Thursday, October 18, 2012

Trident Tech's New Student Portal

by Chloe West, Mary Gorton, Tyler Durham

   In order to access all of our student and class information, Trident Tech students have to sign into TTC Express, then Google E-mail, and then D2L. That’s at least three tabs open right there. Could you imagine how simple it would be to be able to login just one time and have your TTC Express menu, unread e-mails, and your D2L courses all in one place?
   Trident Technical College, for the first time, is making this possible. Going live on October 23, 2012, is the new student portal system,, built to make our lives easy.
   The individuals that proposed this project are TTC’s own Joe Gibson, Director of the Information Technology Training Center; Dawn Higdon, Director of Web Services Department; and Lynne Ankersen, Assistant Vice President of Student Services. We met with the three of them in order to view a demo of the new portal, and, boy, were we impressed.

    Gibson sat at the head of the table, navigating the computer that projected the portal onto the wall. They began to explain the three roles that the portal holds: applicant, faculty/staff, and student. One of the new and exciting features of the portal is that new applicants have their own section that shows what parts of the application Trident has received from them and what Trident still needs. Faculty and staff have their own section of the portal with their Outlook e-mail and calendar and D2L courses on the same page, too. But we mainly focused on the student role of the portal (because students are most important).
    Upon logging in to the portal, the first thing you’ll notice is a navigation bar along the top with a very extensive amount of dropdowns and links. Whereas before, you would have to go searching the Trident website for what you were looking for, the portal includes almost any link or form that you would need to find.
    The portal even includes an entire menu with links from TTC Express, the first time this has been able to be done. Joe Gibson explains that “in the past, a student would have gone to our public facing website, read something on the website, and then read ‘Oh, I’ve got to go into TTC Express to do this,’ gone from there, navigated a few pages away, clicked on TTC Express, logged in, then had to navigate through all the menus.” Sounds exhausting, right? Now, the portal has the ability to link a student right to where they need to go in TTC Express.
    In the center of the page, you will find your Google E-mail. Rather than having to navigate through the Google portal, now they have integrated Google E-mail and the most important parts of the Google portal with Trident’s own portal. The most popular links from the Google portal, such as Share-a-Ride and Clubs & Organizations, can be found right from Trident’s student portal.
        Along the righthand side are all of your D2L courses. Clicking on these links will put you right into the D2L hub of that class. Although D2L will now be integrated in with the portal, if you have the D2L login page saved as a bookmark, you will still be able to access only the D2L page.
   One new feature that we personally love is the notifications feature. In the center of the page in red lettering, read “1 New Notification.”  After asking what the notifications meant, Ankersen replied, “this actually pulls from your TTC Express student records.” The notifications won’t show up for everyone, but if you have a library fine, or an admissions hold, or anything of the like, it tells you right up front. If you’ve ever had an admissions or registration hold before, you know that the current system waits until right after you’ve tried to register for all of your classes to inform you of this. Now, it says in big, red, bold lettering on the top of the student portal that you have a notification and tells you exactly what type of hold you have and how to fix it.
   Other features of the portal include blurbs for The Trident Times, Events, Announcements, and even a Twitter feed. It seems as if they’ve thought of almost everything, doesn’t it? Although these three Trident employees and the Governance and Information Technology teams all had huge hands in the portal, they also held focus groups and used portal teams for student points of view. How students felt about the portal were of huge importance to the creators. As the portal is geared towards students, they wanted to make sure that students agreed that everything they might need would be included. Peggy Stanley, a student representative that had a lot to do with creating the portal from a student’s point of view, said that she thought it was amazing to no longer have three separate webpages to access. She explained that the portal even has access to the bookstore webpage, which was difficult for students to find previously.
   When asked what brought on the idea of bringing a portal like this to Trident, Ankersen explained how many other colleges have portal systems as well, and with Trident using so many different databases—TTC Express, D2L, and Google E-mail—it had just been a long time coming in order to let students view all three of these in one place.
   Although we wouldn’t want to say anything bad about the portal that they’ve been working on for over a year, we had to ask if there were any drawbacks to using this portal. Gibson answered that the only drawback he could think of would be the newness and change of having a new navigation system. And even though no one is a big fan of change, nothing in the portal is set in stone. It still has the ability to adapt to students’ needs, and with a feedback link on the main page, anyone can voice his or her opinions.
   On October 23, the my.tridenttech, D2L Courses, and TTC Express links on the main Trident Tech page will all begin to link directly to the portal. Right now, if you go to, all you will see is a very exciting countdown until launch date. We were all impressed with Trident’s technological advance, but if that isn’t enough for you, Gibson even informed us about a mobile app that they will be launching for spring semester. But more about that later.
   The launch of this portal is going to make online student access and communication so much more efficient. It is going to help new applicants, faculty and staff, and current students be able to find all of the information they need in only one place. Ankersen told us that the goal of this portal was to create a “one-stop place for students to be able to access everything,” and we think they nailed it.


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