CalCentral: The One-Stop Shop for all of Berkeley’s Online Student Services

Hello everyone,

First check out what CalCentral is: https://confluence.media.berkeley.edu/confluence/display/MYB/CalCentral+Project+Wiki

Goals of this project include:

  • Improve the way students interact with and navigate UC Berkeley websites and systems
  • Student centric
  • Accessible, customizable, and easy to use
  • A guide to the student experience @ Cal
  • Remind me about dates, to-dos, events, etc.

I also wanted to update you with what’s going on with that one-stop shop online portal I told you about when I was campaigning. It’s coming along really nicely! But the project is so large in scope that it takes time and input from all the stakeholders for it to keep moving. The preliminary stages are already designed and they have been released to the College of Natural Resources and the College of Environmental Design. Still, there is so much work to do and student input is invaluable!

So there are two ways I am engaging in this massive project:  the higher  Operational Excellence administrative level and the actual designing/ground level.

higher level Operational Excellence administrative portion

How does this fit into OE: So you may or may not know what Operational Excellence is. I’ll tell you anyway. Operational Excellence is a multi-project effort to save money for the university on the “ADMINISTRATIVE” level so that this savings could be better spent on students or teaching or academic planning or things of that sort. Well Operational Excellence is divided into 7 divisions and one of these divisions is Student Services. In this division headed by Anne De Luca of the University Registrar, the projects aim to provide some awesome services to students that will create some savings. The problem is that all of the initiatives form all 7 divisions go through a vetting process and most of the initiatives in the other 6 divisions have already passed or have been denied. There are currently six student service initiatives that have not been passed or denied (they went to the Coordinating Committee but were sent back to receive more vetting). Check out all of the initiatives here: http://oe.berkeley.edu/index.shtml Scroll down to the bottom to see the Student Services initiatives that I am speaking about.

Process for passing initiatives: So the Coordinating Committee is a committee made up of the 7 division leaders of the initiative teams as well as the ASUC President Vishalli Loomba, Graduate Assembly President Bahar Navab, the OE Communications Coordinator- a student as well (Props to them for standing up to administrators when it comes to pushing for student service initiatives and initiatives that have student interest). This coordinating committee votes on each initiative and passes their recommendation onto the Executive committee which then makes a final decision as to whether or no the initiative will be finally implemented.

What the ASUC and I are doing: So obviously we have a problem because the non-student services initiatives have less of a projected savings than the other initiatives from other divisions. It’s hard to convince administrators and decision makers that while an initiative may have a projected small hard savings, it actually saves people (not just students) a lot of frustration and time. If you look at the proposals, these are definitely things that will benefit students a lot! Five of these six are technologically related and a lot of the funding for these projects would go towards funding CalCentral or the development of applications for CalCentral. And for a project’s whose scope is this big, trust me, we need all the help we can get. Whether that support comes in the form of administrative support, student support, faculty support, or financial support, it is so welcomed. At this level we are working to contact several campus departments and websites like TeleBears, L&S Advising, schedule of classes, catalog of classes, and Center for Student Leadership to push them to create integration plans so eventually CalCentral can be the central place where a student can access all these things at once! In addition at the OE level, our student representatives on the Coordinating Committee are pushing hard for these initiatives. Also I’m working with the COSE taskforce to develop a plan to contact all of these separate departments and to create presentations to aid in this process. It will definitely mean more to administrators if these requests come from students. And you can get involved on this level too! Check out Cal Online Student Experience meetings: http://campuslife.berkeley.edu/myberkeleyproject_overview

 

the actual designing/ground level

COSE: Cose or the Cal Online Student Experience taskforce is a group of students that meets weekly to talk about issues surrounding the Online Experience. This year we are focusing a lot on CalCentral and ways we can get separate functional owners to collaborate with CalCentral designers to integrate their systems (Tele-Bears, Schedule of Classes, Bspace, CalMail, etc) into CalCentral so that one day students can do everything they do on these separate websites in one place! It’s a noble goal and it’s not something that any of us can achieve in our four years, but year after year students push for this and eventually it will be tangible. COSE members are constantly invited to participate in usability studies, focus groups, and design sessions where we work with designers to figure out how specific collaborative tools like a newer better bspace or a student newsfeed/planner would work. There are so many applications that everyone wants to include in this portal and it’s important for students to be involved and explain exactly what we need/want from this project.

Brainstorming Session (October 5, 2011): Yesterday morning I attended a three hour brainstorming session. This session included all the designers for CalCentral, the portfolio Manager, and three students. We divided into three committees to tackle three major issues: Delivering courses/addressing academic needs/the new bspace, Information architecture/the way different parts of the site are organized (should collaborative tools be used for student groups and classes or should they be separated?), and a planner/newsfeed/subscription to different academic/university/social events.

These were huge issues that we were trying to tackle. The first and last committee had some more tangible results because they were able to discuss the specific application. I sat on the Information Architecture committee which was really quite interesting because I was concerned with the way the different tools and tabs were organized. There were so many questions that the designers had for me. We started off with general ideas for the portal. We talked about restrictions or challenges are we facing, what design principles we should keep it mind (keeping things clear and simple or having lots of things on one page), and also our goals for the day which was to have some sketches and some ideas in the designer’s minds.

Information Architecture Committee: So this committee did a variety of activities to focus specifically on information architecture. We had a pile of hundreds of little pieces of paper that listed different things students do online specific to UC Berkeley (examples: bill pay, financial aid, advising, schedule planning, room rentals, etc.). They asked me as a student to think about how I would organize these tasks and what would be the best way to put things together. So for example bill pay and financial aid are two separate website right now because they are two separate campus departments, but just because they are two separate departments, it doesn’t mean that a student should be able to view the two in one tab on CalCentral. So these were the issues that I had to dissolve in the committee. At the end, the committee members sketched some examples of what we think specific pages should look like. It was extremely productive and it is activities like these (they will occur often) that will shape the foundation for the future portal that all students will be utilizing. I will be posting these opportunities often and you should definitely check them out when you can.

 

I’m working hard and always looking for your input so please let me know what I can do to be better! Email me at sayarath.justin@gmail.com or visit me in office hours (I get bored) on Mondays 4-6 in Eshleman Hall on the 2nd Floor!

 

Best,

Justin Sayarath

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