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New InsideND aims to improve accessibility

| Thursday, September 8, 2016

Students returned to school this year to discover more had changed than the addition of two resident halls and the introduction of Smashburger in LaFortune Student Center: The insideND portal that was installed in 2004 had been replaced.

John Hartman, who served as project manager for the Office of Information Technologies (OIT)’s Portal Replacement Project, said in an email that the old insideND’s vendor told the department that the product would not be supported after July 1.  

“We had no choice [but to switch], since the old portal was no longer viable from a technology standpoint,” he said.

OIT conducted feedback sessions last fall with over 75 campus representatives from all major departments, faculty, staff and students to design a new portal. Hartman said the “top issues” were that there was no search function, the application wasn’t mobile-friendly, defunct links couldn’t be detected, cost and maintenance requirements were high, and high cost and the entire portal required password access. 

“The old portal required a netID and password to use,” Hartman said. “With the new portal, netID and password are not required until you access a link or function that require authentication.  What this means is that it opens the portal, and thus campus services, out to the community.  Access can now be made by parents, vendors, or others that require use of campus services but do not have a netID.”

Other items OIT sought to address included providing the new portal as a cloud-based application, a responsive design, the ability for campus “publishers” to administer and update content easily, self-organization according to most used services and favorites and adopting a philosophy of “Search, click, done.”

The new insideND portal is powered by OneCampus, and Hartman said it is being operated “exactly as it was delivered, without modification,” but that changes will be made if necessary.

“What is being changed or added to insideND often corresponds to the feedback we receive from users for changes they would like to see,” he said. “For example, besides the favorites grouping, some campus users have asked to be able to build groupings on their own. This will soon be available.”

The OneCampus solution was the result of a “consortium of universities [led and developed by Indiana University] that pooled their requirements and came up with a common solution,” Hartman said.

In the first several weeks after its launch, the platform was met with mixed reviews from students.

“I don’t understand what they’re going for,” junior Sawyer Williams said. “It looks like it’s supposed to look like an iPhone screen, but it’s not user-friendly.”

Junior Aleks Gawronska said she thought the change was good in theory, but could still use some updates.

“I feel like they had a good idea with all the tiles because that is a lot simpler than the system they were using before, but I feel like their execution is subpar,” she said. “I feel like there are three tiles that everyone uses everyday and none of them can be found. Even with the favorites option, I think they could have categorized them [the apps] a little neater.”

Complaints about the application directed to OIT have been few, Hartman said.

“It seems that getting familiar with the new portal is key to tapping into its effectiveness,” he said. ‘This is certainly a paradigm shift in how we access campus services.”

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About Megan Valley

Megan Valley was Assistant Managing Editor for The Observer. She majored in English and the Program of Liberal Studies and hailed from Flushing, Michigan.

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