What’s up with UD’s websites?

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Photo by Patrick Vitale

If you were to go over to a random UD student’s laptop and open up their browser, you would likely find tabs for at least a few UD-specific sites, as well as many more bookmarked for easy access. 

Depending on your position at the UD, you probably will have to use about 12 websites at some point in time. 

For instance, Brightspace is the e-learning experience platform where students can upload assignments and view their individual grades. The previous online learning class platform was eCollege, which was replaced with Brightspace in 2017.

The use of Brightspace in a class is arbitrary; it is completely up to the professor’s preference, so Brightspace might be used a lot or not at all by a student, depending on which classes he has. In some classes, access to Brightspace is mandatory since a majority of the content, including presentations, handouts and worksheets, will only be available online. 

Several professors, such as Dr. Aida Ramos and Fr. Thomas Esposito, regularly use Brightspace. Other professors, such as Dr. Frank Swietek and Dr. Gregory Roper, do not use the platform at all. 

“Most of my professors don’t touch Brightspace,” said student Patrick Vasal. 

Therese Phan, a senior Biology major, has to update her club’s page on the Forum as the president of Best Buddies. 

“It’s really difficult to understand how to email everyone from the Forum,” Phan said, adding that she usually manually sends emails to club members. “It can get pretty complicated.” 

Cashnet is an online service that students and their parents must use to pay for their education. BannerWeb is the website that students use to monitor things like their financial aid, scholarships, tuition, employment status, class registration and their academic transcripts. 

Many students are understandably confused when they have to go on BannerWeb to monitor their financial status at UD, but use a different website to actually make payments for their education. 

Students can see some grades for some of their classes on either Brightspace or BannerWeb, depending on which site professors choose to actually record the grades on, and sometimes must wait until the end of the academic period to view their updated transcripts on BannerWeb.

In addition to registering for their classes on BannerWeb and using Brightspace for assignments in those classes, students must also be familiar with the eFollett website so that they can figure out what books they actually need for their classes, and often go to Amazon to find those books for a more reasonable price. 

Student athletes must be familiar with the athletics department’s website to find a variety of information related to schedules, transportation and additional resources.

If a student has to find resources for a paper or needs more context for a project, they must go through the UD Library website to access online academic journal databases, such as Jstor, in order to find anything that isn’t already available through the library’s physical collection.

New this year for all residential students is eRezLife, a database that students must use to confirm their Room Condition Reports, and that RAs must use to fill out a variety of forms related to residential life. 

In addition to all of these websites, some professors have their own websites that students are required to use, including numerous Google drive folders professors use to share handouts. Aside from any personal email accounts, every student must monitor their UD gmail address. 

The sheer amount of websites that have similar functions and similar content but shockingly different purposes linked to very segmented aspects our university that students at UD have to use on a daily basis ought to be a clear sign to all of us, showing how complicated it is to merely navigate our administrative and academic bureaucracy.

“It seems like [the websites] are all a part of each other, but are separate in a confusing way,” Vasal said.  

To be clear, members of the bodies at UD who manage and rely on these websites ought not be blamed for the confusion. Our university is growing, and the high amount of websites that students have to use as a result is merely an effect of this. 

What we ought to be clear on is how to move forward to make life easier for students so that, instead of students anxious about which websites they need to be on to find whatever forms or files they need to submit, they can have more time to concern themselves with issues more worthy of a student’s time and emotional capacity, like academics and employment. 

Members of the various aspects of bureaucracy and administration at UD ought to move forward with the goal of consolidating our slew of websites as much as possible, making information more easily accessible and understandable by redesigning our more antiquated sites (like BannerWeb) to become more intuitive. 

If we move ahead with these goals in mind, not only will students need less help with navigating our online content, but the entire UD community will feel less segmented and confused.

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