The Student Newspaper of Highline College

Tim Wrye

Highline gets ready for all-new computer system

Jonah Mizrahi Staff Reporter Dec 03, 2020

Highline is about to adopt a new software system that will change how students, faculty and staff do almost everything, from advising to registration.

The new system, called ctcLink, is planned to go into action on Feb. 8, 2021, and will be replacing many key online services with updated versions.

Financial aid, advising, grade report, registration, and several other digital processes will be changing, including a multitude of processes for all college employees.

Notably, however, Canvas and both student as well as employee emails will be unaffected by the switch to ctcLink. 

Delta Dog is the official mascot of Highline’s move to implement ctcLink.
Paiton Boyd/THUNDERWORD

Highline won’t be alone in this change; three other colleges will be making the transition on the very same day. And, all 34 of Washington State’s community and technical colleges are planned to adopt the system by the end of 2022.

Some schools, such as Tacoma and Clark College, have already been using ctcLink for more than a year.

Tim Wrye, executive director of Information Technology Services at Highline, said this system has been in the works for nearly a decade.

“The project was actually started way back in 2011,” Wrye said. “Originally, Highline was planned to go live in 2017, but the experience of the pilot schools led to a complete rework of the project plan and structure.”

The systems currently in use at Highline and other colleges, Wrye said, were developed in the mid-1980s.

By 2011, schools started to realize that those systems wouldn’t last forever.

“They were developed for hardware that was discontinued in the early 2000s,” he said. “It was determined that the locally-developed software was not sustainable long term, and that the college system would benefit from acquiring a modern system to manage finance, human resources, and student systems.”

Eventually it was decided that ctcLink would be that new system. With it, colleges across the state will be linked by a shared software network.

“One of the biggest changes is that ctcLink is a single system instance for all of the community and technical colleges in Washington state,” Wrye said. “This means a student or employee who attends or works at more than one college will be able to access their tools and information for all of their colleges with a single login.”

But, while that may seem like a daunting task, Wrye said the move to ctcLink won’t require any physical hardware changes. All of its data will be hosted in the cloud by Amazon Web Services.

Making this transition will enable Highline to move a number of its online services into a single system, Wrye said. Functions like registration, advising, financial aid, and Degree Audit will become accessible through one shared platform.

In addition to bringing changes to numerous online systems, ctcLink will allow for even more operations to become digitized.

“There are college processes that have historically been handled on paper that will be handled in the system, such as travel and purchasing processes,” Wrye said.

Essentially everyone at Highline, students, faculty, and staff alike, will be affected by the switch to this new system in some way.

For students, the changes won’t be earth-shattering. But, several of the systems students regularly interact with are going to look substantially different come Feb. 8.

“Many of the tools students are used to using will be replaced by ctcLink,” Wrye said. “This includes the class schedule, registration, financial aid tools, grade reports, advising/planning tools, and others.”

Some student systems will remain familiar. Again, both Canvas and students’ emails will not be affected by the change.

Nevertheless, students will have to get set up with the new system prior to Spring Quarter to carry out many important online tasks.

“All current students will need to activate a new ctcLink login in February in order to be able to register for Spring Quarter, access advising, pay tuition, and other functions,” Wrye said.

It may be an adjustment, but Wrye said that students will have support in getting accustomed to the new way of doing things.

“The Highline ctcLink project team is working on a communications and support plan to make sure all students are prepared for and supported through this transition,” he said. 

A suite of training courses and resources for all college faculty and staff can also be accessed on Highline’s ctcLink webpage. Information for students can be found at https://www.highline.edu/ctclink/students/

Completing a project of this scale, Wrye said, has been an enormous undertaking over the past several years.

“This project is a huge challenge, requiring massive effort on the part of Highline staff, project and support staff at the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges, and our colleagues at other colleges,” Wrye said.

“Highline has close to 100 subject matter experts across all areas of the college who have been doing great work on this project for years.”

The ongoing pandemic and restrictions it prompted have also posed a significant challenge in completing the project, Wrye said.

“Doing the final stages of this implementation remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic has definitely been a huge challenge, and continues to be our biggest challenge,” he said. “The shift to remote work during the COVID response means that we have had to change our approach and figure out ways to support our staff.”

And, though the project is on track to launch by its planned date, Wrye said his team isn’t quite out of the woods yet.

As the launch date nears, some considerable hurdles still remain for the project’s team to overcome. “There is a lot of intense work for our subject matter experts and project staff to complete over the next few months to make sure that we are fully prepared and ready to support our students, faculty, and staff through this change,” he said. “But, they are up to the challenge.”