This week we're announcing the beta version of the WOUPortal! It's available for use by anyone in the WOU community.
What's the WOUPortal?
It is a web portal, which is a customizable page designed to make many web resources available in one place. The home pages of yahoo.com and msn.com are good examples of portals; they include lots of information, links and resources, and if you log in, you can customize them to show what you want, and hide what you don't want. The WOU Portal is available to anyone with a WOU email address, and just like other portals is customizable so you can see the links and information you find most useful. The goal is to make so many useful features available here that you'll want to use it as your browser's start page.
How do I get there?
The address is http://www.wou.edu/portal. It will take you to the login screen; use your email username and password to get in. If you can't log in, or you don't remember your password, a link to the account lookup system is provided. The first time you log in, you will see a short explanation of the different parts of the portal; on later logins, you won't see the page automatically but you can get back to it by clicking "WOUPortal Help" in the Programs for Everyone section. Click OK at the bottom of the help screen to go to the main portal page.
What are the different sections for?
On the main page there are three main sections: My Programs, My Connections, and Programs for Everyone. There is also a My Preferences tab, but I'll talk about that separately.
The My Programs section is for programs that you have special access to. If you're part of a group that uses a portal-enabled program that isn't available for everyone, you'll see a link to that program here. For now, most of you won't have anything in this section.
The My Connections section is for links; through the My Preferences tab (see below) you can add any link you want here. It also includes space for portal-enabled tools; right now we have a dictionary lookup, a weather report, a language translator, and a map search. There won't be anything here when you first log in, but you can add links and tools by customizing the WOUPortal.
The Programs for Everyone section shows options that are available to everyone, which currently is the WOUPortal help and the communication log. If you have enabled the advanced features (see below) you'll also see links to your email, calendar and other services.
What is the communication log?
The communications log is designed to make it easy to get information out to a group of people. Anybody can set up a group and give them messages, which they will see when they check the communication log. You will be able to see how many of the recipients have read each message. Currently, this is used by several sports groups, plus student workers and their supervisors, but anyone can start a group and use it for any purpose.
How do I customize the WOUPortal?
Click the My Preferences tab at the top of the page. In the top section, you can change your nickname and enable advanced features. There is a brief explanation of the advanced features here, but I'll cover them in more detail below.
In the next part of the preferences page, you can add and delete the links that show up in the My Connections section of the main WOUPortal page.
In the third part, you can hide or show items in the My programs section, and enable or disable any of the four tools currently available. Note that it says that "My Feeds" is coming soon; this feature will let you subscribe to RSS feeds, which let you view things like news and blogs directly in the portal without having to go to other pages.
When you're in the Preferences tab, you have an additional tab available; you can use it to give feedback about the portal. Praise, criticism, feature requests... whatever you want to say.
So what about these advanced features you keep mentioning?
If you have enabled the advanced features, the Programs for Everyone section will include links to your email and calendar pages in Communications Express, and to your Banner Web page (either Web for Students or Web for Employees, depending on which you are) and your blog. The WOU forums server will soon be connected as well. The really cool thing here is that once you have logged in to the WOUPortal, you can use these links without needing to log in to each service separately. Just don't forget to log out of the portal when you are done.
When I enabled advanced features I got a warning about not holding WOU responsible for data loss? What's up with that?
Because of the way the WOUPortal logs you into external services like Communications Express and the blog server, you need to specifically log out when you are done. Even if you quit the browser completely, someone else could still open it up again, go to Communications Express, and read your email.
This can be completely prevented by logging out of the portal, so it is crucial that you do that every time; that warning message is there to remind you that the advanced features really are optional, and that you agree not to hold WOU responsible if you forget to log out and somebody does something bad with your account. Personally, I do use the advanced features; I believe the extra convenience of not having to log in multiple times outweighs the (very small) risk involved.
Wasn't there another FAQ about a portal last year or something?
There was. But that portal was never widely used, and was not as flexible as we wanted, so we made our own. Michael Ellis did most of the heavy lifting; if you like the portal. he's the one to thank, and if you want changes, use the Give Feedback tab in the Preferences, and he'll get the message.
You said this is a beta version of the WOUPortal?
That's right; it's a work in progress. However, it is a very stable beta version. Some people, notably Housing and Dining staff and student workers as well as students in the residence halls, have been using it for months already. We expect to add new features and programs every few weeks. The visual design is also open to change.
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