Blue Ridge Community College: Why IT Likes Coursedog

Modernizing their catalog and reducing IT demands

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Blue Ridge Community College: Why IT Likes Coursedog
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Blue Ridge Community College was seeking a modern platform for curriculum and catalog management, as well as other modules related to curricular success, that faculty love to use, that admins can customize with ease, and that integrates seamlessly with Colleague UniData.

Institutional Overview

Location: Henderson County, NC

SIS: Ellucian Colleague

The Challenge: Finding the Right Tool to Integrate With Their SIS

“With IT in education, we have a lot of systems to manage that input similar data,” said BRCC CIO Steve Young. “One of the key factors for IT and also for our customers is to have an integrated platform.” He explained that the college’s main SIS, which is mandated by their state, is Ellucian Colleague. “It’s a good platform, but it’s only one slice of the pie. It doesn’t have a catalog or class scheduling.”

 “Our Colleague platform uses a UniData database, and it’s a little more difficult to find vendors to work with that,” Steve reported. “We were very happy to see that Coursedog works with the SQL flavor of Colleague as well as the UniData.”

The Solution: Adopt a Platform That Supports Integrations, Workflow Management, and Scheduling Rules

According to Steve, there were a lot of Coursedog features that they liked at BRCC. One of the main aspects was that the platform has either one or two-way integration capability with the SIS. “We did want two-way integration so certain types of data like course schedules could flow in, but for other types of data like our curriculum programs, we wanted one-way so it could flow out of the system.”

Steve also highlighted the challenges around workflow management. The processes the college has for both curriculum management and scheduling are pretty hierarchical. With a lot of people involved in the approval process, it’s important that they all weigh in. And that they have an audit trail. With Coursedog, it will be easy for IT to customize the workflow to meet their needs.

When BRCC was evaluating Coursedog, the college also looked at other vendors, giving demonstrations to deans, department chairs, and a good portion of the faculty. One reason the reviewers appreciated the platform is that they can create rules or policies around scheduling and monitor for compliance.

Goals: Produce an Accessible & Marketable Catalog

According to Steve, one of their top issues is accessibility. “Specifically, I’m talking about the Americans with Disabilities Act,” he explained. “A lot of vendors will use technology that’s just not compatible. When we were doing our testing of the Coursedog platform, we found that it leverages HTML capabilities to allow access to screen readers, for example.”

Another aspect is the product’s ability to create PDF output of the catalog. “Even though everything is online, there are still some folks who want to have something printed out,” said Steve.  “It was one of the concerns of our marketing department and others working on the catalog. Coursedog is one of the few vendors that developed that ‘one click and go’ option to create an accessible PDF document to print or share online.”

Implementation Process: Coordinate to Launch the Catalog Alongside the Institution’s New Website

One of the reasons BRCC chose to implement the Coursedog catalog first was that they were also doing a broader redesign of their website (on a tight deadline). According to Steve, the catalog has a modern HTML5 look and a seamless, easy-to-use UI, that worked well with the new site. And they were able to brand the catalog to match.

 “We didn’t think we had a budget for a fully automated catalog product,” Steve said. “So, when we were able to find a product that we could afford with our budget, we wanted to get that implemented in time for the site launch. And we also needed PDF output to replace printed catalog. Coursedog was great. We said up front that we had a tight deadline, and it ended up being a little under two months.” 

BRCC provided Coursedog with raw data in Word format to populate the calendar. Then the BRCC marketing department easily used the UI to edit and fine tune. “The catalog launched right along with the new website,” continued Steve. “And there were a lot of compliments. People thought the catalog was actually part of the website.”

Additionally, Steve noted that Coursedog anticipated issues and asked the right questions. “I really appreciated that they can really cut to the chase with technical talk,” concluded Steve. “The team was able to answer technical questions, and I didn’t have to bring them up to speed on anything. And when I was lacking some of the information on their end, they were able to explain it to me in IT industry terms that I could understand. It’s been great to work with them.”

Next Steps: Implement Coursedog Scheduling Platform to Promote Student-Centric Scheduling

“When we were looking at scheduling, we realized that some are driven directly by faculty but there are all these other factors, whether they are written down or not, that go into it,” said Steve. For example, BRCC offers courses for high school students. The college will be able to create rules for classes that indicate whether they are available to those students and enforce them. For Steve, it’s a potential way to guide scheduling with what he calls a light touch.

Then there are workflows. At BRCC, the scheduling process because it’s so important, it’s done well ahead of time. “We often do our schedule almost a year in advance of the semester,” Steve explained. “We have partnerships with high schools and other colleges as well as multiple county school boards to work with. The ability to formally have a process where you route the scheduling to a faculty member, program chair, or dean and capture their approval really helps us make sure we do our due diligence.” And because the workflow process is so straight forward (basically drag and drop), it’s something BRCC administrators can do themselves at the configuration level.

“With IT in education, we have a lot of systems to manage that input similar data. One of the key factors for IT and also for our customers is to have an integrated platform. It’s a good platform, but it’s only one slice of the pie. It doesn’t have a catalog or class scheduling.” - Steve Young, CIO

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