Delta College faculty struggled with the rollout of the MyDelta information system in Fall 2019, experiencing problems ranging from helping students register for classes, to submitting and changing grades, to not having enough training prior to the system’s launch.
“I was hopeful at the end of last semester that the summer experience would smooth out all the bumps. And I was shocked to find out how many problems there were in the fall,” said Paula Sheil, professor of English.
Frustrations simmered in a barrage of campus-wide emails between faculty, administrators, and those responsible for system implementation showing response to a steep learning curve. The Collegian received some of the email correspondence as part of a 2,300-page public records request submitted in August and fulfilled on Nov. 4 by Delta College.
The emails illustrate faculty members grasping for understanding of the new system and struggling with the issues it introduced into the start of the semester.
Sheil, who teaches accelerated courses, was manually enrolling students in that frenzied first week.
“I teach eight-week classes, English 1A followed by English 1B … so the tough part for me was getting students enrolled in both classes [in the same semester]. But it was problematic, it was terribly difficult to get people enrolled in both classes to be able to do this accelerated program … so we had to hand-enroll all of the people, and that was difficult.”
Registration wasn’t the only problem encountered. The semester started without grade, census, and positive attendance rosters.
“The second difficulty came up after the completion of English 1A,” said Sheil. “There was no way to submit grades. And then I couldn’t show that my students had completed it, to enroll them in the second class. So everything that had to do with buttons, the ways we normally did things, being able to enroll students in special programs, or being able to finalize grades to move students forward, all the regular things that faculty [previously] had control of were problematic.”
Other faculty experienced similar problems. The switchover from one system to another meant students requiring grade changes were left in limbo, according to one instructor.
“I needed to change some grades for my summer and spring students. And I was taken by surprise because I didn’t have access to their grades, and there was no way to change the grades online,” said Math Professor Dr. Jacek Kostyrko. “Some of these grades are still not changed … to this day I have no access to my grades that I issued to my own students, and I cannot verify them.”
Kostryko noted the issue in an Aug. 26 email: “There is no provision for correcting grades from past classes (it was demonstrated last Thursday). When is it going to be implemented? I need to update a grade of a student from one of my summer classes. System 2020 is no longer available, and MyDelta is not up to the task yet!”
The demonstration Kostyrko is referring to is the MyDelta faculty training provided before the semester started. It was a two-hour session Thursday before the semester began.
Kostyrko also noted that the old System 2020, which faculty had previously used to enroll students and post grades, was abruptly closed down, and faculty was told to start using the MyDelta immediately.
Vice President of Instruction James Todd had sent an email informing faculty of System 2020’s retirement on Aug. 21, two days before the deadline.
According to Kostyrko, MyDelta wasn’t ready.
“The proper way, of course, would have been to start a pilot, use both systems concurrently, and allow a lot of time for faculty input, and then actually meet the faculty and ask them to specifically describe how they use it, what are the most important functions, and for them to do that before that before System 2020 could be closed and they were sure that all these functionalities were present in MyDelta,” Kostyrko said. “The worst thing about this is that Admissions and Records, they are totally aware of the fact that MyDelta isn’t working, so they’re still using System 2020 … they are secretly still using System 2020. And from that system, manually, they put things in MyDelta. But faculty were cut off from that system, without warning.”
Admissions and Records does still have some access to System 2020, according to both Director Amy Courtwright and Angela Tos, dean of Enrollment Services and Student Development.
However, both said, that access is limited.
“To be clear,” Tos wrote in an email response to The Collegian, “changes are only made according to policy and procedures for specific purposes — for example, grade change forms.”
The most important goal, according to an email interview with Dr. Sarah Antinora, professor of English, is to ensure that all aspects of the system work and are easy to navigate for the students; any other obstacles she faces are secondary to that.
Antinora said there was much confusion.
“At first, it was difficult to get the right support. It was unclear what was causing so many of the obstacles. Were they errors in how the system had been designed? Or were the issues not errors, but instead the new system was just not meeting our needs? … When it’s unclear what is causing the obstacle, it is also unclear whom we should contact to have it resolved. That lack of clarity also means that we sometimes were given conflicting answers. And, as you can imagine, the people in charge of answering those questions were inundated with emails and complaints — a volume that is more than any one person can effectively manage.”
However, Antinora also wanted to commend college staff for working to address the problems.
“That being said,” Antinora said, “there are numerous people who went above and beyond to support us and remedy issues in a timely manner.”
The issue that stood out the most for English Professor Dr. Mark Slakey, was lining up his roll sheets correctly, so that students who wanted to be in his class could get in, and those who wanted to drop could be dropped.
“It frustrated a lot of students who wanted to be in the class, they were first on the waitlist and ready to go in and I couldn’t get them in. The registrar Amy Courtright was really good, and their whole team were really helpful,” Slakey said.
“It wasn’t too much of a hassle for me, though I’m sure it was for my boss. It meant that sure, I lost a certain number of students to other teachers. I’m sure they decided to go to another class where they could register right away. It was stressful, but mostly under the category of irritation; the problems got solutions. I guess I got really angry at how it was mishandled,” he said.
“It was very frustrating but again I think you know we worked around it and we muddled through. I get angry if I’m working hard and others are free riding on the rest of us. A lot of people really worked really hard to make it better and give credit to those people. It’s better now,” added Slakey.