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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Coming this fall? (Most likely.)

Once again, it’s been far too long since I’ve posted so I want to begin with an excuse. I, for one, rarely believe someone who tells me they’ve been too busy to do something. I’m sure that some people are actually that busy but it’s a relatively small group. I’ve not had a lack of time, I’ve had a lack of thoughts. I think that’s probably what those too-busy folks mean. When they do have free time, their brains need a rest so my excuse is that my brain has been tired.

Now that I’ve dispensed an excuse, I did attend a really interesting meeting this week. For the past few years, UIS has been developing a student portal. This is one of those times that being part of a university system works against you since UIS could have done this much quicker if it would have just been us and not a system wide project. While I’ve heard this before, it seems to be true now – we will see the portal beginning this fall!

So what is a portal? If you don’t know, you might actually use portals already and not realize it. If you are a Yahoo user, for example, you may use the My Yahoo feature which allows you to customize your Yahoo page so that you have access to exactly the sort of content and services you want. The same will be true of the UIS portal – it might even be called MyUIS when it launches.

I’ve seen the demo environment and it looks really great. It is a tabbed environment (think of your tabbed browser window) in which some tabs are locked in place and others will be open to customization. The development team has been creating modules that users may select for their customizable space. Some of these are university specific and some are not – I noticed a module for CNN headlines and for top ESPN stories.

So how will this change your experience as a student?

In a significant way, the portal will act as a front door to UIS. You will log-in to the portal and everything else will be open to you – BlackBoard, the student registration system, financial information, DARS, email, etc. In addition, all of the services will be portal modules so you’ll have them all available to you in one place.

I think you’ll see an end to campus announcements clogging up your UIS email account (I’m not sure how many exclamation points this deserves so I’ll just use one!) We will have an RSS feed for announcements so you’ll get this information in a dedicated portal module. While it hasn’t been done yet, I intend to start a Liberal Studies feed as well so that I can continue to provide program specific data without relying upon email.

We are still waiting for complete details but we are expecting a fee increase next year some of which will go to funding this project. One planned idea for this funding will be to provide access to software. So, just as you might have a portal module with the name MyEmail you might also have a portal module named MySoftware. It would be as if any computer you might use is a part of our campus computer labs. Rather than trying to describe this, since it’s over my head, here’s a video explanation. (I’ve seen a demonstration of this technology and it was a jaw-dropper.)