Explore educational material on foundational concepts that are new with Workday Student. These topics are important to understand as you browse other information on this site and prepare for the transition to Workday.

There is a lot to learn about Workday, so we’ve made it easy for you to find relevant information. The topics below are listed in recommended reading order as concepts may build upon each other. However, all topics can be read separately and include links to supporting topics.

We also recommend exploring the other pages linked under “Workday Student” in the main menu to learn more about what’s changing in our major academic and student support areas due to Workday.

Upcoming webinars

Join us for the Workday Student Sneak Peeks series to get familiar with the new system and what’s changing!


With Workday, much of the data needed to support day-to-day student and academic operations will be accessible in one system. Workday also gives us multiple ways to view and access that data, including reports that come built with the system.

People in Workday

Prior to Workday, staff, faculty and students existed in multiple systems (i.e., HRMS, SIS, etc.), and different data was attributed to the person’s record depending on which “hat” they were wearing. In Workday, however, a person who wears multiple hats (e.g., student, staff, student worker) at WashU will have one profile and a single, unified set of personal data.

Academic Units

Academic units are the primary organizational structure in Workday Student. They are used to represent schools, divisions or any other unit that admits students, offers programs of study or offers courses. Academic units are structured together to manage academic process flows, security access, Workday rule inheritance and reporting.

Programs of Study

Within Workday Student, programs of study are used to organize academic functions (such as courses requirements), people (such as faculty or students) and/or credentials (such as a degree or certificate). Today’s major program (MP) in SIS is the analogue to a program of study in Workday.

Academic Appointments

In Workday, faculty, staff, academic affiliates and students are eligible to teach classes. Academic appointments are the connecting point to allow those individuals to be linked to a course section and anything related to that course. 

Academic Calendars

Academic calendars define the academic periods (semester, summer, etc.) with start and end dates that make up the WashU academic year. Academic calendars are assigned to academic units or programs of study to manage related activities, like timing of course offerings, grading and student registration.


Security drives what you can see (student records, student notes, etc.) and do (create a course, review a student bill, etc.) in Workday. It also drives business processes, defining who reviews and approves each task.

Business Processes

In Workday, a business process, or “BP,” is an automated workflow that routes tasks to designated users. Common tasks include to-dos, reviews and approvals. Notifications can also be set up to notify a user that a step has begun or was completed, or a particular review response was selected. 

Policies & Inheritance

A “policy” can refer to a university policy or a Workday policy, the latter of which is a rule set configured in the system. Policies in Workday are “passed down” from superior academic units and “inherited” by their subordinate academic units.

Effective Dating

An effective date in Workday is the date when a version of something goes into effect, such as a course title or pre-requisite requirement. Based on the action being completed, this may be a past, present or future date. Effective dating is beneficial to edit data in Workday without losing prior history, schedule changes to go into effect at a future date, or report on how something was configured at a certain point in time.

The Cloud

Workday is a cloud-based system, meaning it’s hosted on Workday’s servers and accessed over the internet via web browser or application. Because Workday Student is cloud-based, WashU will be on Workday’s regular release cycle for updates and improvements to functionality and data protection.

Is there another Workday topic you’d like to hear more about? Let us know!