Debating to use Fluid

Member institutions are a point in their relationship with Oracle where they need to make a choice in how their self-service pages display to students, faculty and advisors.  From an Academic Advising perspective, how an advisor views the students information is equally important as how a student views their information.  While at some institutions, advisors are generally faculty, at other schools there could be professional advisors or non-faculty advisors.   Oracle has delivered a Student, Faculty and Advisor Center for many years in their classic presentation.  With their new fluid interface, student pages have seen many updates, while faculty and advisors have not had a complete overhaul.  Some schools have modified the display for all three groups, but now face the decision of whether to keep their homegrown displays or move to fluid.  This blog attempts to note the pros and cons of each choice.

 

Continue to Use Classic

An institution that chooses to stay with the classic displays, would be sticking with a view that requires no changes or training needs.  The displays are delivered, and therefore do not require any customization which leads to lower cost of ownership.  This consistency may be very attractive to many institutions.  However there are several features that are missing from this approach.  Students, in particular, find the classic view outdated and unlike any web views they currently use.  Pages in the classic view are not responsive, and therefore are difficult, if not impossible to use on a phone or tablet device.  Finally, most new development at Oracle is occurring only in the fluid interface, and may not be reflective in the classic views.

 

Adopt Fluid

The new Oracle Fluid interface is also a delivered option that an institution may not need to customize.  Oracle has spent several years developing the fluid interface in particular for students.  Nearly all of the functions required for students to interact with the institution, including the Academic Advising module, has been updated and delivered.  Those choosing to use the fluid interface would also have the benefit of Oracle fixing issues that arise and any new future functionality.  Fluid is a responsive design that lets students see the same pages on any device.  The initial interface uses tiles for initial navigation, and the pages look more modern.  In creating a tile for advisors, fluid gives schools the ability to create Navigation Collections to group related pages based on individual university needs.

There are some cons to adopting fluid.  The first is that Oracle has not been very forthcoming about any future releases to the fluid interface.  For Academic Advising, there are several outstanding issues submitted by members over the years that have not been addressed, and do not seem to be a priority for future development.  The second is that while the experience for students is much improved over classic, there has been little or no change for faculty or advisors.  Both still need to navigate to multiple pages to do their work and there is little improvement in their interface.  This causes an inconsistent look between the new fluid pages and the classic pages and makes navigation confusing.  Also, security with the fluid pages is completely separate from the classic pages.  For some intuitions a complete rework of security is necessary.  If an institution choses to implement fluid, there is elastic search functionality to consider.  Finally, it is unclear if Oracle will continue to update the fluid interface over time to keep it looking fresh and modern, with some speculation that fluid is just a bridge until their Cloud offering is viable.

 

Homegrown approach

The main advantage to a homegrown approach is that the design can be tailored to the needs of an institutions population, rather than using a standard interface.  While there are numerous approaches to developing a homegrown interface, using the existing Oracle data structure and developing APIs is the least intrusive.  Using tools like Bootstrap to frame the data, allows any presentation to be responsive thereby allowing students to use any device.  A homegrown interfaces allows the institution to configure their displays as desired, rather than customizing delivered pages to remove unwanted information.  Creating a customized interface also means that faculty and advisors needs can be taken into account.  For instance, a custom interface could drastically reduce the number of pages an advisor needs to navigate, just by creating a single page with all the functions one click away.

While a homegrown interfaces has many advantages, the fact is that it does require developers and time is major factor against creating a modified interface.  As with any customization any changes to functionality or new features would need to be taken into account.  In addition, an institution would need to maintain (and upgrade) additional technology layers.  While a homegrown interface offers the most to the institutions important constituents, a school should not embark on this path without understanding the long term needs.

 

Summary

In summary, each institution needs to weigh the pros and cons of each based on their own campus needs.  From an Academic Advisement perspective, all the choices have their own drawbacks, but certainly Fluid or a Homegrown interface provide the better experiences. 

 

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