Launch of 1600grand promises central info portal

By Emma Gallegos

This Monday will mark a major transition in the way that students, faculty and staff access information, when Macalester launches its new web portal 1600grand.

The launch comes exactly two weeks before both students and faculty will have to log on to 1600grand for the first time to register for Fall 2007 classes.

With the benefit of only having to log on to one page, Director of Web Services Sara Suelflow said the new portal will allow users to access information dispersed among several different web pages, including Lester, CLICnet and the Student and Faculty Information Systems (SIS and FIS, respectively).

Suelflow said that this is why the 1600grand team she has led uses the tagline “many resources, one address” to describe the portal.
The project team, which consists of staff members from College Relations, ITS, the library, the Registrar’s Office, Student Affairs and Advancement, has been meeting weekly during Operation ELM (Effectively Link Macalester), shaping the portal to meet the college’s needs. They have also met in focus groups with students.

In the last few weeks, the Registrar’s Office and ITS have teamed up to offer tutorials to faculty, staff and students to test and learn more about1600grand.

Users who access the product of these testing and focus groups this Monday will enter a page with a series of tabs that team members said cater to the user’s needs.

Students, for instance, will see five headings when they log on: “Home,” “Academics,” “Library,” “Student Life,” “Mac and Beyond” and a customizable “My Tab.”
All users will be able to search the campus directory, read the Bulletin, browse the library catalog or check on the status of a paycheck, and students can check on their financial aid status or find out which Residential Assistants (RAs) are currently on duty.
During the summer, Suelflow said, information from Student Accounts will be added to the portal, so that students can check on the status of their tuition payments.

She stressed that the 1600grand portal will change and improve as the team receives feedback. The team is even considering adding another tab to the portal that would specifically allow users to give feedback.

“It’s not in its final form and it never will be,” Suelflow said.

The upcoming April 2 launch should give the team time to work out some of the inevitable last-minute bugs and implement suggestions before registration begins, according to Suelflow.

But the team is already considering plans to add other tabs that would allow users to check their e-mail or Moodle accounts without having to sign-on to separate pages. In the future, the team may also extend the portal to admitted students, so that they can see which classes they are registered for, read campus news and acclimate to the system as early as June and July.

For now, Suelflow said that next semester’s registration will be a good opportunity for faculty and students to view what she calls the “public face” of Operation ELM, a project that began a few years ago to update the college’s information system.
“It’s a huge project to change something like this,” Suelflow said. “It represents a significant investment in time and money on the part of the college.”

During the ELM project, the college began to phase out its nineteen-year-old information system: Campus Administrative Resource Planning and Student Instructions (CARS). CARS organized the data for grades, the master course schedule, student course schedules, student and college financial information, Human Resources data and even alumni contact information.

However, because it was a remnant of an era before ubiquitous internet access, CARS provided no online portal to all the information it contained. The new system named Banner that will replace CARS just happened to come with a portal.

It for this reason and not any intentional effort, Suelflow said, that the college will have an online portal. However, she said that the 1600grand team has taken advantage of this opportunity – attending conferences and meeting with other schools – to create a program that will simplify what it takes to access information on campus. New Portal allows campus users to keep tabs on financial accounts, check campus news and registration all on one web page