Plattsburgh State web designers and administrators recently made a decision that saved the college $144,000. It all has to do with the new look of the MyPlattsburgh portal, which houses links to campus Web services such as Banner and Moodle.

PSUC Assistant Dean of Library Information Services Mark Mastrean said the college’s contract with the third-party web hosting service Campus EAI, now known as Looking Glass, whose interface the college previously used, would end March 30.

PSUC had held a contract with Looking Glass for four years before March 30.

“We worked with the software company for a website, (and) they help us build what we need,” Mastrean said.

He said if the college signed another four-year contract, it would cost $36,000 per year. He said that the college tried to negotiate the terms of the contract with Looking Glass in January, but the company wouldn’t budge.

Mastrean said the old portal had fallen out of date with the modern era of smartphones and tablets because it wasn’t designed to accommodate all screen sizes.

“Websites get out of date after a certain amount of time. Technology changes. Everything has to be optimized for mobile delivery,” Mastrean said. “The old site was not built for that.”

Computer Information Systems Unit Coordinator and Programming Manager Thomas Higgins coded the new portal from the middle of January to the end of March to look as close to the old one as he could manage. By doing this, the college saved thousands of dollars to maintain its portal for free.

He said Banner was already being hosted by SUNY Information Technology Exchange Center, or ITEC, that works to promote computer services at the SUNY level. SUNY ITEC is located at the Buffalo State campus.

“We just (used) that skin and made the portal run inside of what is basically running Banner as well,” he said.

Higgins said he wanted to make the transition between the portals as seamless as possible.

“We wanted to keep as much the same so that students and faculty and staff wouldn’t have as much of a learning curve,” he said.

However, Higgins said the two are different in that the new portal is more responsive.

He said that, while there wasn’t enough time to have students test out the portal beforehand, staff from the registrar, academic advising and admissions offices had the chance to test it out before it was released to the student body.

For a couple of weeks after the launch, Higgins included an option for students to leave comments about how they feel about the portal. He said the majority of comments were positive.

After Higgins coded the portal, he said Computing Systems and Desktop Support Unit Coordinator T.J. Myers had included locations for Google applications such as Drive, Mail and Calendar.

PSUC junior human development and family relations major Allyssa Theobald said that when the portal was released, it took her by surprise because she wasn’t aware that there would be a change.

However, she also said she may not have read the emails that might have been sent regarding the launch.

“It hasn’t affected my use of the portal,” she said.

Mastrean said Higgins’ and Myers’ creative thinking and teamwork helped save the college from spending money it didn’t have to. He said he is impressed with Higgins’, Myers’ and other Web staff members’’ level of knowledge.

“They live in the technology world,” Mastrean said. “They are amazing problem-solvers.”

Email Tim Lyman at news@cardinalpointsonline.com

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