Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Stakeholders for Financial Aid Appointment Scheduler

Based on my idea of the Financial Aid Office's need for an Appointment Scheduler, here is a list of possible stakeholders:

Financial Aid Counselors (Executive): 
  • The counselors are the ones who we are trying to aid in their efforts to provide service and satisfaction to their customers, a.k.a, the students. Though this is mainly for the administrative side of HPU, this greatly benefits both the students and the office.
New and Current Students (Operational):
  • The students and/or their parents are our target group for this project and we want to try to make it a smooth and easy process for them when planning on setting up counseling appointments with the Financial Aid Office. Basically, they are our customers. 
Technical and Support Representatives (Executive/External Operations): 
  • When the system is implemented, technical and support is a must. Technical staff helps to establish and maintain the scheduling system, while the Support staff helps provide user training and troubleshooting. 

Stakeholders for Financial Aid Status Updates

Based on my idea of the Financial Aid Office's need for Financial Aid Status Updates, here is a list of possible stakeholders:

New and Incoming Students (Operational):
  • With this system in place, new and incoming students will have a better understanding in regards to what is needed for documentation. The system, based on information gathered by the user, will list out requirements for them in order to properly process their financial aid package.
Financial Aid Customer Representatives (Executive):
  • Though the system is intended to cater towards the students, the customer representatives benefit a lot more through the system even though they do not technically have direct relations with it. The customer representatives are the ones that collect these documents from the users for processing, so the system saves them and the users time and increases work efficiency.
Technical and Support Staff(Executive/External Operations):
  •  When the system is implemented, technical and support is a must. Technical staff helps to establish and maintain the status update system, while the Support staff helps provide user training and troubleshooting.

Stakeholders for Ruby App

Based on my idea for a Ruby app, here is a list of possible stakeholders:

Students (Operational): 
  • The students may implement this app as a sort of reference and guideline for basic Ruby syntax, methods, formats, etc,.
Application Staff (Internal):
  • Creators or makers of the Ruby app
Technical and Support Staff (Executive/External Operations):
  • Apps need technical and support  - it is a must. Technical staff helps to establish and maintain the app, while the Support staff helps provide user training and troubleshooting if any. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Appointment Scheduler for HPU Financial Aid Counselors

Alright, so you're probably thinking why the title with the HPU Financial Aid Counselors and why an appointment scheduler? Let me just give you a little background about myself. I currently work at the Office of Financial Aid at our beloved Hawaii Pacific University. I have been for the past two years as a Federal Work Study (FWS) student and am currently the Senior FWS student there. Working there a while, I have noticed that HPU students still schedule appointments via email, phone or in person. So, I thought, "Hey! What about an appointment scheduler for the counselors?" and here we are. Let's brainstorm, shall we?

Problem Description
The Financial Aid Office services about 150+ students a day, not including the multitude of calls and emails that come in simultaneously from students and/or parents inquiring about their or their child's:
  • Financial Aid Status
  • Financial Aid Requirements
  • Required Document Corrections
  • Holds
  • Loans and Lenders
  • Financial Aid Refunds (the most inquired about - people have bills to pay, rent to give up, unwillingly, I might add, a new laptop they want *ahem* need... what? o_o)
  • etc.,
On a good day, we can accommodate walk-ins for students and their parents right away if they wish to speak to their assigned counselors and answer any general questions students may have. During our busy days, we'll have students lined up and piling into the office just waiting to speak to or follow up with their counselors about a matter they've discussed previously. With that comes post-it notes and scribbles all over counselors' offices and the front desk calendars. 

I recommend that we set up an appointment scheduler similar to one that the Academic Advising Office has here. It's nice and simple and as a student, myself, very convenient without having to go down to the office and schedule one in person or waiting for a reply via email.

System Capabilities
The new system should:
  • Give a list of services
    • Financial Aid Counseling
    • Loan Counseling and Repayment
  • Collect information about the student and whether they are:
    • Military/Veteran
    • Undergraduate
    • Graduate
  • Have information on the current Financial Aid counselors and who the students should see
    • List of counselors
  • Provide available dates and times to meet with counselors
  • Be able to receive student details, such as:
    • Name
    • Contact Number
    • Email
    • Additional Info (Student ID, Major, Purpose for Appointment)
  • Give confirmation for set appointment
  • Be accessible via Wi-Fi (Internet) and transmitting data
  • Be easily accessible and convenient for students and/or parents
Business Benefits
With this new system implemented, the Financial Aid Office should see:
  • Definitely a shorter line at the front desk waiting area
  • Less frequent surprise visits from students with/without their parents
  • An increase in productivity for answering calls and responding to emails for front-desk staff without having to deal with students coming in for walk-in appointments
  • Less disorderly notes and scribbles on calendars
  • Counselors have time to view a student's account and have somewhat of a grasp of the student's status and situation before-hand
There, now... that's what I've got for brainstorming ideas. It's pretty detailed but it's because it's modeled after what the Academic Advising Office has set up for theirs. It looks like they're using a software called GenBook to help with their appointments.

