Having shared a humorous but griping cartoon about university web sites, I felt I should mention as well another even more frustrating university website for employees. I’m not sure how many other universities use “Peoplesoft” or whether the aspects that are frustrating have to do with the platform itself or with the way it is set up locally. This university employee portal provides a host of useful and in many cases absolutely essential resources. This is where you renew your parking permit, enter student grades, register students for classes, access unofficial transcripts, and much else.
But all these are hidden behind top-level links with vague names like “Self Service,” “Campus Solutions,” “Campus Community,” “Employee Resources” – with no obvious rationale as to why something is placed under one heading or the other.
Is this a universal aspect of Peoplesoft? Or is this something that is a result of how it is set up locally at a university?
In either case, it seems to have been designed and/or set up by people with no interest in helping those who use it to find what they need and get where they need to go quickly and effectively.
This is not entirely irrelevant to our recent discussion of electronic textbooks. To the extent that publishers offer electronic textbooks, their interest is in disseminating books they have published in a way that safeguards their proprietary rights and earnings. From the professor’s perspective, ease of access, pedagogical effectiveness, and other concerns may be paramount. These concerns are not necessarily at odds, but they are different, and it is good to remind ourselves of this.
But to the extent that professors are also customers of these services, we need to find ways of making sure that creators of software – whether for electronic textbooks or for university employee management systems – know what we want, and that if necessary we are willing to seek alternatives rather than put up with unnecessary frustration because what we are being sold/offered is not what we need.