Mobile app developed for Portal – first for U of L


The U of L will soon be launching itself into the mobile age thanks to a mobile application version of the Student Portal coming later this summer. Students will soon be able to download the app from the iTunes App Store and Google Play for iOS and androids respectively. Jamie Chinn, IT Services Applications Development Manager, says an email went out to all summer students the week of June 23 to make them aware and to solicit feedback for future versions.Mobile App

“We are very aware of how much students use their mobile devices, and we thought providing a mobile app version of the Student Portal would be a good place to start. While the portal performs quite well on a mobile phone browser, this app will make it even easier to navigate from feature to feature on a smaller device like a smartphone,” says Chinn.

The team is busy polishing the prototype with the University’s brand, colors and images, and testing the app for functionality. Following that will be getting it into the App stores. “It takes about a week to get an app approved by Google Play and three weeks to get approval from Apple.”

Chinn says the first version of the app will include much of the same functionality in the portal, and as new features are added to the latter, they will likely be added into the app as well. Mobile app-specific features such as push notifications when final grades are entered are being investigated for a future release.

Students can provide feedback on the App by visiting the Portal site: https://portal.uleth.ca/ , and either submitting a vote in the features poll, or by clicking on the blue Feedback tab on the right side of the page to submit ideas not found in the poll. With each suggestion or vote, students’ names are entered into a weekly draw for a $100 gift card until the end of August.

The Development team expects to have the app available mid-to-late August, which will coincide with the full launch of the student portal.

For more information, contact the Solutions Centre at (403) 329-2490 or help@uleth.ca.

Student Portal off to good start

The launch of the University’s Student Portal project this week was the culmination of months of intensive work by IT Services, the Registrar’s Office and a variety of stakeholders across the campus.

Jamie Chinn, IT Services’ Application Development Manager, says feedback from students so far has been overwhelmingly positive. “We’re thrilled. Not only do they like what they see, but they’ve provided us with great ideas for new features, and how they’d like to see the content and features laid out.” To encourage continued feedback, the portal team is running a 10-week contest for which every submission is entered into a weekly draw for a $100 gift card.PortalScreenshot

The portal currently integrates Moodle, The Bridge, Library and Bridge Bucks systems. Students can find their grades, account balances and course information, along with critical information such as important deadlines, crisis communication and other announcements.

Chinn says the work will continue over the summer to enhance and adjust the portal’s features, and monitor its performance. Next steps include integrating Google email and calendaring, as well as providing information and helpful links for new applicants to the University. The versatile system is configured to display only information that is specific to the user. “For example, only new applicants will see the information that is relevant to them,” says Chinn.

“The portal is available to all students now but we’ll be pushing out our communications to students more broadly in the fall. That version will incorporate as many suggestions and improvements as possible over the summer.”

The portal can be accessed at http://www.portal.uleth.ca

For more information and to keep apprised of the portal’s continued development, visit http://sites.ulethbridge.ca/portal-update/

More details on the GoogleApps for Education roll-out can be found in our March blog: http://sites.ulethbridge.ca/it-services/2014/03/27/student-email-moving-into-the-21st-century/

IT Projects – how does the University decide?

Cartoon people holding jigsaw pieces https://www.google.ca/search?hl=en&site=imghp&tbm=isch&source=hp&biw=1251&bih=687&q=project+managment&oq=project+managment&gs_l=img.3..0i10l10.3444.10120.0.14050. the University’s three-year-long Enterprise Recruitment and Retention Program, which includes the Student Portal project, the Business Intelligence project, and Strategic Roadmap project, to the three-month-long Canada Wide Science Fair wireless project, Information Technology Services is constantly juggling the number, length, complexity, importance and costs of IT-related projects for the U of L.

In order to determine which projects provide the best value to the University, an IT Projects Committee has been struck to tackle these large and critical decisions. “This is huge – it’s a very big step for IT,” says Chris Roberts, Manager for IT Services’ Project Management Office. “Prior to this, we had to use a ‘best effort’ approach to deciding which projects we had the capacity for, but this is obviously not ideal.”

Purchasing AtTask, a project portfolio management tool, provided a concrete solution to corralling and tracking all IT project requests into one central location. The next logical step was to form a committee to evaluate and prioritize all requests coming to ITS. “Leveraging this tool will help us report and sustain all projects by balancing resources with demand,” Roberts adds.

The IT Projects Committee, which will meet monthly, comprises representatives from across campus: Chris Horbachewski (VP Advancement), Chris Nicol (University Librarian), Charles Jorgenson (Acting Registrar), David Hinger (Director, Teaching Centre), Ken McInnes (Executive Director, HR), Carrie Takeyasu (Executive Director, Financial Services), TJ Hanson (Executive Director, Facilities), Jim Booth (Executive Director, Ancillary Services), along with IT Services reps: Mark Humphries (CIO), Darren Schell (Manager, Transformation), and Chris Roberts.

Roberts says the Committee is hoping to start its intake process later this spring, but further communication and details will follow.



UX – a better Web experience

UX Atrium picDeveloping traditional websites involves multiple stages from design to development. Often this process leads to an end product that is built more for a technical audience than for its end users. Recognizing the gap in the traditional process, the web team at the University of Lethbridge has adopted user experience methods to move from a functional build, to making them a more pleasant experience.

UX, an acronym for User Experience, is a practice that uses research to understand user needs, and to align those needs to current products and services. “It has more to do with an improved online experience for students, faculty and staff,” says Michael Warf, Web Manager.

The Web team recently employed UX to determine how students, faculty and staff use the Notice Board. “We know that people are having trouble finding things because, to the eye, it’s a very busy site with competing information and visuals. It’s been a dumping ground of unorganized information. In order to understand how people use it, we set up monitors in the U Hall Atrium and invited passers-by to search for specific things on the Notice Board. This provided us with a fairly clear realization around how they went about using that site. This information will help us build something that will align to both the information the University needs to share, and the ability for users to find what they’re looking for quickly and easily,” Warf says.

UX continues to be used to assist in the design of the University’s student portal. With the ultimate goal of satisfying the needs of both the University and the students, the questions are many and complex. “For example, we know that more students have smart phones than laptops, and that they access their calendars on their phones. Yet, what they can see on their phones was built for desktop and laptop computers. That poses a problem with providing them information in a format they can use.

“Continuing to collaborate with end users in the early design stages of a website helps us to better define the required features and functions that provide a balance between the needs of the University and providing a website that is enjoyable and easy to use.”

Watch for future UX events on campus so you can get involved and help us make your user experience better!


Advizor implementation in Advancement

As part of the Ellucian Portal/BI project, a data visualization tool called Advizor was implemented in Advancement in December to query constituent data in ways not previously possible.  It has been extremely well received, and allows fundraising staff to answer a multitude of questions pertaining to their data visually and in real-time without assistance from technical experts.  A subsequent extension to this platform is now underway to leverage its predictive analytics capabilities, allowing the department to leverage its historical data to make predictions about future events.

Portal & BI Initiative Update

The Luminis Portal work is proceeding as scheduled, with a minor delay in setting up a test environment due to Hurricane Sandy preventing Ellucian consultants from conducting their sessions.  The Advizor analytics installation and training is also proceeding as scheduled in Advancement, and early feedback is quite positive in terms of allowing staff to visualize their data in ways not previously possible.  The Operational Data Store and Enterprise Data Warehouse (ODS/EDW) planning details are still being worked through, but the project team is targeting January 2013 to begin this phase of the project once Ellucian resources are confirmed.