A systems approach to the design of an idealized student enrolment support system for the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
Van Soelen, Anita.
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In the research we considered the viability of the current student enrolment support system at the University of KwaZuku-Natal. The system relied on the coordination and integration of activities across campuses and reporting lines. Its success was dependent on the successful interactions between a variety of sub-systems and individuals. A soft systems approach was required for the investigation, which allowed us to deal with both the complexity of the system and the variety of perceptions participants brought into the situation. A theoretical framework for Soft Systems Thinking was provided in Chapter 2 with reference to General Systems Theory, Living Systems Theory and metaphors of organisation. In Chapter 3 different types of problem contexts were discussed, grouped and linked to preferred research methodologies. This framework assisted us to select Idealised Planning (IP) as research methodology. The boundaries and structure of the research process were described in Chapter 4. In this Chapter we also provided information on the selection and briefing of participants. IP philosophy supported participative planning; a seeking of consensus which generated learning and the striving towards an ideal. Our aim was to reach consensus on the transformations required within our system. Information on the application of IP in our situation and the learning generated during the process were recorded in Chapter 5. As much information as possible was collected and the transformations required for improvements were identified. We developed a mental construct of an ideal system and defined the properties such a system should have. An unconstrained design, not constrained by the current environment, was prepared as well as a constrained design in which our current limitations were recognized. The two designs were compared and the boundaries of the constrained design were pushed out as far as possible to incorporate as many of the ideal properties as possible. A detailed plan was developed for the implementation of the chosen design. In Chapter 6 we reflected on the suitability of IP in our problem context, the learning generated and the degree to which the research objectives were met. The project enabled us to consider our key processes and to prepare detailed procedures. We identified the problem areas in our system and the transformations to be introduced for the system to remain viable and able to cope with future demands.