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Central Washington University

CWU Information Services wins state award for developing CAPS+ system

Friday, November 8, 2019

Washington Technology Solutions presented the CWU Information Services department with a Best of Washington award Thursday for developing and implementing the Central's Academic Planning System Plus, also known as CAPS+.

The online-based, mobile-friendly academic planning tool, developed on Oracle’s PeopleSoft platform, allows CWU students to map out their path to a degree by identifying course availability, potential requisite conflicts, and registration requirements for each year of enrollment.

CAPS+ is the only system of its kind currently being used in Washington’s higher education institutions, and it has become an indispensable tool for CWU students and advisers since it was introduced to incoming freshmen in the fall of 2017. 

The number of users increased by 60 percent during its first year, and the system is now used by more than 2,000 CWU students. CAPS+ version 2.0 was released in September 2018 and is available to all students. Earlier this year, CWU secured a copyright from the federal government for the system code — one of only five copyrights the university has received over the past 40 years.

“Winning a statewide award like this just goes to show how much talent we have in our computer science and ITAM (information technology administrative management) departments,” said Jill Scott, director of enterprise applications. “Our students and staff are very skilled in PeopleSoft, and they have been able to develop solutions that no one else has.”

Scott accepted the Best of Washington award along with Robert Kempel, enterprise solutions integration manager; and Joseph Deck, associate vice president of information services and information security. Thursday’s award ceremony, hosted by Washington Technology Solutions, was part of the 20th annual Washington Digital Government Summit at the Hotel RL in Olympia.

The CAPS+ project’s success can be traced back to a university-wide effort that started in June 2016, involving CWU students, staff, and administrators at every step of the process. A steering committee was formed early on to ensure that CAPS+ would not only benefit students but the university as a whole.

“It wasn’t just us,” Kempel said. “There were people across campus who gave their input and helped us make a better product. We had a lot of support from the highest levels, and they really encouraged us to keep going.”

Another reason for the success of CAPS+ is that the development team’s work is never done. Kempel and Scott credited the work of staff members Nicole Burk, Zane Irvine, and Charlene Bane for helping make the system what it is today. 

“We’re not just going to put out the system and say ‘we’re done,’” Kempel said. “We want to make sure people are happy with it.”

“It’s all about continuous improvement,” Scott added. “We want people to give us their feedback because that’s the only way we can make the product better.”

The results have been nothing short of life-changing for many CWU students. Now, instead of finding out at the last minute that a required course isn’t being offered during a specific term, students can juggle their schedules with a more long-term outlook.

In addition to helping facilitate student/adviser degree-planning sessions, CAPS+ also has improved the degree program selection process, increased student satisfaction by streamlining the path to graduation, eliminated redundancy, and supported course and enrollment forecasting.

The student technology fee even helped pay for a new full-time position in Information Services so the department can continue to improve the system.

“Our students really believe in CAPS+ because they can get immediate feedback on their degree plans and they can manipulate their schedules to meet their needs,” Scott said. “It’s something that’s never been done before, and we’re very proud of what we have accomplished.”

CWU students and advisers aren’t the only ones who have noticed the revolutionary possibilities of CAPS+. Scott and her team recently presented their findings to Washington State University and have been in contact with some community colleges in California.

Now, their work has been recognized by the Washington Digital Government Summit, which highlights IT innovations in the public sector. The CWU Information Services team is pleased to have earned recognition from their peers, but the end goal is serving the student body.

“We have a team of incredibly talented technologists who want what’s best for CWU and our students,” Scott said. “When everyone supports one another and works as a team, you end up with a one-of-a-kind product like CAPS+.” 

 

Media contact: David Leder, Department of Public Affairs, 509-963-1518, David.Leder@cwu.edu.

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