Let's try to keep people happy and keep folks like these away, shall we? Believe me, they're out there.

Alright, let me know what you think - Yay or Nay?

Updates for Financial Aid Status

As a student worker at the Financial Aid Office, I've come across several things that could be, well... better, or maybe handled a bit differently. Working there we receive various documents from our students on financial aid and most of the time, especially around the time that their financial aid refunds are expected to pay out and it doesn't, our office is bombarded with complaints.

The most common reason for why their aid hasn't paid out?

They didn't SATISFY the requirements by turning in required documents. *le gasp*

Reasons we get from our students include:
  • They did not receive an email requesting those documents
  • They don't check their pipeline accounts ever
  • Their situations have changed so therefore, new updated info is needed and/or additional forms need to be completed
  • They're confused and don't know what other requirements are needed
  • They've seen the emails and notifications and decide to turn everything in last-minute expecting it all to be processed within a week (the most common reason)
So, basically...


What I was thinking as a sort of remedy to this, was maybe creating some sort of polling/questionnaire thing (all multiple choice, of course) that would receive basic information from the students and based on that, return a list of the documents needed to the students so that they know what it is they need to complete and submit. Maybe it could even include the status of the documents that were submitted. It would be extremely helpful to many of our students and most especially the Financial Aid Office. 

As far as I know, we have something similar to this on our pipeline accounts that I think not that many of our students know about or utilize. If you check the Quick Links, click on Financial Aid Status. 

A window should pop up (as shown below); click on Financial Aid Status again.

The window will load up the overall status for the aid year you selected and at the bottom of the page, click on Student Requirements.

It should show you the list of documents that you have already submitted as part of the requirements and whether or not they have been satisfied. 

Stuck on Rails? We've got you covered ;)

Lately, we've been delving deeper and deeper into the wonderful world of Ruby through codecadamy and one thing that came to mind was "How do I keep up with all the syntax? How can I remember them all?" So, I figured - let's create an app.

Problem Description
Transitioning from one programming language to another, specifically Java to Ruby, getting used to the syntax of a different language and trying to remember them all during implementation can get a bit confusing. There's a lot of having to scroll back to the previous lessons and examples so that you can figure out what to do in the current lesson. So, what can we do to help us out? We can create a mobile app for references.

System Capabilities
The application should list various examples of different methods, syntax, formats, etc., in Ruby in a form of flash cards or index cards that will help the user understand the language or give them a refresher on a certain topic. It also should be available offline.

The benefits of having this mobile app is that it'll help those who are still in "training wheels" quickly access references to certain problems we encounter on our journey to mastering the Ruby language; especially around the time for exams.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

To Ruby With ♥

First of all, I admit I was hesitant at first to learning a new language, much less a programming language. In all honesty, I would much rather learn a spoken language like Japanese but let's stick to the topic, shall we? The past two years I was stuck in this love-hate relationship with java; it with all its syntax rules, and long

System.out.print(); and System.out.println();

print statements, those evasive semicolons (;) and error messages - oh, the error messages! They never really did help me as much as confuse me every time they popped up on the left side of the computer monitor, especially when a semicolon was misplaced. As you can probably tell, I'm one of the many that have issues working with java and it became something that I thoroughly enjoyed at the beginning to something I silently loathed every time an instructor assigned a programming assignment... until I was introduced to Ruby.

With Ruby, I thought 'there's still hope yet!' after completing several exercises on codecademy. I realized while working with it just how much I really enjoy the simplicity of it and its syntax and how I was able to ease through it compared to java's verbal redundancies. Thank you so much, Yukihiro Matsumoto! You've done many up-and-coming programmers, including me, a great service by providing us with this.

As I am still new to working with Ruby, I can't say 'Oh, Ruby is so much better than Java blah blah blah...' - though, of course I could because I am entitled to my own opinions in this case. However, I don't think it would be right to base it solely on what I've come across briefly versus what I have worked with in Java. So, I went searching through various Ruby versus Java articles and I stumbled upon a blog, Ruby vs Java, written by this guy named Diego. In his blog, he lists out the advantages of working with Ruby and the advantages of Java. I'll jot down a summarized list of the things he wrote below:

Ruby Advantages
  • Everything is an Object
  • Modules
  • Blocks of Code
  • Duck Typing and Syntactic Sugars
  • No compilation Required
Java Advantages
  • Performance
  • Multi-threading and Concurrency
  • Interfaces
  • IDE Support

I really like that in his blog, he mentions that "Ruby speaks English" - for me and maybe countless others, it does, it really does. Although at the moment, I dislike java with a passion, it's impossible to stop using it and drop it because it's so ingrained into our everyday lives - programmer or not. Most especially since it's something akin to a first love; as they say, you never really forget your first love. So, for all you java lovers out there and the part of me that still kind of does, sing and dance your heart out to this. ;)