Gettysburg College understands that technology is not always easy for our students and employees, so the Information Technology division tries to make technology a tool for enhanced learning, instead of enhanced anxiety. The implementation of an open-source Content Management System (CMS) at Gettysburg College in 2005 was a carefully thought-out installation that furthered the integrated architecture known as the Web Enterprise Solutions (WES) concept for the college. The idea that all data systems should be an integrated system of databases, web sites and interfaces that simplify the user-experience with technology is the key to the system architecture of WES.
THE EVOLUTION OF THE WEB ENTERPRISE SOLUTIONS
Gettysburg College had a desire to display database information to the campus community in the mid 90s. The campus ERP did not have a web interface, as that was still very new technology. As a result, Gettysburg College started developing its own web interface to display data extracted from the ERP databases. The result was our own portal, CNAV, which is short for College NAVigation, launched in 1995. Today CNAV is a mature, robust portal, with all of this ERP data and its own modules making for a single place for users to go to see information from many different sources. The system was also built to expand easily as other data systems get added.
The evolution of web-driven ERPs was not the end of the homegrown portal, as the college realized that the system provides an existing source of filtered data based on institutional business rules and logic. As such, when a new system is introduced to campus, CNAV is the logical place for a data interface. This made the college rethink the portal's place within the system architecture and begin thinking about an integrated Web Enterprise Solution, which would benefit from CNAV's data which is more in line with the desires of college offices than the ERP systems. Since the definitions have already been mapped out within CNAV, it puts the portal in position to not only display data to users, but to share data with other systems of the Web Enterprise Solution.
UPGRADING THE USER-INTERFACE
After the successful integration of the open-source Content Management System in 2005, Gettysburg College started to think about modernizing the look, feel and navigation of the CNAV portal to better fit with the new look of the public web and also re-introduce some audiences to our online community. Working with other campus divisions, the college took some of the tools of CNAV and redesigned them within the CMS and incorporated the new web design to give the tools a fresh look. While changing the front end environment, the tools continued to use the same database and interfaces to maintain a consistent flow of information. The transition to this new design, called myGettysburg, was launched in November 2007 for prospective students and alumni. These tools are directly derived from tools within CNAV and represent just a small subset of the tools within CNAV. By keeping the functionality manageable and focused on tools the audience actually considered useful, it made an application the users found less confusing and more user-friendly.
THE PRESENT AND BEYOND
The Web Enterprise Solution at Gettysburg College is the continuation of an architecture started in the mid 1990s and consists of Enterprise Resource Planning systems, such as PeopleSoft and SungardHE Advance, as well as ancillary systems of record, such as CollegeNet R25/S25, Iamecs, Housing Director and others, and content providers, such as the open-source Content Management System (dotCMS) and Angel Learning Management and CNAV all sharing data through a series of automated interfaces and shared services to bring information to the users in a centralized area, from the general public, to students, employees, alumni, prospective students and even parents.
The future plans call for a single entry point for all services, with the service delivered to the user without the user knowing or caring which system is providing the service. By using technology to further simplify the use of technology, it will free the users from having to learn technology, and instead have technology learn the user.
Below are a few short video clips explaining some of the key integrations between our CMS and Portal and myGettysburg: