Portals unify student info

The portals integrate One Stop services and student-specific links and headlines.

JP Leider

Students tired of sifting through dozens of Web sites every day to check news, e-mail and class information may finally find reprieve in the form of the University’s latest attempt to simplify student life.

The newly updated and upgraded MyU Web portals offer quick links, customizable news feeds and centralized University information, and are accessible through the University’s home page.

Information students want and need is out there, but it’s difficult to know how and where to find it, said Andy Howe, a coordinator in the Office of the Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost.

The portals integrate University services such as Vista access, One Stop services and student-specific links and headlines.

There are two types of portals available to students.

After logging in, sophomores, juniors and seniors will be directed to the undergraduate Web portal, while first-year students have access to the class of 2009 Web portal.

Howe, who was coordinator for undergraduate portal development, said the class of 2009 Web portal exists because first-year students need to know certain things such as orientation dates, when to register and how to get to class.

The first-year portal also changes during the academic year based on University happenings.

“What we’ve done is targeted information based on when they need it,” Howe said.

While orientation informs first-year students about the portal, other undergraduates purposely weren’t told about the undergraduate portal just yet, Howe said.

The University wanted to see how many students learned about and accessed the undergraduate portal through word-of-mouth before they marketed the project, he said.

About half of all first-year students check the class of 2009 portal weekly and about 12,000 student users access the undergraduate portal weekly, Howe said.

An advertising campaign for the undergraduate portal will commence within the next few weeks, he said.

Jasmine Austin, a Minnesota Student Association committee chairwoman who consulted with Howe during the undergraduate portal’s creation, said students need to be informed about the portal’s capabilities.

“I think advertisement is lacking,” she said. “A lot of students know about it but don’t know how useful it is.”

Biology and society and environment junior Jennifer Sharp may be one of those students.

Sharp said she’s heard of the new undergraduate portal, but doesn’t really need it.

“I haven’t looked at it,” she said. “All I use is WebCT and e-mail.”

After a brief explanation of the portal, Sharp said, she might check out the site to see if it’s easy to use.

First-year student Omar Ganai said he learned of the portal through orientation and uses it sporadically to keep up with University events.

Although Ganai said he doesn’t mind getting information from different sources, like One Stop, he does think the live chat feature of the class of 2009 portal will be useful.

Now that the portals are up and running, Howe said, students should take a more active role in its development.

Creating a Web portal student advisory board is in the works, he said.

“We want to allow users – the students – to drive the (change),” Howe said.

“Our vision might not meet with the students. I want students and colleges to set that vision.”