As we near the end of the first week of school, I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s glad the stressful beginning-of-year chores are over. Sure, if you are a freshman, you’ve still got plenty of hands to shake, but at least we are all finished with two crucial tasks — paying your tuition, and browsing / signing up for classes. Say, it’s sure nice to be able to call up the course catalog so easily, isn’t it? It is also nice to pay digitally using the online service. However, anyone who’s done either knows these services could definitely use some improving.
First off, the overlying issue of Pacific’s online presence is that there are too many bits and pieces. Each Pacific online service is visually different and hard to get to. There is a list under the “Current Students” sidebar, but it is far from complete. Some resources, such as the bookstore site, are in “Related Websites.” It would make so much more sense to a new student to have a clean, simple list of links to all important services. It should be easy to browse classes through the catalog, get book lists from the bookstore site, and then pay up through TouchNet service. We can’t have one perfect system that takes care of it all — fine. But it’s not difficult to take everything and organize it into one attractive-looking menu. It seems to me that a little “web-redesign” would go a long way.
The services themselves are generally well-constructed, with a few exceptions. The first service that I’m going to criticize today is BoxerOnline. It functions, and provides you with the information you need to know after you skillfully navigate the various screens. But can’t we make the thing look a little nicer? By web design standards, Datatel’s WebAdvisor (the web-app powering BoxerOnline) is pretty outdated. Class meeting information would be much easier to read if the dates, times, days, and room were differentiated. There is also a terrible problem with BoxerOnline refusing to open any more windows when a crpytic “maximum cookie limit” is reached.
The second service in need of improvement is TouchNet’s online payment service. First off, it’s buried in BoxerOnline. As you might have remembered, there are two ways to pay — a card, or a direct transfer from your bank account. If paying by card, you are charged a small percentage as a fee. But wait, is it really that small? A small percentage of your tuition is likely a three digit number! I don’t know about you, but I paid directly through an electronic check. Also, the account balance shown online isn’t accurate, requiring a call to cashiering figure out what the real number is.
The technology is there, but it seems to me that it just needs some refining to work to its full potential.