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REF NO.: 140

SUBJECT: Memorial University launches a Web portal for students

DATE: April 14

Life has just gotten easier for students attending Memorial University. On April 1, Computing and Communications released Memorial's Web portal. This strong and powerful piece of software, two years in the making, promises to alter the way information is sent and received at Memorial.

"The new portal technology adds customization to Memorial's current Web presence," said Andrew Draskoy, portal project leader. "Customization allows each user to define a unique and personal view of university Web services."

For example, upon login a medical student with interests involving music and art would receive an entirely different range of information from a Memorial staff member who is interested in daily news and events happening at The Works.

"Each user can personalize their portal layout by subscribing to the information they want to receive," said Paul Whittle, Memorial's Web manager.

"It is designed to reduce clutter on the Web and the difficulties of finding and having to keep track of all of the information yourself," said Mr. Draskoy. "The user is identified upon login and information is tailored to them. Confidential information can be handled at their discretion, unnecessary information can be filtered out for them, and business processes requiring lineups and identification can be streamlined."

In its current phase, Memorial's Web portal caters primarily to the university's current student base, offering services such as news from Gazette, weather, classifieds, bookmarks, and national news, to name just a few services. As the project progresses it will provide services that change according to the user's relationship to Memorial. Future services will include directory services, events calendar, graduate student elections, and so on. "It will go beyond faculty, staff, and students," said Mr. Draskoy. "It can extend to any constituency we wish to serve, including prospective students, alumni, and anyone else we wish to interact with."

"Our goal is to provide the infrastructure necessary to enable any university unit to offer customized services via the Web," he said. "Essentially, this results in better service with less time, effort and complexity involved."

"This is still in its infancy," Mr. Whittle pointed out. "It is really the first release of a technology that has far reaching implications for the Web at Memorial."

The School of Continuing Education has already seen the portal's value. Students living on-campus will now receive notice via the portal detailing when and where to pick up their course materials, saving the university the unnecessary postage on local mail-outs.

The software behind the service is called uPortal, under development by a consortium composed mostly of institutions of higher-education, including Memorial, said Mr. Draskoy. "We are co-developers along with universities such as Yale, Delaware, Cornel, Columbia, and University of British Columbia."

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