Students and Technology

To the Editor:

With regards to your editorial of September 7 "My, Oh My.Harvard," let me begin by saying that I agree with all of your essential points. Many of the online tools currently offered by Harvard University Information Technology are clunky and inadequate. We have, in the past, failed to utilize the amazing pool of talent that the students present. But we are working to change this, and welcome the opportunity the editorial provides to jumpstart this change.

The re-design of the look and feel of the my.harvard landing page was, as you point out, a modest beginning. But it was a beginning—a project initiated by student input, involving the designs submitted by students, and aided through implementation by continuous student input. While there is much that can still be improved in the my.harvard experience, this small change demonstrated the power of involving students. HUIT now supports two pre-term planning tools; the older one which was complex enough to require a video tutorial, and a new one incorporated into my.harvard, designed in conjunction with students that, while not perfect, has gotten much better reviews.

We have also re-engaged the HUIT student advisory council, worked with the Undergraduate Council to define the IT problems that are most troubling to the students, and have begun work on some of those fixes.  For example, we are working with students to identify and rectify various wireless dead spots on campus; students can access the result of this work online through iSites.

At the same time, we are trying to be more agile and innovative in supporting student-led projects. We are actively working with Professor Malan and the staff of CS50 to identify data feeds that we can provide for student projects. We have implemented UserVoice, which allows feedback to be collected. We are also trying new ways of supporting student written tools. For example, we are working with the authors of the harvard-class.com website, which gives a nice interface for course selection, to see how we can best support this tool.

These are only a start, and we welcome your suggestions and help in accelerating the change. If you have ideas, please talk with members of the Undergraduate Council, or get in touch with Shannon Rice (shannon_rice@harvard.edu). If you have a tool that you would like to share with the community, or an idea for such a tool and the desire to build it, get in touch with the University Chief Technical Officer, Jim Waldo (jim_waldo@harvard.edu). Working together, we can make the changes to provide the IT infrastructure that the Crimson so rightly pointed out is lacking.

Sincerely,

Anne Margulies

Vice President and University Chief Information Officer

Cambridge, Mass.

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