Changes to the MySite web portal, effecting both the Saddleback and Irvine Valley Colleges, will be going into beta testing this semester as part of a larger effort focusing on student success.
Jim Gaston, who warned of his long title, is the associate director of information technology, academic systems and special projects for the South Orange County Community College District.
He is calling this project the MySite refresh, and stressed the importance of student involvement.
“We’re constantly looking for student feedback, so there’s a feedback link on the MySite homepage, and we read every single thing that comes through,” Gaston said.
Gaston receives feedback numbering in the hundreds from students every year, but not all of it has been related to helping improvement.
Among the mismatched messages, students have complained about getting bad grades in classes, and one student even posted a love poem to his girl friend.
Another way Gaston is including students comes in the form of a design team.
Members of this year’s design team are Laura Niculescu, Breeanna Matsumoto and Tommy Argo from IVC and Shaunna Huynh from Saddleback.
“They’ve made it very clear that it’s student oriented, so they take what we think seriously,” said Niculescu, 20, psychology. “We have implemented a to do list to help students keep track of what they need to do, when they need to do it and give them the ability to check it off.”
The calendar feature will also be getting a makeover.
“We’ve made changes for the calendar, to make it a little bit more interactive and easy to use,” Niculescu said.
The announcements section will be updated as well. It will be sorted into channels users can choose to subscribe to, such as arts, sports, Transfer Center, ASG and more.
However, these changes won’t permanently go into effect straightaway.
“When we go live, we’re going to be in preview mode, so there won’t be any changes the student doesn’t opt-in to be able to see,” Gaston said.
There will be a bar at the top of MySite, asking users if they want to view the new version. Students will then be able to send feedback. However, Gaston isn’t looking for love poems, but rather helpful messages from students concerning the changes.
“For the most part, MySite is going to work exactly the same, registration is exactly the same, viewing your grades, your transcripts, all that’s the same,” Gaston said. “What has changed is the type of information and the flexibility of what we provide you on the homepage.”
The optional preview mode is scheduled to be available by the end of September, provided everything continues to go well. Otherwise, it may be delayed into October.
This is all a single step in a larger project called Sherpa, guided by a design team containing faculty, students and staff from both campuses.
Acknowledging that different students have specific needs, adapting to those needs is the goal of Sherpa, tailoring information so users will see what’s most important to them.
Speaking of the motivation pushing the changes forward, and again asking for student involvement, Gaston said, “The whole reason we’re doing this is to help our students succeed. So if there’s any ideas people have, just use the feedback link in MySite and let us know what those are, we really pay attention to that.”