In 2011, Trinity launched the Genesis project, a new student information system that aimed to make improvements in areas such as “course management, student admissions, registration, progression of records, the determination of examination results, and the issuing of course transcripts.” That the failings of Trinity’s information systems is a running joke throughout all facets of the College suggests that this aim has not exactly been successful.
Trinity’s website states that the project’s primary purpose is to “enhance the student experience by achieving efficiencies in the College’s gathering, holding, and transmission of information.” Now, in 2015, it is safe to say that these attempts to improve the student experience have not had much of an impact. Stories of students who fail to receive access to vital information – timetables, exam results, supplemental results, blackboard access – anywhere near an appropriate time have become a banal occurrence, something to be expected. The reactions of students and staff of the College to these persistent problems is to turn them into a running joke, because not much more can be done. For teaching staff, relying on email and paper copies of assignments often becomes the standard – not because it is desirable, but because it is the only system that can be relied on.
New students entering the College are told by those who have come before them to embrace it, as such problems have become an integral part of studying in Trinity. And while, in many cases, Trinity’s failures to have a coherent system to communicate information to students results in little more than minor inconveniences and extra comic fodder to discuss on the way to class, these failings can have detrimental results for some. Last month, the Editorial Board of this newspaper lamented the effects Trinity’s inadequate administrative systems have on incoming students, as they experience delays in vital pieces of information such as their timetables and even whether or not they are successfully registered as students of the College.
It is telling that one of the most innovative and useful online systems to be introduced to Trinity in recent years was both conceived of and designed by students. Introduced just a few weeks ago, a new phone app that can be used for many of the purposes of a student card was implemented following the suggestion of student representatives and the work of two Computer Science students. While this project went ahead quickly and successfully, the College is yet to figure out how to issue students their timetables before their classes actually begin.
Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of Trinity’s administrative failures, however, is that they cannot explained by issues of funding or resources, with millions having been poured into the project. Ironically, the project itself was subject to a number of hurdles in its implementation. When the project was launched in August 2012, the project was expected to cost €10.8 million. Then, in September 2012, the Project Governance Board identified that further funding would be needed. The new Academic Registry, which now centralises academic support services, may have increased the College’s efficiency, but hasn’t been so successful on the costs front, with a massive funding hole created by the project that the controversial student charges were supposed to fill. That a significant amount of time and money has been poured into a project that has not alleviated many of the issues it aimed to fix is makes the situation even more frustrating, and removes any hope of this issue being fixed quickly and efficiently.
The Provost, when running for election in 2011, promised to “deliver the long-promised reform of Administration and Support services”. The Genesis Project has since been described as a priority project by the College. While the acknowledgement of the inadequacy of previous information systems is extremely welcome, the suggestion that the current system has fixed these problems is laughable.