UChicago 2.0

Campus technology changes are a mixed bag.

By Maroon Editorial Board

It stands to reason that a university on the cutting edge of so many fields would want to keep its technological offerings to students up-to-date as well. To that end, two major changes to the University’s online resources are under way: First, NSIT has announced that it will be phasing out cMail, and instead will have students forward mail to a third-party e-mail service. Second, the University has announced that myUChicago—a Web portal meant to streamline University resources for students, faculty, and staff—is set to launch next week. While phasing out cMail is a welcome (if overdue) change, myUChicago leaves much to be desired.

In an e-mail to students, the team that developed myUChicago described the site as “a powerful—and handy—collection of many useful University Web sites and password-protected systems.” And sure, the site does aggregate a whole host of links, from library accounts to bus schedules, and may slightly decrease the number of times per day you punch in your cNet ID.

But for years, students’ main problem with University Web sites has centered around a process myUChicago barely addresses: picking classes. Course selection requires students to navigate through a confusing array of Web sites, including cMore’s add-drop portal, time schedules, course advice, and the PDF course catalog. MyUChicago seems like the perfect venue for combining all those resources into a more coherent, easily navigable system. Instead, the portal’s approach to aggregating sites like Chalk and cMore is less than impressive: They appear together in a list of links. With myUChicago, the University missed a chance to deal with a long-unmet student need.

News of cMail’s demise, however, is a much more encouraging sign of progress. The University’s Webmail service is famously arcane, so much so that many students automatically forward their University mail to another account. It makes good sense, then, for the U of C to dump cMail and allow users to select another e-mail address to which all .uchicago mail will be sent. The change will happen over the next two years, which allows for plenty of transition time. The greater user-friendliness and reliability of alternate providers like Gmail will be a convenience to students and will save the University money.

Yet many universities began outsourcing their e-mail services years ago. It’s a good thing the U of C has gotten the ball rolling on its efforts to revamp online resources for students, but, as myUChicago shows, there’s still considerable room for improvement.

— The Maroon Editorial Board consists of the Editor-in-Chief, Viewpoints Editors, and an additional Editorial Board member.