Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
The Student Dashboard which greets so many Swarthmore students when they open their web browsers will be undergoing some significant changes in the near future. A minor redesign of the current page, which will feature better organization, more information, and a more visually pleasing layout should be introduced in the next few days. Then, near the end of this semester, the page will be replaced with a complete rewrite which will be integrated into the mySwarthmore system, Blackboard, and Swatmail.
Kelly Mueller, Web Projects Manager at ITS, is in charge of the team behind Dashboard. According to her, the Dashboard began simply as a default start page for public computers. But before long, the Dashboard became the highest-trafficked page on the Swarthmore website, especially during months when school is in session.
ITS “took notice of its popularity” when it redesigned the college’s website, and opted to expand on the Dashboard to the current version. Now, ITS has decided it is time to improve again, to what they are calling Dashboard 1.3. This is very much an incremental upgrade: there is nothing dramatically different about the new page, it just presents slightly more information in a much more organized way. Later in the semester, however, ITS will introduce a completely revamped Dashboard page.
The design for Dashboard 1.3, which should be replacing the current version later this week. See a larger picture.
New features in Dashboard 1.3 include a more generic “Reminders from the Deans” section, which now has reminders such as “submit your timesheets by noon”; a photo section pulled from the Swarthmore group on flickr.com, which currently shows former Gazette pic-of-the-day “Before Sunrise”; headlines from the ITS blog; the bag lunch menu; and hours for more locations around campus. The “Find People” section is also much more prominent.
Headlines from The Daily Gazette, the college homepage, and athletics are at the top; in the future, there may be headlines from the Phoenix or streams from WSRN as well. Upcoming events from the calendar appear in the middle of the page. The mass of links from the former page has been organized.
Mueller stressed that many of these changes have come directly from feedback. “People actually use the little feedback box,” she said. The bag lunch menus and increased prominence of the “find people” tool were both requested that way. When the SEPTA schedule changed recently, it was someone using the feedback tool who informed them of that. Mueller said she generally gets a few requests a day, some of which are implemented immediately.
Near the end of the semester, this dashboard will be replaced by “Dashboard 2.0,” a completely new page based on a system called Luminus. Luminus is developed by the same company behind the Banner software that powers mySwarthmore, which means that the new dashboard — which ITS is now calling a portal — will be completely integrated with mySwarthmore.
Users will log into the new portal, as opposed to the current Dashboard, which is the same for everyone. This will allow for a good amount of customization. You will be able to choose what news and information appears on your homepage: Mueller gave the example of having both a general athletics feed with news and games, but also, say, a volleyball channel that had news and schedules for just volleyball. You will also be able to supply your own links, so that no matter what computer you’re on Facebook and Gmail will be just a click away.
More interestingly, the team aims to also integrate with both Blackboard, email, and Tripod. Says Mueller, “It would be really nice to log in and have it say, ‘Hey, that book you requested from Haverford is here.’” The portal will also contain a snippet of your email inbox and links to each of your courses. Mueller stressed that although Luminus includes a courses module, “we’re committed to Blackboard,” especially since Bryn Mawr and Haverford share the system.
Luminus also includes groups, which provide relatively standard document-sharing, bulletin board, chat, and calendar features: “all the things you’d expect to be there.” Mueller says that these spaces could be useful in furthering internet-based collaboration among student organizations.
Meanwhile, ITS is looking for more feedback on what people want from Dashboard. In addition to the “feedback” box, there are two planning sessions today, February 12. One is from 1:00 to 2:00 in the Scheuer Room; the other is from 6:30 to 7:30 in Kohlberg 116, with pizza. Mueller is hoping “people come and generate a lot of ideas about what they want to see” in the Dashboard; all student, staff, and faculty are welcome to attend.