March 1994 - Volume 10:5
By Carol A. Murphy, Michael Merritt, and James M. Choate
Having trouble keeping up-to-date with tuition bills and other student financial information? With In-Touch, a new kiosk-based system developed by Student Financial Systems (SFS) and University Information Management Services (UMIS), viewing financial information is as easy as a swipe of your PENNcard and the touch of a screen.
How do I access In-Touch?Students can visit the In-Touch kiosk in the lobby of the Franklin Building between the hours of 8:30 AM and 5:30 PM, Monday through Friday. To access the system, you must first swipe your PENNcard through the magnetic reader and then enter your Personal Access Code (PAC). (The PAC is the same one used to access the popular automated registration system, PARIS.) A valid PENNcard and a PAC are required for security reasons.
After you have been validated by the security system, the In-Touch menu appears. The menu includes a variety of options such as your student account balance; Stafford, SLS, HEAL, and PLUS loan application status; refund check availability; and PENNcard/Bookstore credit availability. To select an option just touch the screen. If you select the option that lets you view your student account balance, you will be able to print a copy of your bill. After reviewing your information, you can return to the main menu and make another selection or you can exit the system. Although In-Touch is designed with a time-out feature so that the next student using the system shouldn't be able to access your financial information, it is safest to exit the system when you are finished.
How current is the data?The In-Touch kiosk system uses client/server technology to provide an easy-to-use touch screen interface and up-to-date financial information. Inside the kiosk is a 486-based IBM PC/compatible running Microsoft Windows and a custom-made information retrieval "client" application. Two information "servers" are accessed--the University's administrative mainframe and the PENNcard system. Since the information presented on the screen comes directly from these administrative systems, it is always current.
Why only one location?SFS decided to house the first In-Touch kiosk just outside its office doors so that their staff can monitor its use, troubleshoot the new system, and--most importantly--obtain student feedback. To assist in troubleshooting, the system is equipped with a modem that automati- cally dials a beeper to report any system problems. A future goal is to expand the number of kiosk sites to include highly visible campus locations with increased hours of availability.
Growing with the systemIn addition to planning wider availability of on campus kiosks, Penn intends to expand access to include other types of information, such as class schedules and course registration.
Widely available kiosks giving students on-demand access to a variety of University information offer two compelling benefits-- convenience (saving students unnecessary phone calls and visits to SFS, School, and departmental offices) and administrative efficiency (allowing Schools and departments more time to resolve complex student inquiries).
CAROL A. MURPHY is Senior Director of Student Services for SFS; MICHAEL MERRITT is Senior Director of Administrative Support for SFS; and JAMES M. CHOATE is Project Leader of the Advanced Technologies and Quality Practices Group for UMIS.