MY Portal offers students, faculty and staff efficiency with greener administration of university processes

By Leslie A. Banks

por·tal [pôr ’tl]

1.  A large or elaborate gate or entrance.

2.  A magical doorway that connects two distant locations separated by time or space.

3.  A Web site that functions as an entry point to various sites and features on the World Wide Web.

A portal can be many things, but come May 15, Madonna University’s MY Portal will be a tool students, faculty and staff can’t do without.

The primary function of the initial launch is to replace the role of Campus Web. Over time, the MY Portal will continue to expand functionality as new features roll out every quarter. Additional developments are in the works for admissions and prospective students, staff and administration, and alumni services, according to John Fosselman, Chief Information Technology Officer.

Ultimately, MY Portal will provide single sign-on access for applications and processes including Blackboard, student e-mail, class registration, and student account information. Other sections, or “portlets,” include various department-specific calendars, announcements, chat, and the customizable My Pages elements.

Services for people who have the most to gain from the initial launch of MY Portal are students, faculty and advisors. Much of the information advisors need to work with students was previously scattered throughout various systems; MY Portal provides direct access to student records and information in one location, making advising more efficient for advisors and students.

There will be a general demonstration of MY Portal at the May faculty meeting. Advisors will receive an in-depth system training from Lorenzo Gutierrez-Jarquin, the Director of Academic Advising, on how to fully utilize MY Portal for advising purposes.

Feedback from those who have seen demonstrations of MY Portal or performed pre-release testing are very positive, said Fosselman. If they can navigate a regular Web page, they can get around in MY Portal with ease.

MY Portal will help unify all processing for students, faculty and staff while also taking a step toward a greener environment. Going forward, there will be fewer printed schedules and less paper administration each year.

Within MY Portal, My Pages helps to keep track of the whirlwind of information that’s constantly spinning through students’ lives. It’s a section of MY Portal that remains completely private for each user to customize to his or her needs. Add as few or as many portlets to stay organized and on top of what’s going on in life, in and outside of classes. There is no way for anyone to see or edit individual My Pages or the portlets within, so users are free to include information like doctor appointments or personal reminders.

Just a few of the My Pages portlets include a calendar that allows users to subscribe to Madonna University events while also adding entries to keep track of personal dates, due dates, a work schedule and reminders; a free-form portlet that can be used like a note pad for anything from assignment requirements to a to-do list for each class; and a portlet for bookmarking URLs for quick access to Web sites students frequently use, possibly for career-specific associations and groups or for researching a paper.

Special thanks go out to the many students who participated in pre-release testing of MY Portal. Among those students are LaJuan Larkin, a Management Information Systems major, Jennifer Binkerd, a Biology major, and John Lovelady, a Business Administration major.

“It’s nice to do everything in one spot,” said Larkin. From a students’ perspective, Larkin, Binkerd and Lovelady all agree MY Portal is user-friendly and has great potential to become an essential tool for students to utilize.

Binkerd expressed her concern for those who may not be as adaptable to change as others, but in addition to the “Help” features on every MY Portal page, there will also be assistance available through the Technology Learning Services Department’s Help Desk to ensure everyone is comfortable with the new MY Portal environment.

Fosselman grants special thanks to the Web Services team, and Sheryl Herron in particular, for all of the hard work and efforts put forth to get MY Portal up and running in less than six months.

MY Portal’s development has been a collaboration of Madonna University’s Information Technology team. The Web Services Department is primarily responsible for MY Portal’s implementation, supported by the Information Systems Department that provides access to data as well as some portal functionality. The Network Services Department supports the functioning of the network MY Portal functions on and will work on executing single sign-on access while the Technology Learning Services Department’s Help Desk is responsible for user documentation and training.

Though supported by all four areas of IT, MY Portal development is not an IT project, rather a progressive venture for the university as a whole. Fosselman notes development of MY Portal has and will continue to include staff, faculty and students across the university. MY Portal is dependent upon users to help define the requirements and functionality the system will grow to include; it’s an evolutionary product. The idea is to have key information and services that people need at their finger tips.

“It has some functions that we haven’t even touched yet. So we’re hoping over time, we’ll be adding more and more to it and it will just get better and better,” said Fosselman. “With the help of feedback from our users, it will continue to be our one-stop-shop for information and resources.”