Columbia University Online

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Columbia’s a mess of bureaucracy. We all know that. You even have to deal with bureaucracy online – think class registration. Open SSOL. Open the Directory of Classes. Open the Bulletin. Open CULPA. Flip back and forth like mad as you try to correlate classes between the directory and SSOL and the Bulletin, check up on their teachers on Culpa, and register for what’s (hopefully) the right class. It’s insane. And it’s why the recent changes to various administrative websites are a big, promising step in the right direction. Bwog Techonology Specialist Mark Holden brings you a discussion of some of the changes that have been made, and what direction future changes need to take.

hlthsrvcsHealth Services

The Health Services website has moved into the 21st century in multiple ways: the design is nice and aesthetic, and now it’s possible to schedule an appointment online. I mean, that’s sort of a “d’oh!” feature these days in the world of e-commerce and social networking, but at least now they’ve got it.


The previous incarnation of SSOL was starting to show its age, and while the new SSOL design is pretty snazzy, unfortunately the design is about all that’s different. The underlying software remains as counterintuitive and difficult to use as it’s always been. Admittedly, it’d be more work for Columbia to overhaul SSOL from the ground up, but damn, the system needs it. The changes to SSOL so far amount to taking an old lemon of a car, repainting it, and failing to repair the engine. While they’re nice, they’re not enough – we need a complete overhaul.

directoryDirectory of Classes

Nothing has changed. Everything needs to change. The directory of classes is so unprofessional looking that when I first encountered it as an almost-freshman, I immediately clicked away thinking that it was an outdated resource. I’d imagine I wasn’t the only one. Look at it! Look!!! Look at that logo! Read it straight across like a normal human being and look what it says: “Directory University Columbia of Classes.” Disturbingly poor design on the part of a multi-billion dollar university. Worthless!

neuroNeuroscience Department (www.depression-studies.org)

Snazzy layout, and you can register online to participate in research studies (i.e. answer questions for pizza money)! Everybody wins.

Environmental Stewardship

Columbia has a stylish new website devoted to saving the world. It provides in easily-comprehensible format lots of resources for environmentally concerned students, such as info on “green computing” and “reduce, reuse, recycle.” It looks promising both for the environment, in terms of the content it presents, and the people that might want more info, in terms of usability and design.

What needs to happen

The current registration system is a disgrace. It’s the most back-asswards, confusing, unmanageable registration system on the face of the earth. SSOL, the directory of classes, and the bulletin currently are three distinct entities, when really they should be linked together so that students can easily read about classes and major requirements from within SSOL and then with one click register for the right class. The present system is awkward, unwieldy, and confusing, an outmoded dinosaur from the early days of the internet that somehow hasn’t yet expired. It’s about time it were scrapped.

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  1. Not to mention  

    Cubmail is still a steaming pile of shit.

  2. Uhh  

    I don't relate at all to this article; it seems like it was written from a rather technophobic perspective. My GUI isn't pretty? Gasp! It must be dispensed with immediately! Ornament over utility! Function follows form!

    While I agree that it would be convenient to have registration integrated into the course directory, I've never really thought it much trouble to input a 5-digit number from the directory into SSOL. With the advent of tabbed browsing, it's not even that hard to switch back and forth. And honestly, something as utilitarian as a course directory, changing as often as it does, doesn't demand that polished an interface. The point is that it's easy to find information quickly, which is the case on the current website.

    This article does nothing to back up the claim that the system itself is unwieldy.

    Also, it's ass-backwards.

  3. I dunno...  

    I agree with #2 in that if something gets the job done, it doesn't matter how pretty it looks. However, I do enjoy aesthetically pleasing websites over rudimentary frames and search boxes — and I figure that at the very least, all of Columbia's sites should have some sort of theme. As it is, Cubmail looks nothing like the Directory of Classes, which is vastly different from the housing and dining websites, etc. Pick something, dammit! If you're gonna update some sites to make them look like they've been updated in the past decade (e.g. Housing, SSOL most recently), then do it for all of them! There's a reason I use Mozilla Thunderbird for my Columbia email instead of Cubmail...ick

  4. Anonymous  

    Cubmail and the Directory are the two websites that need the most work.

  5. is bwog  

    having server problems?

  6. Anonymous  

    It bwoggles the mind!

  7. back-asswards  

    is a pun on "ass-backwards". get it, it's backwards? irony.

  8. its called a PORTAL  

    Yale: http://portal.yale.edu/

    UPenn: http://medley.isc-seo.upenn.edu/penn_portal/portal.php

    More on Penn: http://www.upenn.edu/computing/pennportal/portaloverview/

    Student Run Portals

    Yale: http://yalestation.org/

    Columbia's useless Portal: http://my.columbia.edu

    Columbia's was designed to help administrators, and thats all that was developed.

    There's a feeling that theres no demand for this kind of thing at columbia, so its low on the totem poll. We have courseworks, cubmail, ssol, etc. The aim is to revamp ssol (which while ugly, is very functional) and overhaul courseworks ('sakai').

    I threw this together in my spare time. Some links need to be updated though.


    Other stuff- Dartmouth has a student developement organization: https://basement.dartmouth.edu/

  9. hah  

    check out how different administrative departments have different design schemes.

    CUIT is overhauling all its archaic pages.

    Student Services is overhauling theres with matching scheme.

    Student Affaits... hasnt really updated any sites except Admissions- which is pretty snazzy now.

    Check some other awesome dated/tacky pages:

    Provost's office:


    President's office:


  10. bwog sucks  

    hey bwog, before you start complaining about columbia's pages, fix your own. make it so that when i click "back," it goes back to where i was on the previous page, not just to the previous page. every other blog in the world does this.

  11. abc

    "It's the most back-asswards, confusing, unmanageable registration system on the face of the earth."

    And yet I now go to a grad school that still conducts registration through filling out paper slips and bringing them to an office to be inputted.

  12. bc student  

    if you think that's bad, look at barnard's. we don't even get the privelege of using SSOL! eBear is so outdated it's not even funny. not to mention that fact that we can't even complete our entire registration online..... woohoo l-course registration

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