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From Classroom to Campus Technology

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Whether signing up for courses, submitting project forms and proposals, or filling out work-study timecards, Hampshire students log on to TheHub on a frequent basis. It's an essential technological tool for them as well as for faculty and staff.

Since TheHub's introduction in 2003, the Hampshire community has found ways in which it could be improved. It's now in the midst of an overhaul led by the people who know it best.

"I don't know any other school that would put their primary educational software tool in the hands of students, faculty, and staff to design, and I think most places should," says Chris Perry, associate professor of media arts and sciences.

Cognitive Science 0214: Improving TheHub

Chris PerryProfessor Perry, in collaboration with Hampshire's Enterprise Resource Planning systems manager Jeffrey Butera (who programmed the current version of TheHub), taught a class during spring semester that laid the foundation for TheHub's new design.

Perry suggested the course to Butera in the summer of 2009, and after the College's administration made the upgrade a priority that fall, the class was fast-tracked for the following semester.

"We were looking for a handful of students who were good in technology and programming, and others with good visual ideas," says Butera.

They found that mix, but all involved knew the work would take longer than one semester. The redesign centers on organizing and presenting a huge amount of data in a user-friendly way and remains a work in progress.

This past summer, three students from Perry and Butera's class brought the task further along. Ian McEwen 08F and Evan Silberman 07F primarily focused on programming, while Arielle Soutar 07F dealt with interaction design. They have continued their efforts into this school year, thanks to a grant from the office of the president of Hampshire. They are collaborating with Perry and Butera, building on the work of other students who contributed their own skills during the class and incorporating suggestions made over the years by users of TheHub.

It's a method Perry enjoys: "I think it's pretty great that we can pull this off, since we're the ones who use it," he says.

The goal is to have the new version of TheHub completed for the 2011-12 academic year. Even then, Perry and Butera anticipate that work will continue as students, faculty, and staff constantly refine TheHub to best suit the Hampshire community's ever-evolving needs.

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