MyDelta: An uphill battle

Shifting priorities, fractured messaging in MyDelta implementation left college employees confused

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Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify the auditing process.

Rising costs of implementation and questioning by members of the Board of Trustees continue to mar the launch of the MyDelta product as Spring 2020 registration is well underway.

While issues with financial aid and course requisites have been mostly addressed, constantly shifting priorities stemming from a lack of features have left those close to the process fighting an uphill battle to serve the student population, prompting questions about whether the system is truly worth the ever-growing costs.

“We’re spending an awful lot of money in it. It just seems to continue and continue. And every time we come in here and report there’s just slight improvement,” said Janet Rivera, who represents Area 3, North Stockton, at the Nov. 19 board meeting. “I think we’re at a point where we need to cut our losses now. It was a mistake.”

The total, according to a presentation from Chelsy Pham at the same meeting, is now just over $14 million, with $767,493 remaining. That total includes more than $5.3 million from January to November of this year.

Problems and concerns with the MyDelta rollout go back to before the start of the Fall 2019 semester.

SHIFTING PRIORITIES

In response to faculty frustration during the first week of the semester, The Collegian filed a California Public Records Act request on Aug. 29 asking for emails, contracts, and other information concerning the MyDelta rollout.

The email documents, which do not represent the totality of correspondence, show mass confusion, frustration, and general angst.

Vice President of Instruction Dr. James Todd provided constant updates to faculty members, with information from Information Technology and other departments. One noted issue: availability of rosters. Instructors began the semester without census, positive attendance, and grade rosters.

The chain of information started with Pham and the Highstreet IT Solutions, LLC — the third-party contractor for the implementation — the team then presented to the faculty via Todd, Cooper-Wilkins, and other administrators. 

Internal emails and updates shared with faculty regarding census rosters, which are used by the district to calculate enrollment numbers, show confusion.

In an email sent to faculty on Sept. 4 from Todd, he and Pham shared that issues with census rosters were being worked on. 

“The census roster is currently in progress in MyDelta, and we know that some classes have reached census,” wrote Todd in an email update about multiple aspects of the system. “We will notify you as soon as possible when it is ready.”

Internal emails indicate the initial design document for census rosters was not submitted until Sept. 12.

An email from Highstreet’s Arnulfo Mendoza on Sept. 12 said meetings had been held to provide “proper estimate on how long this would take.”

“As it was pointed out in our meeting today, this specification for Census rosters was not part of the development items that Highstreet has been working on. This specification was confused with Roster Certifications which are due at the end of the term and pertain to all rosters not just attendance rosters,” Mendoza wrote.

According to Pham and Todd, this happened because they “reprioritized” issues. A workaround was established for faculty to submit census rosters, which had been a one-click button in System 2020, the legacy system MyDelta replaced.

“What we’ve asked folks to do with their census is we printed them and they’re actually in paper form rather than inside the system. Actually deans are collecting them from faculty to have them housed or held onto it until we can have an electronic mechanism for reporting,” said Todd. 

He said that since the school has the analog versions of rosters there should not be any confusion when it comes time to report them to the California Community College Chancellor’s Office. 

According to Interim Director of Marketing Alex Breitler, the college is annually audited when it comes record-keeping.

“There are numerous other reports generated for the Chancellor’s Office regarding student attendance accounting, and the data is ensured for accuracy over an entire year period. Updated changes can be included in these reports. We take all audits and attendance reports seriously,” wrote Breitler, in an email clarifying the process.

Todd said any concerns of the school being audited due to problems with MyDelta are not an issue.

Grade rosters, according to public record emails, were pilot tested on classes that ended mid-semester. Positive attendance rosters are scheduled for release with an updated faculty center. Faculty teaching full-semester courses are expected to receive grade rosters for the current semester on Dec. 13.

The team working to implement MyDelta weren’t expecting the amount of modifications necessary to the product. The pressing needs kept changing.

“It felt a lot like the rug was being pulled out from under us,” said Pham.

COMMUNICATIONS INCREASED

Students, frustrated by issues they perceive not fixed, have turned to social media to vent frustrations.

When a student posed a question about financial aid in a Delta College Facebook group on Nov. 21, specifically that they had yet to receive their money, another student responded with “transfer to a new college bc delta [sic] isn’t doing anything for anyone.”

Dr. Lisa Cooper-Wilkins, Vice President of Student Services, said work is being done to monitor social channels. 

“One of the things that we’re trying really hard to do is to monitor the Facebook page and even if sometimes an answer doesn’t go off on Facebook, they’re staff that are looking into it for students and reaching out to them directly if they can identify them and so I know it’s been challenging,” said Cooper-Wilkins.

Delta’s social media accounts also became useful to spread information to students. While students are advised to check their email weekly, many do not. Social media updates may have reached users who do not regularly check student emails.

“How else can we get information to students?” asked Breitler during an interview with The Collegian. Delta College is seeking ways to better connect.

A weekly newsletter was implemented in mid-October as well, with the intent to keep students informed.

“We want to be better at sharing important information with you,” the email led off, then listed recurring semester and MyDelta updates.

QUESTIONS LINGER

Enrollment for the spring semester began on Nov. 19.

Cooper-Wilkins estimated first-day registration hit 1,000 students. By the end of the first week, it was an estimated 6,000, according to Pham.

Issues have crept up with enrolling in co-requisite courses, such as English 1A and English 95. On Dec. 2, a student in the Facebook group posted about errors in adding the two classes, which are offered together to comply with Assembly Bill 705.

“Unable to add this class — requisites have not been met,” the error read.

Cooper-Wilkins said Delta is pioneering the use of the newest version of PeopleSoft, the MyDelta system. The school is still looking into ways to streamline fixes, with potential at looking to other campuses for processes.

“So, the things that they [Pourzanjani and an update team] really focused on was seeing if there was a way to utilize any information from colleges who already use PeopleSoft. To see if we could borrow, say, their script or their solutions,” she said.

PeopleSoft has positive implementations in the California State University system, but those rollouts happened at slower increments in order to be successful, according to Pham.

Continued issues have spurred questions about Delta’s return on investment, specifically with members of the board of trustees.

Dr. Omid Pourzanjani, who started his term as President/Superintendent weeks before the semester began, when MyDelta was already moving forward, was candid at the Nov. 19 meeting.

Pourzanjani, who most recently served as Vice President of the Digital Futures Lab for the Chancellor’s Office, said he’d been through many implementations of new systems.

“None of them were pretty, just not pretty,” he said during the meeting. “If you stop in the middle of remodeling, it will continue to not be pretty. You have to sort of bear through the pain.”

At the Chancellor’s Office he worked on a team looking for a common enterprise resource program for the entire 115-campus system. He looked at the Oracle PeopleSoft system in that role, which he said provides “newer technology” to competitors.

“It’s not what I would have gone with, but here we are,” he said.

COLLEGIAN REVIEWS PUBLIC DOCUMENTS

On Aug. 29, The Collegian student newspaper sent a request to Delta College for documents relating to the MyDelta implementation as part of a California Public Records Act request.

The newspaper asked for emails, contracts, records, and documents. Delta College requested time beyond the standard 10-day fulfillment window due to the “voluminous amount” of records requested. The district sent 2,300 pages of documents to the newspaper on Nov. 4. 

The documents provided the base of the reporting for this issue.