Go beyond MyEdu

Zachary Adams

UT’s online experience needs a makeover. The UT System Board of Regents attempted to address this problem in 2011 when they invested $10 million in the popular course planning and course review website, MyEdu. They hoped to provide students with a more efficient and user-friendly tool for planning schedules and staying on track for graduation. But whether the investment was worthwhile is debatable. And although complaints persist about MyEdu’s lack of integration with UT’s course schedule, as well as the website’s frequent crashes, an initiative within UT-Austin has begun that’s going to show the regents how a first-rate university solves problems — and it does not include throwing $10 million in taxpayer dollars to a site that still fails to fulfill its basic function two years after our initial investment.

On April 26 Mike Horn, the director of Digital Strategy for University Communications, joined by colleagues in Information Technology Services and the provost’s office, presented a new vision for UT-Austin’s online presence to the Strategic IT Advisory Board, which includes UT President William Powers Jr. Horn’s idea was to create a uniform online experience for UT students using online UT services. The idea for the initiative emerged from the Mobile Strategy Task Force in Communications, which emphasized streamlining UT’s online presence into a more mobile-friendly form, but the project has since expanded into a complete overhaul of UT online, including a redesigned homepage, registration, admission and student services experiences.

UT President William Powers Jr. and the Strategic IT Advisory Board endorsed the initiative on April 26. Horn’s team has collaborated closely with David Laude, senior vice provost for enrollment and graduation management in communications, Carolyn Connerat, associate vice provost in the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost, as well as associates in ITS, student affairs and the president’s office, to make this new online experience incorporate all of the essential elements of UT’s online services. Connerat explained that when using UT online, “You’re going to all these different websites that seem to be separate. And so the goal is to bring these together using the newest technology and the newest design, to make it a really cutting edge experience for our students.”

Supporters of the initiative believe that the project’s success will not only increase efficiency and productivity, but will also set the standard for what a major university’s online presence should look like. As the regents face mounting criticism for their stated goals of making UT more accessible and affordable, as well as their continued failure to solve our problems in a way that seems fitting for a university striving to be world-class, the widespread support for the initiative shows that we’re not ready to settle for average here in Austin. Our priority is being the best.

The wheels are already rolling on this. Although nothing is going to replace the $10 million haphazardly given to MyEdu by the regents, we can finally rest easily knowing this problem is being solved. It is a big problem, however. Horn and his colleagues have their work cut out for them. Even so, I have faith that within a year or two, our registration system will have a much improved interface with a modern layout and a more user-friendly and integrated system

“Everything that we’re doing here is about improving the current student experience, and we also really want to help sell the story of UT so that we continue to get the best and brightest prospective students as well,” Horn says. That sounds like a way better idea to me: Leave MyEdu and the regents in the dust. Their understanding of “world-class” leaves much to be desired.

Adams is a government freshman from Aiea, Hawaii.