Barnard students will soon be logging out of eBear permanently and instead signing in to myBarnard, which administrators believe is a more user-friendly web portal.
Earlier this week, Barnard College Information Technology unveiled to faculty and staff the new web portal, which has been in the works for the past four months. Within the next two weeks, BCIT will roll out its “soft launch” to students.
Carol Katzman, Barnard’s vice president for information technology, said that the pilot period would introduce the new portal but won’t remove eBear just yet.
“You can continue to do your work the way you’ve always done it, or you can use the portal now and do all those things there. It’s an alternate way to access things, and we want students to use it and give us feedback,” Katzman said.
Beginning in the spring semester, though, eBear will be gone for good. BCIT plans to collect student feedback and address complications with myBarnard before removing the existing program, so a specific date for eBear’s termination has not been determined.
The new site is divided into four sections that appear as separate tabs at the top of the home page: academics, finances, student services, and campus life.
In the past, students have complained that deadlines—including the ones for paying tuition, changing the meal plan, and opting out of Barnard’s health insurance—snuck up on them and created holds on their accounts. The new myBarnard system prominently displays these deadlines and alerts students about any holds on their accounts.
Administrators will continue to notify students about deadlines via email, but Katzman said she hopes that myBarnard will be a more effective way to communicate information to students.
“We want to replace lots of the spam—we’re hoping to get the campus there at some point,” Katzman said.
When students send feedback using the online form, they will be issued a ticketing number. This will allow BCIT to stay in contact with them and work on improving the site.
Another key feature of myBarnard is its calendar that syncs a student’s course schedule with her gBear calendar. It also has a Google toolbar that links to gBear, Google Drive, the gBear calendar, and a form to provide user feedback to BCIT.
The campus life tab links students to Barnard’s Student Government Association committee and class council pages, a campus map of Barnard, and Barnard Facebook pages such as Well Woman, New Student Orientation Program, Columbia athletics, and Career Development.
“Ultimately, this will be a replacement for eBear on that side. But it’s more than that. It’s also a community environment,” Katzman said.
Katzman noted that the pilot period is geared toward addressing student feedback to the portal. BCIT will continue to make changes until myBarnard accommodates students as best as possible.
“Show us where things might be broken,” Katzman said. “We want to be able to wear your hat, to see how you’re thinking.”
Nancy Mustachio, BCIT’s director of enterprise applications, also hopes students will continue to generate ideas for other features to bring to the portal.
“It’s a good time to kick the tires and identify those items that may not be as intuitive as we had hoped, and to provide ideas as to what you expect to see in the portal,” Mustachio said.
According to Katzman, the purpose of replacing eBear with myBarnard is to help students navigate Barnard’s administrative departments and internal operations. It is also intended to help students stay on top of community news and events.
“The mission of the portal is to integrate wisely—meaning bring in what is expected, which makes our daily activities simpler,” Mustachio said.
Many students have encountered problems with eBear, noting that finding what they’re looking for is never intuitive.
“It’s so hard to navigate,” Khatidja Karimi, BC ’17, said of the current system.
Victoria Lee, BC ’17, agreed. “It would be nice if they had a search box so you wouldn’t have to press every tab in order to find something,” she said.
“It just looks very antiquated,” Ankeeta Shah, BC ’17, said of eBear’s user interface, adding that she’d prefer if Courseworks could be accessed through eBear.
There is a search bar located at the top right of the myBarnard home screen, and a link to Courseworks is also included in the portal.
“This has been my obsession since I got here,” Katzman, who has worked at Barnard for four years, said. “Having a portal that would serve the capabilities and the quality of what’s needed at Barnard.”
Sophie Rothman contributed reporting.