Select Dorms to Test New Online Sign-in System

A new online sign-in system developed by Tantum Collins ’08 on behalf of Student Council will enter a trial run in the Spring Term, depending upon the findings of the Technology Department. The arrangement would allow students to sign in from any study area on campus using PAnet to save their time. In a recent survey conducted by the Student Council, over 80% of boarding students felt that the amount of time spent signing in was a “significant problem,” and over 70% of illegal sign-ins occur while the student is working at a place of study, and unable or unwilling to return. In a meeting with the Online Sign-in Sub-Committee, Dean of Students Marlys Edwards authorized the Technology Department to begin researching and analyzing different software to implement the trial. If the Technology Department finds a technical solution that they are satisfied with, the trial will take place this spring, though no definite date as been set. The Technology Department does not yet have enough information to know how long the program would take to upload or how successfully it would work on Blackboard. The Technology Department is discussing potential software options for the program with Techmaster Parag Khandelwal ’06. Khandelwal is working with Senior Technical Support Engineer Michael Wade to design a plug-in, independent program, or a server protocol to mesh the chosen software option with the PAnet Blackboard program. Khandelwal said, “Our contract with Blackboard means that in theory, [the online sign-in system] should [not cost the Academy more money]. I am very confident that this will work.” The trial will probably be conducted in two dorms, one large and one small. This would allow house counselors to evaluate the system from two different stances. The dorms that have volunteered to be used in the trial include America House, Fuess House, Stearns House, Stimpson House, Stowe House, Stuart House, and Taylor Hall. Although it would save study time, many faculty members and some students are worried about the vulnerabilities of the new system. There are concerns that online sign-in would be susceptible to dishonesty and that students would lose face-to-face contact with their house counselors. However, a Student Council sub-committee, which was formed to facilitate the implementation of the new system, found a way to increase the time students spend with house counselors: students who do sign-in at their dorms would be required to walk into the office of their house counselor, who would then sign them in. In theory, the new sign-in system would be more accurate and less susceptible to dishonesty than the old system. Students would click a sign-in box on PAnet, and the sign-in program would record their location and the time accurately. This information would be placed on the house counselor’s electronic sign-in sheet. The system would also allow house counselors to track the study habits of the students in their dorms. The sign-in sheet would not only record the current time and place of students, but a comments box would also allow the student to tell the house councilor if her or she is going to leave that area. Collins, who is in charge of the Student Council sub-committee on online sign-in, said, “What we really hope is that it could significantly streamline life for both students and faculty.” Collins suggested online sign-in at a Student Council meeting, but the council did not act on his suggestion. However, School President Ali Siddiqi ’06 noticed the idea when he was reading Student Council meeting records for ideas for his platform. He put online sign-in on his campaign platform. Last summer he appointed Collins to the position of Secretary of Student Council to allow him to continue work on this idea. Student Council presented online sign-in to the faculty at the Student Congress meeting in the fall. Several house counselors and cluster deans contacted the Student Council and expressed interest in the system. The Student Council also talked to faculty members to glean the faculty’s perspective.