WEB EXCLUSIVE: Technology and the CEO >> Part 6: The Role of Portals in Higher Education
EDITOR'S NOTE: President to President: Views of Technology in Higher Education (2005), published
by SunGard SCT (www.sungardsct.com), is the source for the following Web exclusive article.
you click on the links to read the letters from pretend portal personas, or just
read the fictional President Jones' summaries and reflections, we think you'll
enjoy this article on portal decision making at the highest level.
By Dr. Jake B. Schrum
President Southwestern University
In August of 2004, a mythical university president, Archibald Jones, became
intrigued with the concept of a campus portal. Knowing that portals are personalized
views of information, he decided to garner input from Superior University's
various constituencies including alumni, different types of students, faculty,
and staff. The chief information officer was aware of the president's interest
in portals and his desire for input. Consequently President Jones also received
a letter from the ITS department. President Jones has graciously (and magically)
shared his letters with us. His thoughts and reflections on the letters are
presented for your consideration. [Click on the links to read the text of the
a Current Student, Phil Fields, Class of 2006
Phil's letter is telling. He expects that services will be available via the
Web. Interestingly he wants to preserve the human interaction that is characteristic
of our traditional processes. I wonder if there is a way to have the best of
both worlds. We have always had a strong sense of community at Superior University
and we would hate to lose that. His idea about sports information is a good
one. I get many requests from our alumni and parents for more sports information.
The portal certainly would be a good place to present the information, but from
where will it come? Somebody has to take those pictures and get them loaded
into the portal.
from a Faculty Member, Elise Cosgrove, Ph.D.
An unusually brief letter from Dr. Cosgrove! It appears that community is also
important to her. She speaks also of core values. She is saying, I think, that
our core values should be promoted through the portal. It definitely is a challenge
to keep the core values "in front" of people. Perhaps the portal could
be used to remind people of our values. It absolutely must be constructed with
our core values in mind. I wonder how much institutional information she expects
from an Alumnus, Bob Connelly
What a nice letter from my classmate Bob. He is non-technical! He couldn't
work a typewriter back in the day! It's understandable that he wants the portal
to be simple to navigate. It's good to remember that the portal can be different
things to different people. That's one of its advantages. Bob d'es have something
in common with today's students, however. He wants video. I can't imagine watching
an entire basketball game or play on the computer, but video "highlights"
make sense. Those clips might help us recruit students as well.
from a Prospective Student, Amber Waves
Amber has some outstanding ideas. I particularly like the concept of presenting
information that is relevant to her interests. Her comment about the view book
is a bit disconcerting given the amount of money that we spend to produce them.
Perhaps some of that money should be directed to our Web efforts. The inability
to find information on the Web site is a concern even though it d'esn't seem
directly relevant to the portal question. We should not be frustrating our prospective
students or anyone else.
from a Staff Member, Hallie Smith
Like Dr. Cosgrove this staff member is asking for more internal information.
Perhaps there are ways that a portal could help us share information. Security
and privacy are major concerns, however. We need to control those people accessing
the portal. Once a person has been granted access to the portal, his/her access
must be further managed to ensure that internal information is appropriately
from a Deposited Student, Juan Rodriguez
Juan is excited and rightfully so. He appears to be the kind of student we
seek: energetic, inquisitive, and creative. Chatting via the computer is something
I've never done and may never do, but it is amazingly popular with our students.
Connecting the incoming students with each other is another good idea. It is
a way to build community before the students arrive.
If incoming students were issued their e-mail addresses early in the summer,
university staff and faculty could easily reach students over the summer months.
And we would avoid the hassles and expense of mailing information. More good
ideas for consideration!
from Information Technology Services, Katherine Mooney
It appears that I've got the attention of the IT folks. Katherine is a levelheaded
CIO with a good track record. She is likely aware of some technical and operational
challenges. These few letters show that people want more and more information
accessible through the Web. Someone has to generate that information and someone
has to maintain it. I hate it when I visit a site and they are presenting last
year's information. I had better schedule a meeting with Katherine
1) The art and science of organizing and labeling information in Web sites,
intranets, online communities, and software to support usability and findability
2) Knowing who the user is
3) Determining the access rights of a user
President Jones received useful feedback from his constituents. He learned that
· Exciting to the community
· Expected by students
· Problematic if it creates more work than value
· Supportive of community building
· Universally seen as a source of information
· Complex to create and maintain
Additionally he surmised that:
· Significant IT challenges are involved
· Web content must be generated and maintained
· The portal d'es not replace the institutional Web site
· Privacy and security are major issues
· The cost of a portal is substantial and ongoing
President Jones has a tough decision to make. He must decide if a portal will
enhance university life or detract from it. He must determine costs and weigh
them against the expected benefits. These decisions are the inescapable challenges
of the presidency. This president is fortunate to have talented people in the
affected departments on campus. These people combined with the input received
from the university constituents can provide valuable guidance. The next step
is to bring them together.
[Author's note: I, too, have been fortunate to have the assistance of Southwestern
University's chief information technology officer, Robert C. Paver, as this
chapter has developed from conceptualization to completion.]
Jake B. Schrum has served as a college and university administrator for
more than 27 years and is widely recognized as an author and speaker in the
field of educational advancement. He is the 14th president of Southwestern,
the oldest university in the state of Texas. SunGard SCT (www.sungardsct.com)
is publisher of President to President: Views of Technology in Higher Education
(2005), from which this article is excerpted, and is corporate sponsor of the
New Presidents program. Marylousie Fennell is co-editor of the New Presidents
program and senior counsel to the Council of Independent Colleges (www.cic.edu).
Scott D. Miller, also co-editor, is president of Wesley College (DE), and chair
of the program.