Student Enterprise Systems plans complete redesign of CAESAR site

Jonah Dylan, Assistant Campus Editor

Northwestern Student Enterprise Systems, which is responsible for managing CAESAR, is currently in the process of planning a redesign of the website, said SES director Ann Dronen.

Dronen said the project is part of a standard update and will take into account feedback from surveys conducted among students. Changes include improving compatibility with mobile devices and general usability, Dronen said. The updated version will launch this coming fall.

“Just as we have to update Microsoft Office, we have to update our product, and with that come some improvements,” Dronen said.

Dronen said the changes are based on a survey SES had sent out in January to a sample of 10 percent of students, including graduate and undergraduate, asking what changes they would like to see in a redesigned CAESAR. She said SES also plans on organizing focus groups with students to further determine ways to improve usability. The groups will likely begin meeting in Spring Quarter, she said.

Responses from Associated Student Government’s annual student survey were also included in planning for the new interface. McCormick senior Aniket Lila — member of ASG’s Budget Analytics Committee, which focused on CAESAR — said he met with SES earlier this quarter to present the findings of ASG’s annual survey that specifically pertained to issues students had with the website.

The new CAESAR will address common complaints such as difficulty finding classes and navigating among pages in the site, Lila said.

“The registrar knew that they had a problem with CAESAR because everyone complains about it,” he said. “With our responses and our data, I think they now have a clearer picture that this is a big problem they’re facing, so they just got confirmation that what they were doing is right and that they need to really push it forward.”

Lila said he also expected the new CAESAR to be available for the incoming freshman class to use when selecting their classes Fall Quarter.

Edward Huddart, ASG vice president for budget analytics, said the shift from course management system Blackboard to Canvas demonstrates the positive impact of improving student interfaces.

“That happened over the last year and a half and was very successful,” the Weinberg senior said. “Everyone loves Canvas, and a lot of the problems Blackboard had previously are similar to the ones CAESAR has in terms of being outdated.”

Because many students find CAESAR to be difficult to use, students have turned to programs like Brutus, which was created by students in the Knight Lab as an alternative to CAESAR and allows students to view their class calendar. Ideally, Huddart said, students should not have to look to third-party software if they need help visualizing their class schedule.

Though it is still unclear what the specific changes to CAESAR will be, Lila said there will be a complete redesign.

“Just navigating through CAESAR is a very big problem,” he said. “So the whole user interface will be more intuitive.”

Matthew Choi contributed reporting.

This story was updated to clarify that Edward Huddart is ASG’s vice president for budget analytics. 

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