University of Helsinki: Sisu roll-out – The University of Helsinki is switch­ing to a new aca­de­mic ad­min­is­tra­tion sys­tem at the end of May

Sisu will provide students with a visual user interface that will make it easier to plan studies and monitor progress. The accessibility of the interface still requires further development.
On 31 May 2021, the University of Helsinki will deploy a new student information system called Sisu, to replace Oodi, the previous system. Sisu has already been in partial use, but now it will be expanded further to make it the primary system for academic administration.

Initially, Sisu will only offer the necessary features to enable the discontinuation of the Oodi system and the launch of the next stage in the development process. In the next stage, a central goal is to add features that will improve the accessibility of the system.

The following figures are illustrative of the scope of the system switch: some 10 million completed credits, 2.3 million study rights and the data of 450,000 individuals will be transferred from Oodi to Sisu.

Sisu sup­ports stu­dents throughout their stud­ies
The focus in Sisu’s development has been on students. In the system, students create a study plan, select their courses, receive their grades and, finally, apply for a degree certificate after completing their degree. Sisu’s visual user interface helps students understand how their degree is structured, its progress and which studies can be included in it.

“The visual interface is a great help and delight to many, but there are challenges with its accessibility. For the time being, Sisu is not accessible to all user groups, such as visually impaired students,” says Director of Development Susanna Niinistö-Sivuranta from the University of Helsinki.

The accessibility challenges have been identified and they are taken seriously. Improvements have already been made and solutions are actively sought at Funidata Oy, the company responsible for the Sisu system and its development. Funidata is jointly owned by Finnish universities and other higher education institutions.

“Sisu has been in development for years, and not all of its features meet current accessibility requirements. That Sisu has to be accessible is clear to Funidata, and fixes are being implemented constantly. The biggest accessibility problems have to be addressed more quickly than originally planned, as the opportunities for visually impaired people to use a system central to studies are currently poor,” says Funidata CEO Mika Peura.

In addition, the universities and higher education institutions that own Funidata have decided to allocate additional funding to the company to speed up the development efforts.

The staff of Student Services at the University of Helsinki will provide personal assistance to students with accessibility-related challenges in using Sisu. The support available to students has been enhanced in the period after the initial deployment of the system.

Sisu links to dozens of other pro­grams and sys­tems
Sisu is an extremely extensive system that supports a number of processes relating to studying and teaching, and it is linked to dozens of other programs and systems. The University of Helsinki has been preparing for the expansion of Sisu’s deployment as effectively as possible: in the last few years, various systems have been remodelled to make them compatible with Sisu.

“That some elements do not immediately work as planned is to be expected in connection with major system redesigns. We have made preparations, and we have the resources to deal with malfunctions, should any arise,” Niinistö-Sivuranta says.

In many respects, the further development and utilisation of Sisu requires that it functions as the primary system, as it will do after the system switch on 31 May.