College waits for Banner Student revamp proposals

by Noah Goldstein | 11/5/14 6:34pm

After a focus group aimed at modernizing Banner Student failed to launch, the College is reinvigorating efforts to gather student input on the online portal students use to access personal and academic information.

More than 500 students voted in favor of an Improve Dartmouth post written nine months ago that described the system as “clunky and old” and suggested switching to a more modern platform. Improve Dartmouth is a crowdsourcing website for students, faculty and alumni.

Esteban Castano ’14, who co-founded Improve Dartmouth, said he was one of only two students to attend a focus group in the spring.

Alan Cattier, director of academic and campus technology services, said that he did not receive any responses on an Imrpove Dartmouth request for specific Banner recommendations, so he turned to focus groups.

The College will start making changes to the online platform when students suggest specific points for improvement, Cattier said.

“These systems are tied together in all kinds of intricate ways and changes have many consequences in many areas,” Cattier said. “None of this is as simple as throwing a light switch and saying here is a new look and feel.”

Updating a site that allows students to add and drop classes and tracks grading, financial aid, admissions and student billing is a more complex task than the simple “agree” or “disagree” format of the Improve Dartmouth question suggests, he said.

Cattier said that he reads Improve Dartmouth weekly and tries to address the largest issues. First the issue itself is evaluated by relevant administrators. If deemed a valid request, the suggestion then gets implemented.

The cost of the project is not currently known, as a governance structure evaluates impact, cost and magnitude of the change, while also evaluating whether outside help is needed.

Chief technology officer Joe Doucet said implementing a new system would be difficult. The major offices involved with Banner -— such as the registrar and the Dean of the College — would have to agree to changes and identify the costs, like new software.

Of six students interviewed in Novack Cafe and the first floor of Baker-Berry library on Wednesday afternoon, all said they think Banner should be updated, mirroring the popularity on Improve Dartmouth.

Claire Votava ’18 and Will Tackett ’18 noted that the website does not run in all browsers and can be difficult to navigate and access.

Other students criticized the platform’s antiquated interface and design.

Steven Peralta ’15 said that he would like to see the system updated but did not have particular suggestions.

Improve Dartmouth hopes to meet with students near the end of this term or at the beginning of the winter term, Cattier said.

Administrators used student input when Dartmouth switched from Blackboard to Canvas last year, assistant director of educational technologies Barbara Knauff wrote in an email. Students participated in focus groups and tested the final product, Knauff wrote, acknowledging this situation is different.

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