CS315: Session 2

Please read the following case carefully prior to coming to class. You should have read chapters 1-5 in preparation for class tonight. During class, we will work in teams to complete the analysis and level 1 modeling of this problem.

E-Mail Case


A school district in the western suburbs of Chicago is experiencing increasing electronic communications problems. A confluence of events, including license expiration and renewals, new products, and new standards, have forced the school district to hire an outside consulting firm, to examine the current situation and develop a set of recommendations.

Case Background

Lincoln-Prairie Township School District is a comprehensive school corporation serving DuPage County, Illinois. The school district is comprised of 14 elementary schools, housing grades K-6; 4 middle schools, for grades 7-9; and 2 high schools, for grades 10-12. The total student population is approximately 17,000 students, supported by 550 full-time teachers (for a student-teacher ration of 31:1) and 200 clerical, custodial, and food service employees.

Each school building has at least one networked P200 computer in every classroom. PCs in the building are connected to a Local Area Network (LAN) running the Novell 4.11 network operating system. The LANs in each building are connected by a district Wide-Area Network that is TCP/IP based over a Fiber Distributed Data Interface network. Faculty and administrative staff can share directories across the WAN, enabling teachers to share lesson resources and administrative staff at each school to process student records on the RS-6000 at the school's headquarters, which are adjacent to the north-side high school.

Faculty on all campuses have had GroupWise 4.1 electronic mail (a Novell product) for approximately 3 years and have become heavily dependent on this system for both internal messaging and external connections (e.g., Internet mail). GroupWise supports calendaring, public mailing lists, and MIME attachments [sort of]. Two years ago, all students in the school system were assigned a UNIX shell account and given 5 MB of storage space on two Sun Microsystems SPARC Ultra 1000E servers. Students use Pine to access their mail and can send and receive MIME attachments. All faculty and students have access to the World Wide Web from classroom PCs.

The Problem

Several problems exist with the current system. First, Novell 4.11 is not Year 2000 compliant, so the network operating system must either be upgraded (at a cost of approximately $100,000) or migrated to NT. Next, GroupWise 4.1 does not have remote access features. Faculty must be on the school premises in order to review their calendars and send or receive mail. GroupWise also presents a significantly different interface than the mail interface the students use. It handles MIME attachments sent from students poorly. Faculty have difficulty assisting students with mail problems because the systems are so radically different. As a result of district growth, more disk space (and probably server space) will be required to support GroupWise in it's current or upgraded form. In contrast to the faculty/staff mail environment, students have complete remote access to mail, through their Internet Service Provider of choice, so they can send and receive e-mail from home. The interface for attachment handling is clunky in Pine, and makes reading attached documents difficult, especially for younger students. The interface also allows students to keep MIME-encoded and unencoded versions of the same document on the server, thus using more disk space than should be required.

The technology coordinator for the school district has created a strategic information systems plan for the district. This plan includes goals for messaging and electronic communication. The plan calls for a "unified messaging system by which all faculty, staff, students, and potentially parents, may communicate either from school or from the home." The messaging system should be network operating system independent, based on accepted, open, standards for which there are multiple competing products, and be scalable both in services and in the number of users it will support. Additionally, calendaring and group meeting scheduling should also be supported by the system.



Your Task:

  1. Complete a problem definition statement, including a list of symptoms, objectives that, when met, will solve the problems, and your sense of the resource implications or scope of the problem.
  2. Identify processes involved in maintaining the present system. Interview the system administrator (Sadler) and key users (Sadler) from all subgroups (students, faculty, staff).
  3. From the processes list, identify boundaries of the project and test/verify the boundaries, objectives, and processes.
  4. Identify the data elements of the project. What information is currently kept in each mail system and how will moving to a new mail system impact users?
  5. Create a data flow diagram (level 1) of the processes and data involved in the current mail systems.