Portal of Plenty

June 1, 2004

DukePass, a Web portal aimed at keeping students informed and organized online, was launched in February as a pilot program. Developed collaboratively with undergraduates, DukePass features customizable navigation that provides access to e-mail, university announcements, course websites, drop/add information, academic schedules, and other student-focused services and information. In the future, the portal will provide a campus discussion board, personal "sticky notes," weather information and news feeds from The Chronicle, Duke athletics, The New York Times, and ESPN.

"It addresses a speedy lifestyle, something that makes my life easier," says junior Jonathan Bigelow, president of the University Union and a member of the student-led committee that helped establish the content. "Certainly having all my online resources in one place is incredibly convenient. You have one log-in, and you can go anywhere."

The portal will be limited to undergraduates during the pilot period, but graduate and professional students were involved in its development. If the pilot is a success, a portal for graduate and professional students would be likely. "Communications is definitely one of the challenges facing graduate and professional students," says Rob Saunders, president of the Graduate and Professional Student Council. "We're looking forward to a portal as one way to help get information to students about campus events and issues."

The information, or channels, offered through DukePass will be grouped under topic-oriented sections, known as tabs, to minimize scrolling. The main tab will offer e-mail, news from The Chronicle, weather, announcements, notes, and personal bookmarks. Students will also be able to select from tabs for academics, services, student life, technology, and entertainment.

Each student will be able to rearrange the channels--or delete them. Even the portal's color scheme can be altered. Devil Talk, the discussion board, is designed to create a virtual community for sharing thoughts and building communities with similar interest. The board will not be moderated, but participants will be identified by name through the use of their unique identification information, known as Duke NetIDs, and personally responsible for their commentary.

A key feature of DukePass is its convenience. After signing in to the portal, students will be able to access Duke's student-information system, known as ACES, their university e-mail accounts, and the discussion board without having to re-authenticate at each site.

"DukePass is an exciting opportunity for us to deliver information and services to students in a convenient, effective, and appealing manner," says Deb Johnson, assistant vice provost and director of Student Administrative Services. "The portal is the first initiative, and perhaps a defining one, in our plans to organize and deliver services to students in more efficient, effective, and customer-friendly ways that will enhance their overall Duke experience."

Others involved in developing DukePass included faculty members, administrators, representatives from campus departments that provide student services, and the Office of Information Technology, which provided technical leadership. Duke's Academic Support Technology Executive Committee (ASTEC) is providing administrative guidance for the portal.

The pilot's effectiveness was measured during March and April. Feedback about the portal was collected using online surveys, comments from faculty and staff members, and information from student focus groups. The team that developed the portal will use this to assess the pilot project and to develop recommendations about whether to continue development for fall 2004. ASTEC was to review the report and reach a decision on the portal's future by the end of May.