Alternatives to CUNYFirst

Remember how CUNYFirst, the maligned all-in-one information management system at the City University of New York, tends to fail at the worst possible times, such as the beginning of the semester? For example, last August, CUNYFirst was down as the fall semester was starting and made it difficult for students to access their course schedules and for faculty to access course rosters.

Outages at peak usage times suggest deep-seeded technical problems. Although I don’t have any information on the specific causes of last fall’s outage, I suspect that the hardware powering CUNYFirst, either the database, the web server, or both, were simply overwhelmed by the activity from students, faculty, and administrative staff.

Today, I learned of two alternative access points to CUNYFirst data.

  1. CUNYFirst MyInfo. This access point, requiring CUNY Portal login, allows faculty to view our teaching schedules and student rosters. Instead of requiring a live connection to the CUNYFirst database, which could potentially crash the system, this appears to use a cached data: MyInfo pulls data from CUNYFirst once a day, presumably in the middle of the night. While it might not be live enrollment data, once a day is “good enough.”
  2. QC Courses. This is specific to Queens College and allows anyone to quickly access basic course information without having to login.1 Since the system is essentially public, it does not contain student rosters, but it does list the enrollment count, the catalog and section numbers, and the time and location for each course.

I welcome these solutions because it spares CUNY from having to “glue jets on a bus“, and it spares me from having to use CUNYFirst for looking up course information. With these alternative access points in place, most of us won’t have to bother with CUNYFirst during peak usage time at the beginning of the semester. And I personally won’t have to use CUNYFirst until I need to report attendance in the second or third week of the semester and until I need to report grades in late May. These alternative access points will make the launching this semester significantly less painful than the previous one.

  1. I should note that, after talking to a few colleagues at other CUNY sites, the information management and registration functions at Queens College appear to run smoother than at some other colleges in the system. 

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