Extra Credit Project on Problem-Based Learning 1

Extra Credit Project on Problem-Based Learning 1


Extra Credit Project

Prepared by: Michael Melenka

Instructor: Dr. Nancy S. Grant

Date: 5/11/2007

Course: CIT-100-11 IN94 Spring 07

Summary of the Case Study (Problem Description)

For the past several years, the Agency I work for purchases a software programfrom Universal Tax Systems, Inc. The program, commonly known as “Tax Wise,” is used at all of our office locations nationwide to file taxreturns electronically. I’d alsolike topoint out that this Company does have an excellentreputation with theproductsandservices they provide.

As with any software program, you expect some glitches or minor problems to beencountered. However, this year (2006) a unique problem surfaced that affected many(but notall) of ouroffices using this particular software. As I indicated earlier, thisprogram is used to file individual and certain business related tax returns electronically.

Once the information is input and transmitted, areport should automatically be displayedindicating the time and date the return(s) wastransmitted to the appropriate processingcenter. This report serves a dual purpose; it is a receipt that the tax return was filed, andit is also an informational tool that monitors the returns progress and status within thesystem. Once the report is received, it is simply printed and maintained in a file until theprocess is completed.

The problem that was identified involved the acknowledgement and progress

reports. These reports were not being displayed after the returns weretransmitted, nor

were the reports able to be printed. It turned out that many ofour office locations were

receiving an unknown error message. (The message was not specific regarding the

problemthat was encountered). The situation was creating significant problems,

especially withtrying to monitor the progress of the electronically filed tax returns.

Summary of References and Materials Used

Tax Wise 2006 User Manual:

The user manual provides a considerable amount of information relating to the Tax

Wise software. For example, it includes a section that provides the reader with: an

explanation on the software and programupdates; comprehensive instructions for

installing the software, user and administrativeresponsibilities, running system and

tax returndiagnostics, troubleshooting; retrieving reports, and working with

customer service. The company overall was thorough in ensuring easy to follow

instructions andexampleswere provided. This manual is definitely a valuableand

informative asset.

The current problem and error message received were not listed in the manual. So

in this situation, assistance had to be obtained elsewhere. However, I would like to

reiterate the problem that surfaced was unique and never encountered previously.

Tax Wise customer service and support center

The company has an excellent customer service program and their hours of

operationfluctuate throughout the year, which is based primarily on customer

needs. For example, during the months between January and April, Tax Wise

offers extended hours. This is significant because it is the busiest time of the

filing season, and extremely helpful and convenient for the customers. The

individuals that comprise the customer service staff are very knowledgeable,

patient, courteous, anddisplay a genuine desire to help. They also have a technical

support staff that dealwith the more involved and difficult IT problems relating to

the software.

There are two methods for contacting their customer support staff:

  • Toll Free Number 1-866-641-9473

You do have to be a registered provider to obtain assistance. In order to gain

access, you need an assigned electronic filing number and software registration


The regular customer support personnel were unable to assist because of the nature

of the problem. It turned out the technical staff were working on the problem and

it was going to take some time to resolve.

Solutions Derived from Applying the PBL Model

The problem with displaying and printing the reports affected many of our offices,

but what was adding to the confusion was that there were actually some offices not

affected by these glitches. Procedures were followed for troubleshooting the software

itself, printer, reports menu, etc. But it seemed like nothing was working, so the problem

had to be elevated. After numerous attempts to resolve the problem by the local offices,

and the many contacts received at the customer support center, a joint effort emerged

between the Tax Wise and Agencies IT staff to resolve the problem. It took several

weeks, but the problem was finally identified. The question of why some offices were

not affected became the focus. It turned out the offices encountering the problems had

a newer version of the operating system installed on their computers. This new

operating system did not take into account that we were switching to “daylight savings

time” a week earlier this year. I’m not sure why it had an affect on the software, but

procedures were disseminated to simply un-click the automatic update for the daylight

savings box located in the time zone tab. Once this was accomplished, it was my

understanding that the offices were finally able to retrieve and print the needed reports.

Observations, Team Interactions, and Personal Comments

While employed as a program analyst, I am primarily responsible for analyzing

data and statistical information. During this past filing season, I was assigned as an

electronic filing coordinator for the Pittsburgh and Upstate N. Y. offices. However, my

office was one of the locations unaffected by the problem, and I can attest the computer

used in this area had the older version of the operating system negating any of the

Extra Credit Project on Problem-based Learning 4

Solutions Derived from Applying the PBL Model

problems experienced at the other locations. Basically a problem was identified, attempts

were made to troubleshoot the issue across the country, but later it had to be elevated to

obtain a resolution. In the meantime, while this was going on, I also was able toassist

anothercoordinator to obtain the needed reportsthrough the customer supportservice

website. This was merely a temporary solution, but very affective for monitoring the

work flow and ensuring our objectives were met. I’d like to add that as coordinators, we

are limited in our expertise and ability to provide viable solutions to IT problems. We

have to rely on the instructional manuals and support staff for the significant problems.

In this situation it really worked out well!

What I observed, was that the PBL standards were actually applied at each level.

For example, the problem was identified at the local level, and the actions taken involved

following the manual instructions for trouble shooting. When these actions failed, the

next recourse was to contact customer support, which was later elevated to technical

support. Finally, a joint venture was required which finally identified the problem was

not in the software, but within the operating system itself. While the overall solution to

the problem was quite simple, locating the actual cause of the problem was quite difficult

and time consuming.

Thoughts in Applying the PBL

In all my years of experience that involved school, work and the military, I amrealizing that the PBLstandards were used in one form or another. I am not a computergenius, nor can I pretend to be. I also cannot provide you with a thorough and completeexplanation ofhow the cause of the problem was actually identified, particularly since it was elevated and resolved by more knowledgeable individuals on the IT staff. What I can offer youis an explanation of how these standardswere applied at the local level individually,prior to being elevated and resolved corporately. The overall PBL concept is extremelyhelpful andbeneficial for identifying problems, and researching available resources toobtainsolutions from other similar situations; or as in this case, identify and resolve a problemthat was never previously encountered. However, what I learned is one of themost important qualitiesfor ensuring these standards are successful, is communication(share experiences andinformation), and the ability to work together. This is regardless of the situation or problem that may be encountered.


Author: Stone, Erin; Editor: Casillas, Peggy Fowler; Vice President Tax Wise Training:

Honea, Susan Wimberly; 2006 Universal Tax Systems, Inc.; “Tax Wise 2006

User Manual,” Printed in the USA 11/2006

Tax Wise Customer Service Support Website, 5/2007

Tax Wise Customer Service Support Toll Free Number, 1-866-641-9473 (WISE), 5/2007

Miscellaneous Agency References, e-mail, dtd 3/13/2007