The new MyMercer portal has been launched as part of the Project NASA

Written by: Anna Pinzolo

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New portal was launched in March. Students looing to register for Summer and Fall 2013 classes should use the new MyMercer portal. Illustration by Abby Schwendeman

MyMercer, MCCC’s online portal for students, has been updated for future semesters beginning with Summer 2013.

Project NASA is the name given to the project that involves switching the system that students currently use to log in, check grades, make payments, etc. The new portal, which is actually called “Colleague” (comparable to “Blackboard”), went live in early March. The portal is active, but Susan Bowen, Executive Director for Information and Technology services at MCCC, says, “…there are more features to come within the next year.” However, it does not yet affect students registered before summer 2013.

“Sounds like Mercer is finally doing something right,” says Kevin Rauth, a second year student. When told about what students should expect, Rauth says, “I mean, it’s not a huge deal but it sounds better than what we got now, right?”

As of now, halfway through spring semester 2013, if students try to log in to their MyMercer portal, they arrive at a page that claims the system is in transition and to choose a login option based on their needs. If a student is looking for information related to the spring 2013 semester or earlier, they are to use the old portal where all their information is stored and everything looks the same as students are used to.

New students or returning students looking to register for summer or later are introduced to the new portal.

“I don’t understand it,” says Brittany Magsamen, a third year student. “It seems very high tech, I haven’t even tried to use it. It scared me off. I didn’t even bother.”

For those who don’t understand how the new portal works, there is a small “Need Help?” button at the bottom of the log in box, as well as instructions for log in.

“All I’ve done so far is log in and look around,” says Rauth. “Logging in was a little confusing at first, but I figured it out simple enough. Looks nicer than the old one, at least.”

For now, the only services the new portal offers is a new look and registration for classes. In the future, the portal is expected to host every student related service they may need (i.e. email, registration, schedule, grades, etc) as well as campus news and direct links to the Mercer online learning system (Angel Learning).

The new program is called Colleague, modeled closely after the Blackboard system at other schools such as Drexel and Fordham University.

“The new portal is part of the ERP system that was purchased from Ellucian. The design, colors, layout and content was developed by the Project NASA Portal team. ThE team is comprised of staff across the campus and include many members of our Web Advisory Committee,” said Bowen.

According to Bowen, “…the majority of community colleges across the nation use the Colleague system” as opposed to “…the very small number in Florida that still implement our old system.”

Of course with this new system, some students may have concerns. The first concern that arises is the issue of security.

When asked about the online security issue from last August wherein someone hacked the personal files of all the students, Susan Bowen told The VOICE: “The security issues that happened last August had to do with network drives and the information on those. This is totally separate, not even related to it. Not related at all.”

What about the concerns about the difficulties of navigating the new system and making sure that the system works?

Bowen says that this project “…has been in the works for years now,” and for the past few months they’ve been “…testing the system with live simulations.”

Recently, they did a simulation of the student team running through the process, “Having a student apply, making them a student in the system, taking them through registration, all the way through their transcript…Student system is so large they have multiple teams working on it. So far it’s been going very well.”

With those concerns addressed, Bowen began to outline some of the benefits of this system.

“New system—benefit is—state of the art ERP system. Most of the services that will be available online to students will be enhanced. The portal that we will be implementing is really a true portal. So you’ll be able to get your Mercer mail, you’ll be able to do all your work with the administrative system: registering, paying bills, seeing grades, things that they do now.”

“But also in addition to that, that will become the interface to online learning, LNS, Angel, and all the library resources, so there’s a lot more interactivity that we’ll be able to have in there.”

“Coming live, we’re just focusing on registration, but you’ll see that the portal has the capability to have many more links on it, and then it will be single sign-in. So when we go live, when we start our summer session, you’ll actually be able to get your email in there.

When you sign in, your email will be right there so you don’t have to log in again to Google mail from Mercer mail. So it’ll be really ease of use for students. And if you have Angel everything will be right there as well.

Now that’ll take some time, because they’re looking at a new learning management system, but it’ll be nicer. It’ll take about a year to roll this out, but that’s where we’re going with this.”

Yes, the system will take time. However, Bowen spoke with enthusiastic hand gestures, seemingly very excited about what’s to come. Lately, she’s been working on spreading the word about the new system, hoping students won’t be too confused or surprised.

She claims to have “…utilized the student radio and TV stations, as well as used flyers in the hall, ran an ad in The Voice, and [we] held multiple information sessions for students interested in learning more.”

Still, she has a few concerns about students understanding what to do with the new system, especially since older students will be receiving new ID numbers.

When told about the new ID numbers, Rauth groans. “I don’t get why we need new ones at all, I barely know the one I have now. Where are we supposed to find out our new ID’s?”

“It will be a challenge, especially for students. That’s why we’re having these information sessions,” Bowen says, “A student now will have a new ID it’s a 7 digit number. Their current ID will be linked in the system, so if you go to the student offices they should have both the old and the new. We’re not reprinting the ID tags because we can link them. “

While she hopes these sessions will be enough to inform students, that isn’t all.

“Registration events will be held the second weeks of March and April where people will be in dining centers at both campus’s, helping students.”

And where did the name “Project NASA” come from?

Bowen says, “The name was suggested by members of the ERP implementation team. The thinking was NASA stood for “not a simple assignment” and that slogans from NASA could be used such as ‘failure is not an option.'”

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