The University of Dallas website has long been in need of redesign, and the administration and IT departments have taken the initiative to rework the system. Along with a complete overhaul of the public website, UD is setting up an internal network, or “intranet,” to simplify the process of accessing information, software, and files by the UD community.
The company that developed the new intranet system, Ellucian, already provides the current single sign-on system that allows UD members to access such programs as Bannerweb, eRez and Studyaway. This system allows students to log on to different programs with the same username and password through Ellucian, eliminating the need for many accounts and passwords unique to each site.
Blake Palmer, assistant vice president of information systems, said that the process to adopt this system began about 18 months ago. “Around that time frame, we did some interviews with students, faculty and staff and did some focus groups as well,” he said. These showed there were some significant needs to address.
Palmer said the intranet is designed specifically for communications internal to the university as opposed to a public website. “Announcements have different rules depending on the user; they can be tailored for students, like ‘go get your yearbook photo taken,’ or they can go out to everyone,” he said.
Among other functions, the intranet will provide a student dashboard that shows what classes a student is enrolled in, midterm and final grades, and links for easy access to other items. Some of those links include a portal for submitting a Work Order and Google Drive links for calendars and dates, which will automatically update as they change.
The dashboard primarily consists of various small-window “cards” titled for their utility, such as “Campus Map” with a quick access to its namesake; “Mass and Confession Times” for the Church of the Incarnation; and “Campus Directory” that links to the Ellucian database of UD system users.
These cards can be customized and rearranged according to the preference of the user. A calendar that synthesizes all events and activities registered in the system into one unit is also included, allowing students to view everything that’s happening on an hour-by-hour basis across campus.
Clare Venegas, vice president of marketing and communications, said that in her experience, even smaller organizations usually have some kind of internal communication tool. “It’s particularly helpful when you have different constituents that you serve and different departments,” she said.
Regarding the new delineation between public and internal University information, Venegas said, “For people to find information, whether you’re a student, faculty member, staff or administrator, you go rather to the website, which is a publicly facing online presence for the University of Dallas but right now it has internal facing information — things like human resources, employee policies, things that aren’t necessarily something the external site is appropriate for.”
The intranet system has been “soft-launched” for students and faculty, and can be accessed currently by anyone with UD credentials at the My UD portal on the university’s website.
“Part of the soft-launch is to collect suggestions,” Venegas said. “We have a link to a survey document form so we can get feedback and improve the site.” The current plan is to introduce students to the new system in the next academic year, although it is still a work in progress and there is a lot of content left to move onto the new system.
The website will be completely revamped concurrent with the full launch of the intranet system, along with a new UD brand style guide for fonts and visuals across University materials.
“We’re not changing the name, we’re not changing the tagline — In fact we’re probably foregrounding the tagline ‘The Catholic University for Independent Thinkers,’” Venegas said. The university seal will remain unchanged, although there will be an altered version of it created for scaled-down applications.
“We’ll be simplifying the seal a little – keeping the seal but making it so it’s more compatible visually. It loses its detail when it gets scaled down, so the idea is to have a slightly smaller version of the seal that we can use on a smaller scale format and also on the website,” Venegas said.
As an alumnus of UD, Palmer noted that the point of migrating to an intranet system is to better aid students and staff. “This is something that really could have been helpful when I was a student. I think that was part of our motivation for creating something for students, faculty and staff so they’re all on the same page,” he said.
Training and tutorials will also be available for new users. “In the same way that we have the Bannerweb reference guides now, we’ll have the same thing for the intranet,” Palmer said.
UD’s IT department is open to feedback, and Palmer invited any students with technical questions to email firstname.lastname@example.org. “I’m looking forward to people using it,” he said.