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TC Portal Opens New Doors to Campus Communication

Where can you find three days of college events, the weather, all of your classes, what's happening with student life and a discussion on the events of September 11th. With the TC Portal.

Yes, the TC Portal can be an overwhelming experience. On the last count well over 60 different groups were waiting on-line to inform you of their recent developments. The breadth of information available after providing your Columbia ID can fill your screen many times over. Starting with TC announcements to the TC Calendar of Events to popular music reviews to recent updates on pagan holidays, you can inundate yourself with information.

But that's only a little portion of the Portal. As most students know, the Portal is gateway to the online components of their classes, yet it is also home to many interest groups and the newly formed All TC Forum and TC Bulletin Board.

The All TC Forum and Bulletin Board are recent creations, developed and planned by a committee charged with the task of implementing the development of the Portal. The committee consists of members of CIS, External Affairs, the Office of Diversity and Community, the Associate Dean, Student Life, the Distance Learning Project, Milbank Library and others.

TC Forum was created to provide a common area for the students, faculty and staff to come together over common interests and discussions. The bulletin board is meant to give the TC Community a place to make announcements or advertise that couch of yours for sale.

"The All TC Forum is meant for substantive discussions," said Ena Haines, Director of Information Technology. Haines said that the committee would "like to see the continued growth of the forum so that people can have thoughtful discussions on current issues in education and other topics."

A related item is that research, student and common interest groups can set up affinity groups for access through the Portal that give them access to the same collaborative and messaging tools that are available to faculty and classes through the Portal.

"As we at TC explore ways to enhance our sense of community and relationships, such communication is going to be at the core of it," said Haines. "Groups have different reasons to be here, at all different times. It's often difficult to catch people in person."

Associate Dean William Baldwin expressed similar feelings. "With the affinity groups there is tremendous potential for positive impact on the college."

Many at TC are not even aware of the potential for the tool. Mostly it is used for class work. Several students said that they simply use the site for getting to class, but most find it simple enough that if there were more features, they could see using it as a starting point for getting around the campus.

Robyn Hidock, an M.A. candidate in Organizational Psychology said that the Portal is "definitely useful. It's easy to get to and nice to have all of the information about my classes right there." Though, she added, she would love to have links to offices like career services on the portal so she could link right to them instead of surfing through the TC Web.

For the most part, the current TC Portal is a start of something much larger. As more and more features are developed and it is integrated deeper into the TC Web and various information systems around school, it may become what Hidock is hoping for.

"The TC Portal is going to evolve," said Ivo Antoniazzi, an Academic Computing Analyst in TC's Academic Computing department and manager of the Portal. "We're meeting with developers about improving it all of the time."

Antoniazzi said that the Portal will soon sport such features as face books for classes, so students can see who they are in class with online, better integration with the school calendar, closer ties to the Student Information System for registering for classes and other tasks, and personal profiles.

And on the issue of information overload, Antoniazzi added, "the face of the portal will change. As it becomes more complex, it will have different layers or faces." The interface, he said, will become more intuitive with features like tabs for categories and related information.

All members of the TC community can use the TC Portal, the TC Forum and the TC Bulletin board by clicking on MyTC on the TC Home page and select "MyTC Portal." It can also be reached at http://cw.tc.columbia.edu/prometheus/. The forum and bulletin board can be found under the heading of "My Groups."

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