UBC is developing a personalized Web portal that makes access to the university's information resources easier for students.
"myUBC" (http://my.ubc.ca), isn't a typical Web site but is more akin to a large-screen TV that users sub-divide into multiple channels according to their own preferences.
"It is a way of integrating Web-based information that relates to the user," says Dave Frazer, associate director of ITServices and one of the portal's developers.
The portal, to be launched this month, offers mostly UBC-related information: notices that tell students which of their UBC library books are coming due; library news about online information sources; registration information including academic records, course information and schedules; and Web access to a student's e-mail account. There are also some non-UBC channels available such as the ABC News channel and the ESPN sports channel. Frazer also expects to have additional channels offering information on student activities and clubs on the site shortly.
"It's part of making life easier for students by not asking them to go to a variety of sources for information that is pertinent to university life," says Frazer.
The idea of the portal originated last year with the Faculty of Applied Science's Technology in Teaching Group as a way to ease the information burden on students, says Asst. Prof. Mary Wells, the group's 1999-2000 chair.
"One of the things we were looking at was a minimum Web presence for each course in Applied Science," says Wells, who teaches in the Metals and Materials Engineering Dept. "So then we started to think about it from a student's point of view and all the information that they need."
The portal is currently a pilot project for first-year undergraduates and fourth-year Civil Engineering students. Developers will get feedback on the changes and improvements needed before an expected large-scale rollout to the rest of the university's student population occurs later this fall.
Based on the student portal experience, it is anticipated that customized Web portals for faculty and staff will also be developed.
The initiative is a collaboration of the Faculty of Applied Science, ITServices, Student Services and UBC Library. Startup capital for the project came from a $125,000 ubc Teaching and Learning Enhancement Fund.
While students may find it convenient to use the portal as their Internet homepage, Frazer says it will be interesting to see how users find new, as yet unexplored ways to use the portal.
UBC is a leader in the collaborative development of the portal framework, called uPortal, with universities such as Cornell, Delaware, Georgetown, Princeton, and Yale. uPortal is a shareable Web portal architecture for higher education institutions developed using Java technologies.