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How is your portal doin’?

by Lauren Hart Piper , Vice President, Product Management and Marketing

It was 10 years ago that the TV sitcom, “Friends” went off the air and a little more than 10 years since the concept of the portal began to take root. We were first introduced to the portal in the mid-90s with the likes of AOL and Yahoo! Shortly after these public portals made their debut, the commercial sector quickly recognized the value of the portal as way to manage the variety of information from other technologies. Beyond that, higher education was not far behind.

In 2000-2001 many campuses began to develop and implement their own portal. Innovators included Louisiana State University, Buffalo University, University of British Columbia, and the University of Washington.

On the backs of these institutions, the student portal evolved. Vendors quickly began to offer packaged portals for higher education. These early portals were the gateway for students to get information they needed from across campus and today, these portals are becoming outdated.

Today, the student portal is an area of concern for higher education. In order to match the requirements of the new student, institutions need to modernize their portals; in some cases where there isn’t a student portal, institutions are looking for innovative ways to go beyond just presenting information to students. Information needs to be more than pushed to students, it needs to be personalized and relevant so it is not considered spam and the portal should be maximized to bring in a new level of student engagement. With limited vendor choices in the market, high investment costs to build or upgrade, institutions are rethinking the student portal.

With the universal challenges faced by higher education in terms of student enrollment and graduation rates, the traditional portal is not meeting the needs of the new student or modern campus.

Today’s student expects a portal that is more than just information pushed on them from SIS or LMS technologies. They expect to be able to go to one place and get all the “student life” information they need. From financial aid packages, to classroom discussions to announcements about club events, students expect the experience to be fluid. They also strive for engagement with two -way, real-time communications that have the familiarity of social media. Much like Facebook and Twitter, they want their portal to be available to them in the palm of their hand from their mobile device.

For the campus administration that is financially strapped and resource constrained, the portal needs to be modernized with leading edge communication and collaboration features. The modern portal in higher education must be easier to manage with lower overhead costs. Moreover it must be able to offer a holistic approach for supporting the student. Administrators recognize that a healthy, knowledgeable, motivated, and engaged student has a much better chance to remain enrolled and complete their degree.

One such institution that is taking the holistic approach to supporting their students and using the portal to execute this is Oral Roberts University (ORU). ORU is committed to supporting their students in body, mind and spirit through an engagement platform. ORU has been proudly growing their online programs and improving student retention by leveraging their existing SIS and LMS systems. By using innovative technologies such as engagement, social software, and gaming mechanics, ORU looks to support their students in body, mind and spirit. They are one of the early innovators who are doing away with the portal of the 1990’s.

To get more details on the innovation happening at Oral Roberts University click here.

So we come back to the original question, “How is your portal doin’?

  • Does your portal meet the expectations of today’s student?
  • It is considered modern with a look and feel similar to Facebook and Twitter? Does it provide for personalized, two-way, real-time communication?
  • Does it deliver a fluid experience?
  • Does it enable you to take a holistic approach to serving your students?
  • Does it recognize students for their academic and non-academic accomplishments?
  • Can it be accessed on any device?

We would love to hear your take on the modern portal and the holistic approach to serving today’s student. Send your comments and opinions to


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