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Degree Audit is rolled into disaster recovery efforts

DARS and Major Maps are instrumental in helping students map out their academic paths.

With a word as ominous as “disaster” in its name, it can be hard to frame IT disaster recovery (DR) in a positive light. Considered another way, however, any IT service considered to be a DR priority means it’s critical to organizational continuity, and therefore, highly valued.

There’s a reason the Degree Audit Reporting System (DARS), part of the broader Degree Audit (formerly My Degree Dashboard) suite of web applications, has been rolled into the University of Utah’s burgeoning DR efforts. Access this example Degree Audit report, courtesy of the U’s Curriculum Administration.

According to Kariann Hibbard, business systems analyst in USS Product Management and Student Systems, more than a million DARS audits have been processed at the U since January 29, 2021.

“Students use their degree audits almost daily,” Hibbard said.

DARS, part of the PeopleSoft ecosystem and accessed through Campus Information Services (CIS), is an automated advising report that shows progress toward a degree. It outlines prerequisites for acceptance into majors and likely coursework after acceptance, taking the guesswork out of selecting classes for future enrollment.

“I really don't think you can overstate the importance of DARS at the U,” Hibbard said. “It’s used to advise students on what they need to take to meet their curricular requirements, and the Registrar’s Office uses it to verify that students have completed their curricular requirements and are ready to graduate.”

Hibbard said students sometimes are asked to access their degree audit online or bring printed copies when they meet with an academic advisor. The report, she said, allows advisors “to look at which classes the student has completed, their grades, their GPA, what coursework they have remaining, which electives are available ... all that information is leveraged to plan out the remainder of the student’s academic career.”

Project Manager Emily Rushton from UIT's Project Management Office noted that DARS is a major student system, integral to the U’s strategic goals to promote student success. DARS and Major Maps are instrumental in helping students map out their academic paths.

To protect the integrity of such valuable information, UIT recently finished procuring, installing, configuring, and testing IT infrastructure that allows DARS data to failover from the U’s Downtown Data Center (DDC) in Salt Lake City to its Tonaquint Data Center (TDC) in St. George.

With respect to business continuity and disaster recovery (BC/DR), DR is primarily focused on the IT side. Should the DDC suffer severe damage from a large-scale natural or human-caused disaster, DR-related efforts like restoring servers, networks, and failing critical systems and applications over to the TDC help minimize the effects of significant IT service-impacting events. DARS is one of several DR applications/services that has been configured at the TDC and would failover to the TDC in the event of a disaster. Up next, global information system (GIS) services will be elevated to a DR priority.

Failovers switch a production system to a redundant or standby system in the event of a failure or when a system is shut down for servicing. Depending on the requirements and configuration of a given system, a failover can occur automatically or manually. The DARS DR project involved installing and configuring new virtual machines as well as making sure the DARS standby database was ready for testing at the TDC.

“We worked very closely with the Office of the Registrar to identify the requirements, and based on that, we assembled a team to architect it and identify the infrastructure requirements to make it happen,” said Kim Tanner, director of Software Platform Services in the Chief Technology Officer organization.

In addition to the Office of the Registrar and Tanner's team, the project involved University Support Services (USS), Hardware Platform ServicesNetwork Services, the Campus Help Desk, the Identity & Access Management team in the Information Security Office, and the ITSM Process Support and Disaster Recovery group.

Rushton lauded the efforts of everyone involved.

“We couldn’t have done this without a great deal of collaboration and support from the UIT leadership team,” she said. “We especially appreciate our good working relationship with the Registrar, which made everything go smoothly.”

Want to read more PMO News?

This article is part of a semi-regular feature PMO News in UIT’s Node 4 newsletter that highlights current events in UIT's Project Management Office.

Visit the PMO News archive for more project profiles.