For years, Butte College in California put up with an internal IT system that left huge gaps in the ability of administrators, faculty, staff, and students to electronically communicate with each other. Administrators were unable to send memos targeted to, say, faculty members or the public works staff. Professors were unable to communicate with specific classes. And students had to go through separate log-in procedures to access the system's Web Advisor - and Blackboard - functions, as well as their e-mail accounts.
Andy Miller, director of IT systems at the two-year college in Oroville, said communicating with students proved especially troublesome. The college had an "opt-in" policy regarding student email accounts, which made it difficult to ensure that communications designed for Butte's 15,000 students found their intended audience.
"We never had a good way before to send announcements to students," Miller said. "E-mail addresses were so poorly maintained that you might have a 40 percent success rate of getting to the students. They could be five e-mail addresses down the road."
In 2009, Butte installed Datatel Portal to integrate the many functions of the college's IT system. Miller said the upgrade was inspired largely by suggestions from the student body.
"Students were coming to us saying it's fine that you're giving us e-mail, but what we really need is a portal," Miller said. "They wanted a single point of access for all their stuff. They didn't want to go to 10 different places."
It's also given Butte a valuable new IT tool. The college integrated Datatel Portal into its Microsoft SharePoint platform, thereby enhancing the system's capacity to manage content and share internal web pages. "Datatel's selection of SharePoint was a great idea, because most of us have Microsoft products in place," Miller said. "They used SharePoint and built on top of an existing product. It's an incredibly powerful tool."
Miller said Datatel Portal enables Butte College administrators to use a host of new functions for communicating with the college's faculty, staff, and students, including calendars for athletics, theater productions, and other campus events. Faculty members can create calendars, course assignments, and announcements for specific classes. The college has also created an emergency alert system.
"If you don't have a portal, it's hard to get that functionality," Miller said. "By using Datatel Portal, you have access to everything that's included in SharePoint, as well all the things that Datatel designed and delivered on top of SharePoint."
For example, Miller can send memos or create documents targeted to his colleagues in IT systems through a Share- Point Team Site. "I can easily create a systems maintenance calendar for just my team," Miller said. "I don't have to create an HTML page. SharePoint already knows who my team members are, and we can collaborate on that calendar. I can set it up in a matter of seconds."
The new system will also mean cost savings for Butte. Prior to installing Datatel Portal, the college mailed notices seeking registration data from continuing students - some 30,000 notices mailed each year at a cost of about $20,000. Miller said that information is now gathered online using the Datatel Portal.
"I think most people are pretty pleased with the functionality that Datatel Portal provides," Miller said.
For more information, please visit www.datatel.com/Portal.