Cycle Prep is the regular and ongoing process of making sure that all Slate-based operations will remain effective during the next admissions cycle or business year. Slate Stewardship is an expanded and elevated approach to Cycle Prep that includes scheduling any necessary cyclical updates, but focuses primarily on managing all institutional processes to ensure they are as efficient and sustainable as possible.
Slate Stewardship has four distinct aspects:
- Necessary Updates
- New Projects
- Team Building and Governance
Institutions that have established the functionality necessary to carry out essential operations in Slate should begin thinking about Stewardship, and establish a Cycle Prep process. For an admissions department, essential operations generally include recruitment, application collection, application review, and decision release. Institutions planning for Cycle Prep should also notify the Technolutions Client Success Team that they are ready to have their Technolutions' status changed from Implementing to Cycle Prep.
Necessary updates include any work that needs to be done in the database to allow current business operations to continue effectively. Slate's flexible structure means that necessary updates will vary from database to database; however, some standard updates include:
- Removing completed applications from the bin structure using Query - Batch Management - Bin
- Archiving completed applications to remove them from consideration by Checklist type Rules or any Rule or Query filtering on Period: Active using Query - Batch Management - Round to move applications into an inactive Period-Round schema.
- Updating filters such as application: term where necessary to ready Slate for the next application cycle.
- Making any other necessary changes to your Slate application.
- Updating Prompt mappings for fields such as application: term in Sources/Upload Dataset to ready Slate for the next application cycle.
- Archiving or updating communications or forms including event templates if necessary.
- Updating Rules if necessary.
- Updating Reader and Decision Release processes if necessary
- Undergraduate admissions offices should update Slate.org settings if necessary.
Housekeeping is an important part of good Slate Stewardship. Housekeeping tasks involve auditing your database to ensure Slate is configured as efficiently and sustainably as possible. Some common housekeeping tasks include:
- Use Check Rules to identify inefficient Rules that must be reconfigured
- Review scheduled queries to ensure they are configured as efficiently as possible
- Review Source Formats and update cumulative imports appropriately
- Use Retention Policies to delete unnecessary records
- Use the Resource Auditor to identify unnecessary objects that can be deleted or archived
- Use Consolidate Records to merge duplicate person and dataset records
- Review User record status and Permissions and update as necessary
- Review all security settings
New projects generally fall into one of three different categories:
- A problem in your current process that you hope to address and improve. For example, maybe your application review process is taking too long.
- Implementing a completely new process. For example, you wish to begin a scholarship process in Slate.
- Keeping your Slate database up to date with new functionality. For example, you plan on rebuilding inefficient queries created using the older query bases hosted in the Slate Template Library to utilize improved bases and functionality now available with Configurable Joins.
No matter which category or categories your new projects fall into, the steps to completing your project will be similar:
- Prioritization - You are never going to be able to accomplish every goal immediately, so developing a process that allows you to evaluate and stage new development is crucial. This is an essential function of Slate Stewardship.
- Preparation - Before you get to work, make sure you are familiar with the essential functionality in Slate and any recommended best practices. The Community Forum is a great place to start your preparations, but you will also need to leverage Knowledge Base, Learning Lab, and non-Production environments like Test and Showcase to get ready.
- Building - Once you begin creating a new process or new functionality in Slate, don't forget all the support resources that are available to help you overcome any unforeseen obstacles.
- Testing - Once you think you have finished building, don't forget to test!
- Activation - Activating new functionality will vary depending on the tool or process. It may mean publicizing the URL for a Form, or it may mean sending an email.
- Monitoring - It is always important to monitor any new process to track any possible issues or identify potential improvements. Monitoring involves creating a Report in Slate or checking in with staff or students.
Team Building and Governance
More than any other aspect of Cycle Prep, team building will most likely take place all year long; however, Cycle Prep is a great time to take stock of your internal resources. Team building should not be ignored while establishing a strategy for good Slate Stewardship.
Staff turnover is inevitable and can often disrupt your operations, especially if you are overly reliant on just one person. Additionally, it is vitally important to recognize that Slate-based operations will inevitably grow beyond your initial expectations and usually beyond the admissions office itself. It will be necessary to have the staff and processes in place to incorporate any new operations. Team building will help address both of these concerns.
Your Slate Team will always include a Slate Captain or Captains. Slate Captains are empowered operations staff who understand your business imperatives as well as Slate functionality. Slate Captains are essential when evaluating, prioritizing, and implementing any new processes.
The most successful Slate schools think beyond their operations team - they establish a Slate governance system. A governance system includes both a steering committee and guidelines for developing new Slate-based processes. Good governance supports communication and discussion between interested groups or individuals, but it also clarifies decision-making authority.
Your Slate steering committee will absolutely include your Slate Captains, but also needs to include representation from the leadership level and other potential Slate stakeholders across campus.
Cycle Prep Support Resources
- The Cycle Prep Status Page. A customizable portal to help manage the Cycle Prep process.
- Internal (or external) Notes. Notes can be added directly to Slate or recorded externally to explain why Slate has been configured in a certain way.
- Classroom (from Lightbulb).
- Community Conversations
- Community Forums
Scheduling Cycle Prep
Many institutions find that the summer months are the best time to work on Cycle Prep, as this is often the time between the previous and upcoming admission cycles; however, Cycle Prep is not specifically a summer project. Once you have a Cycle Prep plan, you can work on Cycle Prep projects whenever you have the time and resources available.