IWMW10: Building StudentNET portal

Next up Josef Lapka from Canterbury Christ Church University  – talking about building a student portal.

The concept of the CCCU portal was to support the student journey from browser to alumnus – something they would recognise and go back to – to achieve:

  • sense of belonging from early on
  • transparency of data and processes
  • gateway to external online apps like Facebook, online mail services

Advertised concepts with mock-ups of portal to stakeholders – got approval.

Then had to start building it! Turn the concept into reality. Had variety of options for building the system:

  • Sharepoint (too clunky!)
  • In-house development (too difficult/big)
  • DropThings – same architecture that Pageflakes built on…

DropThings – personalised online experience. Each user can have one or multiple pages – currently CCCU restrict students to a single page. Relatively standard organisational structure – you get ‘columns’, ‘zones’ (to hold apps, widgets etc.).

Each zone can contain one or many widget instances. A couple of the areas in the student view are fixed – ‘applications’ and ‘notifications’ – and the rest is made up of widgets that can be moved around or deleted.

Particularly worth mentioning is the WebNote widget – allows you to send messages to students or groups of students – granularity goes down to individuals, but then can do to groups of students, or to everyone. Can also be automated – so can send prompts based on other information – like when it is time for students to choose modules can nudge them to do it.

The portal view is the ‘homepage’ across the University (I’m guessing this means on student computing provision – fine if you control the environment, but this is often not the case now)

Want to do further work – Blackboard integration, Facebook widget, external mail clients, possibly CampusM. Also getting requests from staff and students now – e.g. ‘timetabling widget’. Only takes a few days to develop a widget – Patrick says ‘you just need an API’ (this is where the problem usually arises in my experience – getting the data out of other systems – which brings us back to Chris Gutteridge’s Linked Data?)

Patrick then showed the StudentNET portal – think the fact it is built on the same tech as Pageflakes showed through – very nice looking UI 🙂

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