College to Add More Online Services, Despite Recent Hiccups

Last month, Student Activities became the latest student service to make the move online when the office moved its ticket sales to an online PayPal program.

In the Spring 2015 semester, Residence Life also moved the housing selection process online, taking Manhattan College one-step further into the digital age.

While the benefits of online services are certainly obvious—no lines, streamlined delivery and convenience to list a few—recent hiccups in online services, both new and old, have raised concerns regarding the capabilities of the college to move the majority of student and faculty services on the internet.

Most notably, on Nov. 2, a bandwidth issue on Self Service (the student services portal) disrupted registration for seniors and student-athletes.  While the issue resembled a site crash, MC’s registrar Susan Astarita, said the issue was not that severe.

“[The issues] didn’t happen with the site. It was the feed into the site,” she said. “Students were registering, it was just a little slower, once [ITS] realized they needed to increase the bandwidth, it flew.”

Astarita said on Nov. 6 that she expected no further issues when the freshman class—which totals 905 students—registered on Nov. 9.

“By the time freshmen register, there’s more than 2,000 students that are eligible to register,” she said. “Think about it: seniors, juniors, sophomores and graduate students are all able to register at the same time, so the system is supporting well over 900 students.”

Jake Holmquist, the college’s chief information officer, said that Manhattan has made upgrades to its online capacity by moving away from physical servers and towards online cloud technology, that is used to maintain online student servers.

“Think of a speaker, and if you want to turn up the volume, you can just move the slider up,” he said. “The same works on the cloud, we can just increase the bandwidth without a problem.”

Holmquist said that server capacity has little to do with the Wi-Fi issues that have persisted throughout the fall semester on campus.

“Although you may not see it with some of the Wi-Fi issues going on in Horan Hall right now, we are in a very good place as far as bandwidth and capacity,” he said.

While the registration process has been online for almost 10 years, Astarita said many steps are taken to ensure that the process always runs smoothly.

“The good news is we have ITS on site by 6:30 a.m. on registration,” she said. “So they get right on top of it the minute that a situation is discovered.”

Astarita, who is in her first year as the registrar at Manhattan, said that she is mainly concerned with helping students through the process of registering, regardless of how the technology functions.

“If the system crashes, we invite every student to come and do it manually,” she said.

For Holmquist, he stressed the point of constant communication between students and ITS.

“If you encounter a problem, especially with a new service, tell us right away so that we can figure it out,” he said.

Holmquist cited a Quadrangle article from last week that discussed some of the issues students were having with the new Student Activities ticketing service.

“For example, the new Student Activities online ticketing is powered by PayPal, and one of the issues that students were having is that they couldn’t use their credit cards,” he said. “I was having that problem the other day with a PayPal account, where if your credit card is connected to an existing PayPal account, you can’t add it to another, but if you tell us, we can figure it out and let people know.”