Updated myU portal has more bells and whistles

by Diane White

Increased custom features, updated technology and selective information make the University’s new version of “myU” different from its predecessor.

Andy Howe, coordinator of the undergraduate myU portal, said the new portal was not finished by its June 4 systemwide launch, but its basic structure is in place.

The myU portal allows University students guided access to things like University information, outside news feeds, financial aid status and course resources.

“The portal is like a gateway,” Howe said. “It presents information and gets you to another place.”

He said development continues and students will see enhancements over the next few months. The portal plans include following the fast pace of advancing technology.

“It’s a shell of what it will be a year from now,” he said.

The outdated 2001 design no longer met student and staff expectations, Howe said.

When users log into a portal system, they expect something that can be customized and adapted to them, he said. The new version expands those possibilities.

The three previous tabs, myU Home, my News and my Toolkit, are now broken down into seven mini portals to more effectively display information, Howe said.

“Users can customize virtually every one of these pages,” he said. He added that University alerts and a sidebar will follow the user throughout the portal.

Genetics, cell biology and development sophomore Anya Dmytrenko, said she used the previous portal about twice a week and will look into the new version.

She said she would like to see more versatility in the new system.

“So I can tweak it to me,” she said.

Howe said plans for the new myU system include drag-and-drop capabilities like that on Google’s custom home pages.

Eventually, students will be able to add elements of other networks, like a Facebook wall to their portal, Howe said.

Junior chairwoman of the myU student advisory board, Madelyn Lee, said the portal now includes a section for networking.

“It’s social networking with an academic context,” Lee said, “You own what you say.”

Howe said the new version allows students with common interests to communicate, like those living on the same floor of a residence hall or commuters looking to carpool.

Another significant resource on the portal is the ability to correspond with professors, Howe said. “My Courses” is a toolbar that offers a less complicated way to engage with professors than using WebCT, he said.

Since March, the incoming class of 2011 tried out the new version. Howe said the site’s traffic averaged around 14,000 users a week with approximately 70 percent unique users.

Bill O’Connor, assistant director of communications for the orientation and first-year programs, said feedback from the incoming class has been mostly positive. However, he said it’s hard to predict the response from current University students.

With fewer students visiting the myU portal during summer, O’Connor said the University will have a chance to fix any problems before the larger user base logs in next fall.