Focus group to tackle Banner Student flaws

by Roshan Dutta | 5/26/14 6:06pm

Starting this fall, director of academic and campus technology services Alan Cattier will lead a focus group dedicated to improving Banner Student, an online student information system. The decision was made earlier this month following a winter term Improve Dartmouth post that urged the College to “Modernize Banner,” currently the site’s seventh most popular suggestion.

Banner Student has raised issues since its 1998 introduction, with students reporting inefficiency, incompatibility with popular browsers and instability as ongoing problems with the software. It has gained a number of capabilities over its 16-year history, however, allowing students to add and drop courses, pay tuition bills and, most recently, declare majors or minors.

John Zahka ’14 said Banner Student has occasionally inconvenienced his course selection process, as its format makes it difficult to search for courses that simultaneously fulfill cultural and distributive requirements. He also cited the system’s lack of browser compatibility.

In a post on Improve Dartmouth last week, senior associate registrar for research Andrew Ager said that Banner Student features like the timetable of class meetings, which previously only worked with certain web browsers, are now compatible with Google Chrome and Safari as well.

Though the system is largely efficient, Albert Chen ’17 said, it could have a better layout.

Hughie Sagona ’15 agreed that Banner Student’s biggest flaw is its design.

“The [user interface] is really rudimentary — it’s on par with a CS 1 course level of understanding,” Sagona said. “Navigation requires so many more clicks than it ought to that it becomes a borderline chore.”

Subur Khan ’17 agreed, saying Banner Student’s functionality is compromised by its complicated interface and layout.

Though the site offers useful academic services, the interface is “somewhat disorganized,” Kevin Zhang ’16 said.

Other students credited the site for allowing access to important forms and services in a single location.

Matt Klein ’16 said he appreciated that Banner Student is a “one-stop shop” that links to all the major campus services, though he said features like course selection could be improved.

Matt Mitman ’17, who said he mainly uses the site to check grades and register for courses, believes that it serves its basic functions well.

Brown University is the only other Ivy League institution to use Banner, with other schools choosing to use school-specific software.

Columbia University uses a system called Student Services Online which, like Banner Student, is a central location that helps students with important forms and services like housing, dining and registration. Carlene Buccino, a sophomore at Columbia, said that the software’s most complicated feature is its housing portal.

Harvard University student services are located on my.harvard, which was redesigned in 2012 by Harvard junior Eva Stojchevska.

Cornell University uses an in-house website for its student services.

Cattier could not be reached for comment by press time.

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