To Seth’s way of thinking, portals are a manifestation of all that is wrong in academic administration. They are “a poor excuse of bolting on a silo of political process to a university’s website.”
Not only that, but:
Portals are not designed for the correct target audience (students), rather they are designed to enforce out-dated, non-user-centric workflows that appease [non]decision makers. Furthermore, portals fail to aggregate the student life experience. They do not combine all aspects of student interests (academic, residence life, involvement, advising, athletics), instead they primarily focus on only the academic side.
In addition, portals do not provide branding. Slapping your logo on the top and scheming the colors isn’t branding. Branding is entrenched into user experience. Branding revolves around your students’ experiences and expectations related to your institution. Portals cheapen brands by lowering user experiences and hindering expectations.
Seth goes on to advocate “a more holistic, user-experience-centric approach. ‘Experience Architects’ need to work with students (current and prospective) to determine online content and design. Student input needs to become the dominating impact on our future realignment strategies. … The ‘Experience Architects’ will hold the conversations with students, and both will work collaboratively.”
Ron Bronson tends to agree. Riffing off Seth’s post in an entry of his own titled Portals Aren’t Solutions, he writes: “If more innovation, collaboration and assessment of what students need was being done, we’d be able to go a lot further along in creating useful applications and leverage the talents within our own walls a lot better than we do.”
I can’t say I disagree with either Seth or Ron. But it would be nice, for the sake of debate, to hear a different perspective.
I wonder what Paul Redfern‘s take might be on the topic. Paul presented a good session about merging portals with university websites at the CASE Communications, Marketing and Technology Conference earlier this month. Paul is the director of web communications and electronic media at Gettysburg College, he seems to have found a happy medium. Maybe he’ll join the discussion. Paul?