UAS Online - It's not just a pretty face.
"UAS Online is one of the best systems I've seen by comparison to the colleges I've been to in the past..."
The diverse needs of faculty, students, and staff can not be met by a "one size fits all" approach. UAS Online now offers the tools for anyone to tailor their online work space to their specific work requirements while facilitating collaboration and innovation.
WHY THE CHANGE?
When it was announced that MyUA would be discontinued in the fall, UAS wanted an alternative to the convenience that users had found in organizing their MyUA portal. UAS Online was the logical choice because it was already a mature and tested system used by almost all faculty and students on a daily basis. In the past staff found little need to use it, but now it could become the common ground for all members of the UAS family. Many of the concepts and content that had been developed for MyUA could be transitioned into UAS Online.
HOW WAS IT DONE?
After a strategy was outlined in the spring, developing and testing took place all summer. Members of the Web Dev group gave feedback to many of the early versions as did the TLTR. As the fall approached 3 different surveys solicited any and all opinions. This feedback drove much of the improvements to the system. Each step of the process opened new ideas and each new idea brought a new set of challenges.
First it was channels on just one page. Then it was tabs with as many pages of channels as desired. Then it was 'subpages' that could keep track of major application locations like a course sites or webmail. The breakthrough concept of 'sharing' content' let the users themselves create channels and even entire tabs of layout and share them with others. After a demonstration to department staff, the idea of shared bookmark folders evolved. And on it went through July and August, each new idea exponentially increasing the matrix of possibilities.
WHEN WAS IS ROLLED OUT?
By convocation the major pieces were together, but work was still going on hourly to optimize the system and clean up the code. It was presented at Convocation in the session, 'Essential Technologies at UAS'. Eight presentations were made to new students at Orientation and videos were made and then optimized to show how to use the new features.
WHAT IS IT NOW?
Although there was no change to the Courses and Portfolio interfaces, the new layout allows for each user to create their own custom online work space. New features included:
- Organize content with tabs and channels
- The “Course Homesites” channel now lists classes taken anywhere in the UA system, along with links to the respective course web sites.
- Drag-and-drop customization of pages, tabs, channels
- Create and share custom content channels - (URLs, RSS feeds, and HTML)
- UAS email and calendar system
- Contacts channel that provides links to advisors, advisees, instructors, students, etc.
- Bookmarks channel which will allow individuals and departments to create and share links.
- Bulletins (targeted announcements feature) from UAS which can be read and deleted on an individual basis.
- Styles - choose from multiple predesigned styles or create one for yourself.
- Resize the navigation bars to show maximum content interface.
- Set subpage links to have courses favorite links preloaded on sign in.
- Faster page retrieval after initial login and cache.
Under the hood, the architecture itself was redesigned to be more flexible and extensible for future development. Its processes were broken into components that will more easily deliver information in more combinations and with different devices.
DO USERS LIKE IT?
The last survey brought even more great ideas for future development and some of the best comments to date. Here are a few quotes from the latest survey.
"UAS Online is one of the best systems I've seen by comparison to the colleges I've been to in the past, including UAA. I like the system. As mentioned earlier, it would be awesome to combine the different webs into on login, which would simplify things for the student."
"I love the inclusion of UAS email, the calendar and easy access to previously taught course content (tabs - LOVE 'EM)!! Great job. It look and feels great. Easy to navigate. Professional."
"This is my first time using the updated site. It looks much better and more updated than the version I used for my June summer class."
"The tabs are good. It makes it easy to look at my classes, but the most helpful addition to UAS online would be asking the professors to utilize it more."
WHERE TO NOW?
We are increasing the speed of the system with a combination of hardware configurations and coding architecture.
We invite users to explore these new tools and help IT discover even better ways to meet common needs of faculty, students, and staff. To subscribe to the ongoing development of UAS Online subscribe to the TLTR at http://uas.alaska.edu/pub/tltr_subscribe . To make a suggestion or report a problem go to: http://uas.alaska.edu/pub/tltr_suggest .
Here are a few new development suggestions we received:
- A Google-type search engine for online course Websites
- Assignments for all classes show in one channel.
- A smartphone web browser version
- RSS channel aggregator for multiple feeds