SU creating online portal to integrate student apps

| Contributing Reporter

To improve access to technological resources, Student Union plans to create a centralized online student portal that will integrate WebSTAC, Telesis, The Link, Blackboard, Ares and other online student applications.

Announced this September in a proposal called the “Plan to Renew Student Activism,” this project is a component of the Montana administration’s grander goal to improve the daily experience of students.

“Many other schools have student portals,” said senior Jeff Nelson, SU president. “We believe that a student portal will vastly improve the online experience for students.”

The initiative is aimed at improving students’ access to online resources, such as course syllabi, grades, student account balances, academic social calendars, library databases and University announcements.

Because the technology interfaces for these resources are decentralized, students currently have to navigate through different interfaces and log in during each process.

Members of SU say they recognize this inconvenience and are working to create a more versatile student technology portal. The Montana administration has made solving this problem one of its priorities.

SU, with the endorsement of the Student Technology Advisory Committee (STAC), is forming a steering committee composed of students and administrators. This committee will brainstorm and develop a centralized student portal to integrate the interfaces.

In addition to allowing access to all the current features through one login ID within one interface, the new student portal will include several new features.

For example, SU aims to allow students to sync personal calendars with external Web-based data—such as in The Link—listing events and meetings occurring on campus.

Furthermore, the new student portal will also employ social networking programming interfaces such as Facebook Connect.

Requesting resources will also be made easier and more secure. Using the new student portal, students will be able to request any campus resource, such as event space, equipment, streaming lectures, notes and enrichment exercises.

This initiative is not the first move toward a centralized student portal. Last spring, WUSTL Key was launched to eliminate the need for multiple usernames and passwords for each online interface.

Because of the large scope of this project, SU cannot yet predict when the portal will be launched.

“There is no set timeline on the project,” Nelson said. “I hope that we can come up with some concepts this year and work on implementing them next year.”

Some students are open to the future change.

“Each [interface] works fine, but having them all in one place would be very convenient,” freshman Danny Guenther said.

Others doubt the emphasis that SU places on this issue.

“To be honest, I don’t have a huge problem with the current system,” freshman Susan Pasternak said. “I don’t know it should be SU’s top priority.”

To obtain more information or to suggest ideas for the development of the portal, please e-mail Jeff Nelson at [email protected].

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