Students returned to campus this year to find a new, streamlined way to browse the Internet for University news, Webmail and other important sites. The University Information Technology Center introduced a web portal earlier this semester, http://my.rochester.edu, that integrates all the various Web sites and online tools that the University has to offer.
The portal is an extension of Blackboard, a Web site that compiles a student’s academic information onto one organized page. Teachers are encouraged to post grades and homework assignments online, and a student’s Blackboard page provides links to every class with information online.
In addition to Blackboard, the portal links to a student’s e-mail, Campus Card account information and RSS – or news – feeds, of University and world news. It also provides a link to Rush Rhees Library’s Web site, Academic Support and other academic resources.
The key to the integration is the fact that a student only has to enter his or her user ID once. In the past, most of the different Web sites would require separate sign-ons for each page, resulting in slow and unwieldy Internet navigation. The single sign-on system allows students to access their accounts more quickly.
The development for the Web portal began last spring when two Steering Committees provided initial input concerning for what the developers of the portal should strive. One of these advisory groups was comprised of University staff, the other made up of students.
Associate Vice Provost of Academic & Research Technology Eric Fredericksen, who was involved in the development of the web portal, insisted that the students’ input was crucial to the process.
“We wouldn’t have thought about doing this without student participation,” he said.
The final site was also created with input from all the different schools in the College, as well as Rush Rhees staff and faculty from all over the University. The project was led by Manager of Education Technology Lisa Brown.
“This was definitely a very collaborative, University-wide effort,” Fredericksen said.
Students’ Association Vice President and junior Janna Gewirtz was on the student Steering Committee. Gewirtz said that she was enthusiastic about the project from the moment she saw the first demonstration.
“I said, ‘This is going to be great for students,'” she said. “You go to one site, you only have to enter your ID once.”
The developers said that they are open to suggestions for change.
“We expect this to continue to evolve,” Brown said.
Fredericksen said that University IT would continue to look at all the existing pieces of student access and try to determine which pieces could be included in the portal. He noted that students can provide feedback on the page.
“Students can tell us what is useful to them and what is not useful,” Fredericksen said.
Although the site is in its early stages, Gewirtz is happy with how it has turned out.
“I think that it’s a step in the right direction with how we get our information out and how the University gets its information out,” Gewirtz said.
Wrobel is a member of the class of 2010.