HUIT Considers Student Input for Web Makeover

Starting Wednesday, students will be able to submit designs for the new face of my.harvard.edu to the Harvard Student Information Technology Advisory Committee, marking the first time that Harvard University will use student feedback to design the site.

The winner of the contest will receive a $200 prize and their name will be featured on the new site’s home page. HUIT hopes that the new design will be implemented this summer and be ready for student use by the start of the fall semester, according to Michael C. George ’14, a student on the Student IT Advisory Committeee who is also a Crimson editor.

The competition, which is the first step in a larger move towards a more effective my.harvard.edu, is part of an effort on the part of HUIT to incorporate student voices, George said.

“The redesign contest will help us improve the ‘look’ of my.harvard, and the underlying technology will remain the same for the time being,” Managing Director of Academic Technology for HUIT, Samantha Earp, wrote in an email to HUIT Communications Officer Nicholas L. Connors that was forwarded to The Crimson. “That said, we are in the initial stages of the larger undertaking of rethinking what an ideal student portal would look like.”

Committee member Shirley Zhou ’13 also emphasized that the competition is a revolutionary move.

“They have never taken student user feedback,” Zhou said. “This is a huge step for them.”

More in-depth changes, Zhou said, will likely include the introduction of a central page where links to important information like exam dates and the academic calendar will be located, as well the addition of student-generated content like event posters to the front page.

Many of Zhou’s friends, she said, use Google to find information like exam dates.

“For students, it’s often a challenge to navigate this Byzantine network,” George said.

My.harvard.edu was created nearly a decade ago, and the last overhaul of the site took place in 2004. A student-generated website meant to provide a more user-friendly substitute for my.harvard.edu was shut-down by Harvard in 2007 for legal reasons.

Students on the advisory committee proposed a design competition after about 160 students voted on 47 suggestions for changes to HUIT services. The most heavily supported initiative was a change to the Pre-Term Planning tool, closely followed by changes to my.harvard.edu.

“The technology landscape changes very quickly,” Earp wrote. “My.harvard, while an excellent technology, is several years old and could use an update in terms of look and feel.”

The competition, which opens Wednesday, will close on June 15. All students, whether they have technical knowledge or not, are encouraged to submit designs.

—Staff writer Gina K. Hackett can be reached at ghackett@college.harvard.edu.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

CORRECTION: May 4

An earlier version of this article misstated Shirley Zhou’s class year. She is a member of the Class of 2013.

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