Website Review: Student Portal

Yay or Nay?

Doctor Who TARDIS in Space

Not that kind of Portal. © Google Images

Whether you’re looking for someplace to eat, study or live, the University of Waterloo (UW)’s Student Portal has it all. And now Arts students can use it too.

The Student Portal is the newest, most effective way to receive timely information on campus. A partner project between the Student Success Office (SSO) and Information & Systems Technology (IST), the Student Portal offers a mobile-friendly interface that allows students to connect to services that are relevant to them, such as available tutors and textbooks needed for each course you’re enrolled in, Grand River Transit (GRT) bus schedules, and current weather conditions and predictions. It also delivers time-sensitive notifications about academic requirements such as when tuition is due or drop/add dates. Faculty of Environment students were invited in the summer of 2014 to beta test the Student Portal; after successful feedback and usage, the Student Portal is continuing to be rolled out to the remaining faculties.

Jude Doble, the Student Portal Project Manager, pointed out that the idea to compile information from LEARN, Quest and other UW websites has been around for a while. “Many of the campus systems don’t talk to each other, which is a frustration to students and the objective of the Portal is to pull that important information into one place,” Doble said in an interview this past October. “We also wanted to create a tool that cuts down on information clutter and the volume of mass emails students get.”  The Portal certainly does this. As soon as you log in using your WatIAM credentials, the Student Portal knows your faculty and department, class schedule, assigned textbooks and exam times. You can even import your iCal, Google or Facebook calendar to see personal events and appointments. Adding and removing these and other widgets is easily done, changing the home page to fit individual needs. By having a customized dashboard, each student will receive updates and notifications that are important to them.

The Student Portal, however, isn’t going to replace any existing sites that it gathers information from. “The idea is to pull the pieces together in a customizable, mobile-friendly tool,” said Doble, indicating that the Student Portal features just-in-time pieces of information, which users can then decide to go to the full site to find out more.

The UW Portal team is also keen on getting feedback from users, as this is what will drive changes and developments to the site. Upcoming widgets, based on demand and interest, include Awards, so that students can easily see what they are eligible for; Clubs and Societies, to post events that will be seen by a wider community; and uPrint, which will tell you which public printers are free or in use. Doble is also working to create guidelines for student developers, so students who are interested in widget and app development can take part in building the site.

As Doble points out, what keeps the Student Portal alive and growing is interest and use. “The best advertising we can have is when one student says to another, ‘Hey, have you seen this site?’ and encourage them to use it.”

The Student Portal is now available to students in the Arts and Environment faculties. Access will be available to Engineering, Mathematics, Applied Health Science and Science by May 2015.

Back to Winter 2015 Home


[i] [Student Portal]. (n.d.). Retrieved from