When students arrived on campus this September, they witnessed a variety of changes in the Alden Street scenery.
The majority of the renovations and landscaping were of course directly related to the June 1 tornado. But once the Springfield student body went online to check an email or re-learn their schedule, the look of SC’s interactive online programs had changed almost as drastically as Naismith Green.
Gone was Manhattan with its simplistic design and helpful red stars. Soon after, Google was the new home for email, a change that might erase the painful memory of last spring’s server debacle.
The centerpiece of the reform is PrideNET, the school’s revamped version of Campus Web, which acts as the headquarters for a student’s online information.
Obviously, these changes were the result of months and years of research and development and not the aftermath of a funnel of debris and chaos.
“All of these things have been going on for one to two years in the making,” said Trish Dalessio, Director of Technology Solutions Center.
So far, the school’s new email account, powered by Google, has been well received. Dalessio, who served as the project manager, and her team spent time asking students and faculty for their opinion and consistently heard positive reviews from other institutions who used Gmail. Information and Techonology Services (IT) also discovered that most Springfield undergraduates rarely used their school email account. With that factor in mind, IT implemented Gmail in early September to avoid a mid-year transition.
Moodle and PrideNET, however, have drawn mixed reviews. Many students were disappointed to discover that Manhattan’s most popular feature is no longer available. In the past, a red star next to the class title would notify the student if there was an assignment or test result posted.
This is a critique that Dalessio has heard routinely.
“We have a contract with a third party vendor that supports the Moodle platform and makes modifications based on people requesting them,” Dalessio explained.
In the case of adding notification stars, the third party would need the green light from each of their customers to carry out the adjustment. Ideally, the school would like to purchase the Moodle platform.
“The hope is that we can put this feature in place if we bring Moodle in-house, that’s the bottom line.”
Although there were other candidates for a new online classroom, the most well-known being “Blackboard,” Moodle appeared to be most cost-effective.
From a faculty standpoint, there were some positive reviews.
SC Music Director Chris Haynes has found many improvements in Moodle that allow him to communicate with his students online.
“The interactivity with the web makes it significantly improved,” said Haynes. “In Moodle, you can imbed links and do all kinds of stuff via the Internet that were not possible through Manhattan.”
Through the eyes of a student, senior Nick Edgerton sees promise in the set-up.
“People complain when Facebook updates their template,” said Edgerton, noting that there is always awkwardness in every transition. “People just have to give time to adjust and understand.”
Many of the technological advancements made in the past year can be linked to Chief Information Officer Danny Davis. Under Davis, the school obtained wireless Internet service throughout campus, which has made access to Moodle and Email significantly easier.
According to Dalessio, the building process for PrideNET began several years ago but gained substantial momentum upon Davis’ hire. Since that time, communication has increased tremendously between students and faculty.
With the new PrideNET, there is a theme of consolidation. Campus Web’s responsibility was to show a student’s schedule, class options and credit count. PrideNET does that, while incorporating e-mail, Moodle and the Campus Life section.
Still, the setup is unfamiliar and confusing without guidance. Although some students felt blindsided by the moves made throughout the summer, IT sent out emails explaining the changes and opened up pages on the school website with tutorials of Moodle and PrideNET.
“Everybody recognizes that there is a well above average amount of change going on,” Dalessio said. “We’re trying to juggle a lot, but our goal is to make [Springfield] a better place from a computing standpoint.”
As always, all questions and comments can be directed to IT through TSCrequest@spfldcol.edu and extension 413-748-4872.
Ryan Matlack may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org