teachers will start their training in professional workshops before the school year starts. They’ll continue training in the fall ahead of report cards.

The department has budgeted $750,000 to set up the new system. That includes all implementation and training costs, Morgan said.

After that, the new system should cost about $100,000 a year to run. That’s about comparable to the old version, she said.

There are no serious concerns about transferring data from one system to the other, she said.

Teachers in the Yukon and Outside were complaining about the old system since about day one.

In April 2009, B.C. teachers threatened a province-wide boycott over the version they were using. That’s the same year the Yukon looked into implementing it.

The system was installed in response to criticism by auditor general Sheila Fraser, who criticized the Yukon’s Education Department for not keeping adequate track of the information it collects.

When the old system rolled out, the Yukon Teachers Association complained about its glitches and the way teachers were being trained on it. The teachers association did not respond to requests for comment.

Contact Ashley Joannou at

ashleyj@yukon-news.com

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