My.Mercyhurst portal ready for fall term

The large dry erase board hanging in Matt Engel’s ground-floor Preston Hall office helped bring Mercyhurst College’s internal communication up to speed this summer.

My.Mercyhurst portal: Mercyhurst College's newest online communication system is available for students, faculty and staff at this sign-on page.My.Mercyhurst portal: Mercyhurst College’s newest online communication system is available for students, faculty and staff at this sign-on page.

The college’s web programmer used the board to organize how the new my.mercyhurst portal is structured. By mid-August, it was filled end-to-end in red marker with everything from coding language to web addresses to simple link titles such as “Bookstore.”

“All summer we’ve used that (board) to help figure out what will go where,” Engel said.

Mercyhurst’s administration decided early in 2009 that LakerNet, a site containing calendars, directories and campus news, was an aging technology and needed to be replaced and/or supplemented.

A year later, the site now available for students, faculty and staff, was online and ready to be organized. Though viewable to the public as early as March, the portal was not entirely functional until last month.

Currently, the portal consists of a home page with several calendars, campus news, an embedded WebAdvisor and four drop-down tabs; Academics, Campus Life, Services, and Quick Links all went live July 14.

And one of the site’s biggest goals could be a welcome timesaver for students and faculty.

The portal, literally an entrance, will eventually provide a single sign-on mechanism for college e-mail, WebAdvisor and Blackboard.

Type in your username and password once, and you’re ready to go.

Other beneficial services for students have already been launched.

For the first time, Mercyhurst’s book lists for both Erie and North East courses are available online and can be found on the portal by navigating to Campus Life, Bookstore & Coffee Shop, then select either list from the tab on the left.

Instant access to textbook ISBN’s and prices could enable students to save money shopping around online––weeks before the first class begins.

Engel said one difficulty during the portal’s introduction was to spread the word. Faculty and administration have gradually become aware of the new system all summer and have served as testers to help sort out early glitches.

When students arrive all at once in September, Engel hopes most are aware of how it can help them and save time. A week after its launch in July, he recorded an onscreen demonstration of how to connect to the new portal and posted it to the sign-in page.

“People using it already have said it’s really cool,” Engel said. “Now, we need to let students know it’s there, beyond just sending out an e-mail that might be ignored.”

He said he’s not worried, though, about students not knowing how to use it, given that even most freshmen are well-versed in every digital tool.

“Your average 18-year-old is moving to campus with a cell phone, laptop, maybe even an iPad,” Engel said. “Hopefully they find this just as useful.”