“It’s all about making education accessible to everyone, anytime, anywhere,” explained Ann Watts, instructional design coordinator and portal project manager at DMACC. Des Moines Area Community College is a public institution with six campuses.
The portal ? known as “my.dmacc” to users ? is an outgrowth of the college’s educational mobility initiative that runs on HP ProLiant servers. DMACC has implemented a systemwide wireless system to support academic programs and administrative needs.
Watts sees the portal as a communication tool that will link faculty to students, department to department, administration to faculty, and campus to campus. It will serve as a tool for faculty to manage their courses, while providing a central depository for course-related materials. And it will enable DMACC to reach out to various publics ? “from pre-K to gray” ? establishing connections with the community.
Among the components:
- Departmental sites for collaboration and document sharing.
- Resources to promote “best practices” for faculty. Academic departmental sites will include sample syllabi and assignments for new instructors.
- Class sites that include announcements, events, pertinent Web links, discussion lists, and more.
- Specialized sites for collaboration with colleagues outside the institution. Built-in discussion/chat features, allow instant communication.
- A “Kids College” portal to serve elementary and middle school-aged children. Content might include information about journalism camp, fun days and more.
- A portal dedicated to high school shared programs. Watts envisions a dynamic communication tool that will give students access to state documents, regulations and guidelines for post-secondary enrollment options.
- A senior citizen portal for DMACC’s “Community Connections” program. Specialized information about genealogy, health care and other topics could easily be added.
Watts’ team of three programmers has developed content in a way that makes it simple. For students, there is a game-based online orientation. It exposes them to different parts of the portal and how to access resources. For faculty, there’s an “instructors’ toolbox” with links to pages on using Microsoft Front Page? (so they can build their own Web pages on the portal), techniques for teaching online and more.
One of Watts’ greatest concerns was finding a tool that was truly hardware independent. “We’ve had a lot of help from people at HP to support the mobility initiative. While we don’t know exactly what the future will be, HP is working with us on various device options. “That’s one of the things we really like about HP ? they are hardware agnostic,” Watts said. “They work with iPAQs, cell phones, Tablet PCs ? virtually anything that can surf the Web.”
The portal runs on three HP ProLiant servers and will incorporate an HP Storage Area Network, in a hardware architecture designed to accommodate growth and flexibility. The storage area network, in addition to providing storage for faculty and administrative users to post content, will provide space for each student. “Why put things on a personal hard drive when, if it’s on the portal, they can access it anytime, anywhere?” Watts asked rhetorically.