Internet portal to revolutionize web world

Imagine a world where you sign on to your computer in the morning and have access to every University service you currently use online, including all elements of The Bridge, Moodle, e-mail and your personal timetable.

Imagine being greeted with messages that pertain only to you and your position in the University, to be linked to your interests and clubs and to be able to customize your personal dashboard to reflect your University personality.

That day is coming in the form of the new University portal system, and it promises to revolutionize the way in which faculty, staff and students interact online.

"When we first started talking about the portal it came out of the recruitment and retention project," says Provost and Vice-President (Academic) Dr. Andy Hakin. "It was about giving students one electronic gateway to the University, allowing them to be able to map out their whole environment in terms of courses, personal timetables, Moodle, e-mail, all of the pieces that should really assist them in navigating through the curriculum and the university experience in one place."

Designed as an aggregator of information, the portal will not replace the systems the University currently has on the web, rather it will bring them together so that they can be accessed in one space with a single sign-on.

"We already have in place a lot of the elements that will be a part of the portal system but they are all distributed in various places and many of them require separate sign-on," says Hakin. "The idea is that with single sign-on, you have access to all these elements that affect your daily interaction with the University."

What began as a tool to liberate the student web environment and similarly enhance student engagement with the University has since grown in scope.

"It has turned into a piece whereby many of the other campus units saw utility in it for themselves," says Hakin. "Everyone who has seen it can see parts of what they want to accomplish with the tool."

Jamie Chinn, a senior business systems analyst and one of the project team leaders, says the focus of the first stage of implementation of the portal is on core needs.

"Right now, the pressing need is to integrate a number of items that are of interest to students and which also would be generally of use to faculty and staff," says Chinn.

"These are what we would call everyday items like access to The Bridge, Banner (the U of L's financial, student, alumni and employee management system) the Library, Moodle (an online courseware program), e-mail, and other services people now make use of, such as frequently-used web links and tabs, a notice board-style page, and our news and information services."

In recent weeks, focus groups consisting of faculty, staff and students have helped shape what content will be going into the portal upon initial launch of the product and then as subsequent updates to the system are integrated.

At the end of the day, the portal can be whatever the University community makes of it, and has the potential to make the web experience much more personal and engaging.

"What I really like about this project is that it was designed with the student element as the focus and it has become clear that it can be utilized in many other ways," says Hakin.

As the portal project moves into the next stages of development, including testing and soft implementation, the University community will be continually updated on its progress through UWeekly, the Notice Board and the Legend.

This story first appeared in the February 2013 edition of the Legend. To see the full issue in a flipbook format, follow this link.