FAU makes website an essential tool for students

Once upon a time, Florida Atlantic University students waited in anticipation weeks after a semester finished to receive grades in their mailboxes. Schedules of classes were printed on newspaper-like booklets, which were guaranteed to leave ink marks on unsuspecting readers’ fingers. Transcripts could only be obtained with a trip to the registrar’s office, which usually involved a lengthy stand in line. And buying parking decals meant enduring yet another mob of people at the Campus Police building.

Such was student life before the inception of the FAU website (www.fau.edu).

Now, with the use of Internet technology, FAU now provides a single source of information that faculty, staff, students, alumni and even prospective students can tap into with the click of a mouse.

From paying tuition to finding out the date for Homecoming, FAU’s website encompasses it all. Almost every aspect of university life lies within the loads of links that branch out from the main site: syllabi, Internet courses, student government, email, and study-tips.

With instant access to information about the university, students flock to computers in the library and all around each of the seven campuses in Palm Beach, Broward and St. Lucie counties.

However, students don’t always have to be on campus to log onto FAU’s website. Perhaps the most convenient detail of the website is its home accessibility. “It’s real cool. You can go on the site anytime you want so you don’t have to wait around at school,” remarked Rich O’Brien, 21, an Arts and Humanities major.

Students also prefer the user-friendly format that the FAU website provides. Step by step directions, colorful pages, and the overall professional look of the site keep students and others coming back for more.

Communication major Ivy Goldstein, an FAU student for two years, said, “I don’t get very many chances to go onto the website, but when I do, I find it to be very user-friendly.” Moreover, she added that, “being easy to use is probably the best aspect of the site.”

The website is becoming more and more convenient every year. OASIS (Owls Academic Student Information Systems), a new registration system, is in place for the spring semester and enables students to obtain grades/transcripts, peruse class schedules, register and make payments online.

O’Brien said that, “Online payment is one of the best parts of the site. All I have to do is get on the Internet instead of waiting in line at the Administration building.”

Nevertheless, some students feel that the OASIS system is long overdue.

“I think that OASIS is going to be an extremely useful tool for students,” said Karyn Bell, a Management Information Systems major. “Unfortunately, the fact that I was able to register online years ago at a community college makes me think that FAU’s site is somewhat behind the times.”

Incidentally, all three students interviewed said they would be registering for the spring semester using the OASIS system.

Although timeliness may be a factor, FAU’s website offers many options for students that other university sites simply do not. Goldstein commented on other sites: “I never went to the Florida State University website when I attended there a couple years ago. I never really heard much about it, so it was never something I thought about going to for information.”

In comparison to FAU’s website, FSU offers similar services with a different layout, tends to include more links in order to get to one subject, whereas FAU’s website usually leads to a certain subject in one or two links.

Another website, The University of Central Florida’s, tends to be clear, concise, and as user-friendly as FAU’s website. However, in regards to social events, such as Homecoming, FAU seems to be more Internet interactive. UCF’s website did not offer online voting for Homecoming, which FAU’s website featured this past semester.

In perhaps the most innovative step toward the marriage of education and technology, the FAU website offers the Instructional Technology Support Services or ITSS program. As the ITSS home page specifies, “Online, email and videotaped courses are available to students as ‘anywhere, any time’ courses which may be completed within the parameters of FAU semesters but do not require traditional classroom attendance.”

Since this program began a couple years back, it has become increasingly popular among FAU students. So popular, in fact, that students want even more online classes to choose from.

“The only thing I would say should be added to improve the FAU website is more classes available online,” pointed out O’Brien.

Criminal Justice major Crystal Modric agreed, “I would love to take at least one Internet class before I graduate, but there just hasn’t been any that I’ve needed.”

Other than actual Internet classes, the ITSS program also offers access to course syllabi, class grades, and supplemental material from professors who choose to post these pages on the site.

For example, O’Brien logs on to a division of ITSS called Web-CT in order to obtain course materials for his Introduction to Media Studies class.

“I generally log on to Web-CT once a month in order check on my grades and see what’s going on with my class,” he says. “I like this tool of the website the best out of everything.”

Except for times when the server is down or one can’t log in, the FAU student’s days of stress and inconvenience are decreasing. Instead of hopping in their cars and speeding down the interstate highway to any one of FAU’s seven campuses, students are plopping down in their homes and getting access to FAU.