Terra Dotta Software

First I want to say that this is not any sort of endorsement of Terra Dotta Software (TDS) but rather as it is the software I use in my office I wanted to go over is strengths, weaknesses, and uses that I’ve found after working with it for over a year now.

For some background I first encountered TDS (then known as StudioAbroad) back when I worked in Hawaii. They were looking for a software for applications and this was one of the options. It looked promising but the price was rather steep. They ended up not going with the software from what I hear but each office has different needs. I had done the demo and read through many of the documents available and found it a remarkable piece of technology. It wasn’t alone though, I also learned of Horizons and Office Abroad. Since then I’m sure others have come and gone but that can be seen as a good thing.

This did start me thinking though. Move away from paper. Not necessarily for the Green way of doing things but rather to streamline and make things easier.

Once I started to work at my current job I was excited to be using Terra Dotta (well any software really). But I was confronted with two challenges. First was due to staff changes the install was 2 versions behind. This was a challenging task but our IT department got through it. The other was not as obvious as the version issue but has turned out to be a longer term and more tasking issue than I expected.

So if you are looking to change to a software please heed my words. While you can simply copy your application to an online system that is probably the worst way to do it.

The reason I say this is because if that’s all one does then you’re not making full use of the software and thus making it harder on yourself and your office. Whether its digital signatures or online forms. Replace what you can with what the software can do. In addition if the software you choose can connect with your Student Information System (SIS) then do so as it will save you from duplicating your efforts.

I have this view point as I’m currently working on the current study abroad application and implementing a new application for our incoming exchange students and the difference is noticeable.

This post has ended up longer than intended so I put be making this a series covering topics including:

Programing
Documentation
Lightening the workload
Etc.

A NASFA Experience

Although I finally came down with what my wife had last week I still managed to put myself together for the Fall NAFSA luncheon that was held today at a nice Indian food restaurant. I really wish I could say more about the food but in all honesty it tasted pretty bland to me because my taste buds have stopped working because of my cold. Overall though it was a great decision to go since I was officially announced as the new Web Admin for the NAFSA Region XII Hi/Pacific District. I think getting my name out there is key in my job search. In all honesty this wasn’t an “if I do this it’ll look great on my resume” decision or one I thought up simply last minute. I had decided to do this way back in April, as I was not getting anywhere with my job search in higher ed, and yet I still wanted to be involved so that I wasn’t “left out.” Also having strong technical skills didn’t hurt either but it’s not a problem either. It was nice having someone say that they were happy¬† I was on the team so they had someone who wanted the position and had the skills to do it well as opposed to someone who simply accepted it cause it needed filled. I always enjoy self-esteem boosters.

Sadly I wont be able to attend the bi-regional convention next week. As much as I would love to go I can’t get the funds together. And it’s not like I’m presenting either.¬† I hope to put a presentation together for next April’s local conference though. I’m going to be very active in trying to create a good web presence for our district I think. I may put together a district Facebook page and a twitter hashtag, maybe something like #nafsaHI I don’t know. Plenty of time to decide it all.

I know now that, especially trying to work in private sector, that higher ed is where I want to work. It’s the environment and people that make it feel like a thriving my place. I also see that while student affairs is a kick ass place I still want to focus on international education. 5 years, 10 years, 20 years I see that as where I want to be.