New Web portal offers one-stop convenience to students

York University students now have access to a new Web portal that has been designed with their needs in mind.

Launched yesterday, the new portal offers a convenient one-stop shop on the Web. The portal consolidates and streamlines all the information that is most important to York students into one easy-to-use Web interface. The portal is the initial release of a year-long joint project by York’s Division of Students and Computing & Network Services (CNS). Kate Stewart, a Web consultant to CNS, guided the design of the portal during its construction by CNS staff who worked with four external companies.

Above: The new portal

"We want it to be a new starting point on the Web for York students," says Stewart. "The portal is all about convenience."

Stewart describes the portal as a "dashboard for students". The portal is available to undergraduate and graduate students and can be customized to suit a student’s individual needs. "Students receive messages tailored to them, based on the program they’re enrolled in and the courses they are taking," says Stewart. "York students will receive announcements from the University and they can see news from Ylife, Faculties and key campus services such as the Bookstore and Career Centre."

Developing involved 150 members from the York community who provided input. The project team conducted a series of focus groups and talked to York students about what they wanted in a portal. "We also talked to stakeholders from across the University about the information they want to get out to students using the portal," says Stewart.

Based on Liferay Portal, a leading-edge, open source technology, the portal gives students the kind of Web 2.0 experience they are accustomed to using in other popular destinations on the Web. "They can drag and drop portlets and set up their pages just the way they want," says Stewart. "Students can also choose what they want to see on They can add tools they find helpful and remove those they don’t use. Even the layout of the pages on is up to the individual user. They can organize their York information the way it makes sense to them."

Students also have access to their e-mail and Stewart says that in the near future, they will be able to set up to access their personal IMAP e-mail accounts as well, to manage all their e-mail in one place.

The portal also offers a convenient calendar function. "The calendar on is a new and invaluable tool for students," explains Stewart. "It automatically displays the class schedule for all the courses they’re registered in. Students can also use the calendar to keep track of their own personal appointments. They can also see all of the York Events in the calendar and they can turn on and off the type of events they are interested in knowing about."

In addition to announcements, news, calendar and e-mail, students can access a number of other features including:

  • student account information to see what they owe and when payments are due;
  • library account information, which provides books on hold, checked-out books and fines owing;
  • grades;
  • important dates;
  • a personalized exam schedule (available when the schedule is released);
  • research guides published by the York University Libraries for the courses in which they are registered;
  • course information including course schedules, instructor information, course Web site and location (clicking on the location opens a map showing the location on campus);
  • a to-do list;
  • weather;
  • news from the York University Career Centre including workshops and special events;
  • information from the York University Bookstore including sales and new arrivals; and
  • news from the Excalibur student newspaper.

For more information, visit the About the Portal Web page. There is also a frequently asked questions Web page for faculty, staff and students which includes information on how to publish to the portal.