Say the world “LionPath” on a Penn State campus, and you’re likely to start hearing a laundry list of complaints.
Luke Metaxas has heard plenty of them. So has Allison Goldstein. Both are students. Both are also university trustees, so they have more insight than their peers into what has gone into putting the LionPath student information system into place.
“There is a perception it was rushed at (student) expense,” Metaxas said at Thursday’s academic affairs and student life committee meeting. “I know that’s not the case.”
LionPath replaces a system in use since 1983. In a 2008 memo, university offices said they needed a new system to reflect more than 30 years of change and growth.
It took another five years before a presentation was made about the start of the new project in 2013. Almost four years and $66.4 million later, LionPath was rolled out.
And people hated it.
“Quite possibly the worst website ever created” and “Still can’t get over how much #LionPath sucks” are among the more polite social media comments on the system.
“It was bumpy at first,” Provost Nick Jones admitted in his remarks to the committee.
The program was stepped out slowly starting with admissions in 2015, then registration, billing, etc., until the system was fully integrated for the fall 2016 semester.
Jones said that despite complaints, there was “no interruption of student services,” but the situation “had taken a toll on staff.”
But the fall issues, he said, involved a lot of issues that seemed like LionPath but weren’t really.
There was web access, which was taxed at the beginning of the semester. So was phone service.
“We couldn’t handle the demand,” Jones said.
Parents have also been frustrated by an interface that prevented them from seeing and paying bills that were filtered out by pop-up blockers. And students just don’t like the interface.
The issues are being addressed. A new “facelift” will happen for the spring 2017 semester and unanticipated problems are being addressed as they arise.
But after several denials from Penn State that the record freshman class size was a result of LionPath’s problems, Jones did acknowledge Thursday that a software glitch was involved.
“As we transitioned to LionPath, a number of applications very early in the process were trapped and essentially invisible,” Jones said.
When the applications did reappear, the qualified candidates were assessed fairly and “a lot of high quality students were admitted.”
Other things perceived as problems are actually policy changes years in the making, Jones said. As plans moved forward for LionPath, policy changes that were approved had implementation delayed until the LionPath rollout.
LionPath is just one of several massive software overhauls in the pipeline. The majority of classes have been switched over in the transition from Angel to Canvas learning management systems. The Worklion human resources system will be next and the business information system is slated for July 2020.
“Many of the lessons of LionPath are feeding into Worklion,” Jones said. “Hopefully it will be a smooth transition.”