What’s A Portal?

In working on revamping our university portal, I’ve found this question the most perplexing. Without definition, its left to personal interpretation. Although it may be argued that such is the case with many things, I’ve found this to be the most detrimental when navigation and content are added with different intentions. How much is too much? How little is too little? Here are a few things a portal could be to some, or many:

A Secure Area – Perhaps it is thought that the portal will be a place where all secure (private) content needs to reside. As we all struggle with new privacy issues, the portal becomes more important as a place where information can be behind closed doors: one needs to have a log in to view this information.

A ‘One-Stop Shop’ – The portal could be used as an index of information: short and concise and geared toward an internal audience. Some information may be replicated from the outfacing web site, but it could also be found here where students may be making ‘transactions’ and seeking information, yet dont want to go between two sites.

A Single Sign On – For all university third party applications, the possibility of a single sign on for all would be ideal. By connecting all of the tech ‘back doors’, students/staff would be able conduct all university business seamlessly and without all of those pesky passwords.

An ‘ATM’ – Transactions Only – With this idea resides the fact that students come into the portal for one thing and one thing only: to conduct business. They register for classes, check their financial aid awards, change their address, etc. They get in, get what they need – including announcements – and get out. Any information they seek regarding a department or service they find on the web site.

A Place For Communities – Within most portals is the ability to create, maintain and interact with specified communities. These can range from clubs and organizations to departments, classes or offices. These would allow for targeted communication without the extended use of roles, and allow students to choose to become or remain a member of each.

A University Intranet – At its very basic level, the portal could be used as a place for all university communication. Items may be posted here such as forms, business transacted and communities created. All information is specific to the target audience and kept to a minimum. Live information and updated content would be essential and the portal would take on a larger role that would require students to log in often to find out information.

How many of these matter? Is too much information/redundancy of web content within it an issue to watch out for or does it not matter? Considering how much students use other means of communicating, how large of a role should the portal play in internal communication?

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One thought on “What’s A Portal?

  1. Glad to read this, as it’s long seemed a nebulous area. When it comes to portals, my favorite poem in terms of higher education — John Saxe’s ‘The Blind Men and the Elephant’ — seems to apply. Everyone who wants a portal has a different opinion of what it is. It’s a fan, a tree, a rope … never an elephant.

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