MyRed move creates confusion, potential

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Sina Attaie, a senior secondary education major, says she believes MyRed, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s new information system, will eventually benefit students after usability problems are solved.

Story and photo by Molly Young, NewsNetNebraska

Click. Click. Click, click, click.

Joseph Ruiz clicked and clicked, but the senior engineering student couldn’t find his September school bill. Ruiz knew it lay deep within MyRed, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s new information system. So Ruiz kept clicking.

Click. Click, click.

Eventually, he found the statement – blank.

“I don’t know how much I owe,” Ruiz said.

Months after launching the new information system, university officials say it may take years to fix the kinks associated with MyRed. Meanwhile, the new system – and
its bill payment process – continues to frustrate many students.

“In a year or two, people are going to really, really like it,” Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Juan Franco said. “We knew that on Day 1, it would be very vanilla.”

For now, the information portal offers essential services and meets the university’s goal to put the system in place by this semester, Franco said. In the future, the school will continue to add features to the site, including parental access.

MyRed became a priority after the vendor of the former information system, What About Me? (WAM), announced two years ago it would stop servicing the site.
In all, seven state colleges and universities in Nebraska adopted the new Nebraska Student Information System. UNL named its portal MyRed. State campuses in Chadron, Curtis, Kearney, Omaha, Peru and Wayne all use the system.

In all, more than 100 representatives from the seven schools helped determine the functions of the site, Franco said.

“It’s bringing us closer together,” he said.

In fact, other colleges report small problems, as well. Jay Collier, director of college relations at Wayne State College, said his college transition hasn’t been without stumbling blocks, either.

“There have been a few wrinkles, but they’ve worked out,” Collier said.

Two hours south in Lincoln, Franco acknowledges clear differences between the former and current information systems.

“With WAM one or two clicks would get you where you need to go,” Franco said. “With MyRed it takes three or four clicks.”

Many of those clicks may be generated by attempts to pay student bills, a process that has caused student headaches and administrative action. MyRed’s bill payment service became functional one week before classes started Aug. 23, Franco said. Weeks later, students used MyRed to access and pay bills for the first time.

But the new payment process puzzled many students. And parents no longer had access to student accounts.

Lauren Woodworth’s first attempt to pay hers proved unsuccessful. The new system denied the junior secondary math education student access to her bill. Yet Woodworth had received an earlier e-mail stating her bill was available. The former system, often called WAM, didn’t have as many problems, Woodworth said.

By Sept. 28, a Facebook group criticizing the system had attracted more than three dozen members, while public posts remained largely critical of MyRed.

Sina Attaie, a senior secondary education major, doesn’t believe MyRed will see many improvements before she graduates in May. Still, Attaie believes the system will eventually benefit students.

“There’s just so much going on that it’s overwhelming,” Attaie said. “But having everything all in in one place is really convenient.”

The system gained attention earlier this school year after a man accessed his ex-girlfriend’s MyRed account and altered her class schedule. He had used MyRed’s password site, TrueYou, to answer security questions. Security has since been strengthened.

Aundria Duncan-Wagner, a project coordinator in the Office of Academic Success and Intercultural Services, has answered many questions from her students about the new system. She noticed a rush near the beginning of the school year and anticipates more questions at the end of October, when spring registration begins.

“As you get to using it, it just gets better,” Duncan-Wagner said. “I think this year is just going to be grumbly.”

To counter the confusion, the student accounts office created a two-page tutorial and posted it on system’s log-in page. In addition, UNL officials extended the payment due date by one week, to Sept. 19. Robert Clark, student accounts director, announced the decision in an e-mail addressed to students Sept. 9.

Franco said he knew of no other voluntary postponement in the past, but felt it was necessary while students learned the new payment process.

“It was the right thing to do,” Franco said.

There are no plans to extend the October payment deadline, Franco said.

The move to MyRed has also spurred student-led efforts to ease the transition. The Association of Students at the University of Nebraska helped host an assistance desk in the Nebraska Union during the second week of September.

Senators helped staff the table, where seven students stopped every hour, Justin Solomon, ASUN president, said. The senior human resources and family science major said the service will be implemented again for spring class registration.

Still, Solomon remained optimistic about the system’s potential, adding that he’d like to add parental access, transcripts and class waiting lists to the site. In fact, waiting lists headlined his party’s campaign during the election season.

“Students have a hard time focusing on the long-term value of this because they’re only here for four years,” Solomon said. “In due time, we’ll see a pretty sweet system.”

Bridget Agnew, a junior psychology major, said although MyRed isn’t easy to navigate, she appreciates some of its new features, including a new registration process and custom class schedules. Students first used MyRed to register for classes in March.

Franco said he hopes eventually all processes will run smoothly on MyRed.

“Folks actually will forget WAM and start using this more. But that will take time.”

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