The Daily Northwestern

More CAESAR changes coming after tepid student response to redesign

Cat Zakrzewski, Assistant Campus Editor

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As students logged on to CAESAR this week to search for classes and preregister, many noticed the revamped landing page that launched in October.

The change is the first of many planned changes to the Student Information Portal that Student Enterprise Systems hopes to implement within the next year. Ann Dronen, the director of SES, said they would begin work on improving how the system allows students to search for classes following registration for Winter Quarter.

Dronen said she has been monitoring the CAESAR help desk, and so far the new landing page, which organizes links into 13 modules, has not been causing confusion among students. Dronen told The Daily in October the new organization was intended to be more logical.

She also said SES has not received much feedback. She explained the group plans to formally attain feedback from students following registration.

“People are getting where they need to get to,” said Dronen of the new landing page. “We’re planning to get through the registration cycle and then gather feedback after, when everyone’s been looking at the system.”

Dronen said the changes to CAESAR were based on student feedback from a survey SES sent to students in all schools in mid-July. The survey asked students which CAESAR pages and content they used most frequently and included an open-ended question for other general feedback. A total of 2,100 students responded to the survey, according to an email Dronen sent to The Daily. She also wrote that SES ran two focus groups, with about 30 students participating in the two sessions.

Dronen said from the student feedback, SES learned that students dislike CAESAR’s inability to navigate back from a page or have multiple windows open simultaneously. She said investigation of these problems will begin after the registration cycle.

“The challenge is to focus on the most important things to the students,” she said.

Students have responded to the new landing page largely with indifference. Many said they were hoping for an improved course search in the most recent revamp.

“It didn’t really make scheduling easier,” said Weinberg freshman Jasmine Tzeggai. “(The) only thing that changed was the home page. I still have to use the same old CAESAR for enrollment.”

McCormick sophomore Salil Gupta said the change was “nothing significant,” and the new page seemed to just have “more words” than the old one. He said the most significant problem with CAESAR is how slow it is.

“If it is serving 8,000-plus students, it should be a lot faster,” Gupta said. “It’s not a human-centered design.”

Gupta said there is a standard in the web design industry that it should not take more than “three clicks” to navigate anywhere on a website.

“With CAESAR, it’s definitely more than three clicks,” Gupta said. “It’s not very intuitive a lot of the time.”

Gupta echoed the feedback SES received during their summer survey and said the website was at times very “frustrating,” particularly when the back button redirected to a different page from the last page he was on.

While Dronen insisted the office is always gathering student feedback, some of the changes suggested by students may be difficult to achieve. SES works with the third-party vendor PeopleSoft, which developed the software for CAESAR.

“We will begin seeing what the changes are,” said Dronen of SES’s plans. “Hopefully they can happen within the next year. We don’t know exactly what’s going to change yet.”

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About the Writer
Cat Zakrzewski, In Focus Editor
Cat Zakrzewski is the In Focus editor of The Daily and a Medill junior. Her past positions include assistant summer editor, Campus editor, Holiday Guide editor, assistant In Focus editor, assistant Campus editor, copy editor, photographer and reporter. She is from Ambler, Penn., and has interned at The Chicago Sun-Times Homicide Watch, Northwestern Magazine and Montgomery...