Portal Applications for Higher Education

This week and next I will be discussing two distinct approaches to implementing portal applications in a higher education environment.

I am going to divert from the type of tools and resources I typically post about (free or low cost web based resources and apps for educators and the instructional process) to take a look a powerful type of application that is becoming increasingly popular in higher education (as well as K-12). Portal applications allow designers and users to integrate a variety of tools and information into a centralized interface. Users, be they students, faculty, or administrative staff, can have one consistent web-based gateway for accessing many of the applications, and much of the information, they need on a daily basis.

The first application that I will discuss is the feature-rich hosted suite of tools from Timecruiser, Inc. Timecruiser has been around since 1995, and boasts millions of higher education users (Timecruiser’s application is sold exclusively to Higher Ed). Timecruiser offers a variety of tools that are integrated within the overarching hosted (Software-as-a-Service, or SaaS) Campus Cruiser portal application. The other portal application we will review (next week) is the markedly different Campus EAI Consortium myCampus portal tool set.

The Timecruiser application suite
We are pretty far along in our implementation of the Timecruiser application suite at the institution where I work as Director of II&T. We selected this tool from a wide variety of alternatives, and continue to be impressed with the tool as we work through our configuration and roll out process. We are looking forward to taking full advantage of all it has to offer. The modules we are using include the robust Campus Cruiser Portal, the Cruiser Alert emergency notification and messaging application, and the Course Cruiser course management system. Timecruiser also offers a Course Evaluation tool, and they are constantly evolving and enhancing their offerings.

The Timecruiser applications can be licensed together or separately. Licensing costs are very attractive - we licensed the product for less than the cost of just one of the products that it displaced, and incurred no costs at all for infrastructure thanks to the application’s SaaS model (in fact, we are freeing up several servers that were used to run displaced apps, which can now be redeployed elsewhere)! The hosted, SaaS model is the only way Timecruiser offers the application, and it is very cost effective, eliminating any need for servers and all associated maintenance. Of course, in this model, one needs a reliable Internet connection. The applications performance has been thoroughly impressive - it always comes up immediately and it seems to outperform most other web sites in terms of speed. Their Service Level Agreement clearly spells out their reliability assurances.

- The Campus Cruiser Portal: The portal itself is a feature-rich environment that includes extensive functionality including e-mail, calendaring, tasks, bookmarks (web links), file storage (including 1 GB of space per user), and more. The My Cruiser Dashboard ... [Please click here to continue reading the complete post at www.EmergingEdTech.com, where I blog regularly about the use of Internet technologies in education. Thanks!]

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Tags: Campus Cruiser, Campus EAI, Course Cruiser, Cruiser Eval, Timecruiser, myCampus portal

Comment by Kelly Walsh on August 27, 2009 at 7:54am
My pleasure! Glad you found it useful. Stop by EmergingEdTech.com next week for the follow up on the Campus EAI Consortium myCampus portal. Thanks.


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