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CHAPTER ONE: GENERAL INTRODUCTION
This chapter discusses the introductory part of the thesis which includes background of the study, research motivations and goals, the research questions the thesis attempts to answer, the methodology used to answer those questions and finally the summary of the thesis contribution to knowledge.
A major challenge faced by university academics is the effective management of large amounts and various types of data that are encountered in day-to-day operation, ranging from personal data to varied types of documents. The data have various access privileges and restrictions and will be input by a variety of sources, ranging from individuals themselves (e.g., a current student or applicant submits a resume), to a member of the faculty to a member of the departmental administration (e.g., Head of Department who manages the affairs of the Department), to automatic uploading of transcripts or test scores for an applicant. Automatically generated statistics regarding this information will be used by many different stakeholders, both inside and outside the department. Traditional paper-based operation is not only costly but also ineffective.
We designed and implemented a Web-Based Academic Information System(WeBAIS), to effectively manage school information. The design of the overall system follows the guidelines from the Design Science for Information System (Hevner A., et al, 2004)and benefits from the study in Computer-Supported Co-operative Work (CSCW) (Grundin, Computer Supported Cooperative Work History and Focus, 2005). To increase the usability
of our system, we followed Computer-Human Interaction (The Apache Software, 2007) and Iterative Design guidelines (Denning, 1997).
1.2 Research Motivation and Goals
The greatest challenge of today’s information system design is to provide users with the required functionality needed for the organization which, in many cases, happens not to be possible or requires huge resources including money, time and highly skilled personnel. Information systems of many Nigerian Universities suffer from some of the following challenges:
a. Ineffective management of the large amounts and different types of data
b. Inability to cater for different user categories with various access privileges and restrictions
c. Lack of related components that need to be integrated together such as registration and academics.
d. Lack of robust, portable and extensible components that support efficient data management.
The objective of the research in this thesis is to develop a robust information system with a single integrated data store that overcomes these limitations and more.
1.3 Research Question
The study is set up to answer the following question:
Can an information system be developed for Nigerian Universities that is robust, portable, extensible and user-friendly?
1.4 Research Objectives
The objectives of the research undertaken in this thesis is to design and implement a web-based academic information system (WeBAIS) that
a. is robust, portable and user-friendly
b. makes it easier for stakeholders (managers, staff and students) to carry out their normal activities
c. improves efficiency of delivering university services
d. includes a student evaluation of teaching (SET) module for improving the learning process
The following are the proposed steps needed for the realization of this research work.
a. Literature review to determine best practice in modern information system design
b. Develop the architecture of the proposed WeBAIS system
c. Implement the WeBAIS system
d. Deploy WeBAIS in pilot universities
e. Collect feedback from WeBAIS users
f. Analyze user-feedback against WeBAIS objectives
1.6 Contributions to Knowledge
The main contribution of this work is the design and implementation of a university information system that significantly improves efficiency of a university’s daily operations. The application has been tested over a list of more than ten thousand (10,000) undergraduate students from various departments and faculties for three academic sessions. It also captures the list of all members of staff both academic and non-academic staff of Kano University of Science and Technology, Wudil, and North-West University, Kano.
WeBAIS significantly improves the efficiency for many daily university operations. For example, the traditional paper-based graduate program application involves a sequence of procedures: paper submission of all materials to be sorted and collated into paper – based folders, which are passed sequentially from admissions chair to faculty members to review. The average processing time is several months. Identifying high priority applicants was difficult and often results in losing good ones. With the help of WeBAIS, we are able to electronically submit almost all application materials from applicants, references, admission related documents and perform automatic importing of test scores, undergraduate institution, etc. As a result, an application can be reviewed by all faculty members immediately and decisions can be made in days, making it easy to identify excellent applicants.
We can now do many things with WeBAIS that we could not do before. First, WeBAIS makes information sharing possible and convenient, e.g., in undergraduate/graduate admission, HODs’ of the faculty members are able to view any application and recommend; Admission Committee Chairman/Member is able to view and grant admission
to applicants. Second, generating statistics is very easy in WeBAIS while it required much bookkeeping and manual processing before.
In WeBAIS, we designed and implemented a set of web utility classes. These classes are general, self-contained, and greatly increase the reusability and maintainability of our code. By building on top of the web utility classes, the development of WeBAIS application becomes relatively easy. Furthermore, the web utility classes can be used for other web applications. We plan to make them open source software in the future.
Although WeBAIS is an information management system for the university (KUST – Wudil as case study), it can easily be configured to be used by Colleges, Monotechnics, Polytechnics and the like. WeBAIS can be extended to support other services apart from academic system such as administrative system of a university. So far, WeBAIS has generated a lot of interest in KUST and North-West Universities, encouraging further research of the application.
1.7 Outline of Thesis
Chapter II describes related work from different fields that are used to inform the design of WebAIS. Chapter III presents the definition of requirements and functionality of our system, WeBAIS. Chapter IV presents the design of the system. Chapter V describes the deployment, user appraisal and results implementation status for our system. We conclude in Chapter VI.
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