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U Chicago Streamlines Student and Faculty Interaction

In an effort to simplify meeting scheduling between faculty and students, the University of Chicago has licensed Starfish Connect to provide self-service scheduling. Accessible with a single log-in to an institution's course management system, Starfish Connect lets the student access a personal Rolodex of instructors, advisors, and counselors in order to schedule time with those individuals. The service also helps students learn about campus services by providing information about the support services available and sharing endorsements from other students who have benefited from the services. In addition, the system generates performance data, including resource utilization.

For the last three years, the 15,000-student university has provided a locally developed scheduling system that enabled students to secure dedicated appointment times with their instructors. With time the community desired more advanced functionality from the proprietary software, including the ability to synchronize appointments with their electronic personal calendars.

"Our students and faculty rely heavily on the Blackboard course management system. By offering Starfish Connect as a link from the course environment, we hope to simplify the task of scheduling office hour appointments with faculty," said Ken Sadowski, director of instructional technology and design. "We know from our experience with our proprietary system that faculty want to avoid the dreaded sign-up sheet on their office doors. And students want the flexibility and convenience of Web-based self-service."

With the Starfish service, faculty and others submit their available hours at the beginning of the term and are notified via e-mail of appointments and activities. Connect integrates with Blackboard, WebCT, Moodle, Sakai, and Angel Learning, among others. Other clients for Connect include Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA and Gallaudet University in Washington, DC.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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