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The research that was carried out was in order to collect data regarding the expectations and needs that both teachers and students in the institution expect from a portal system. A portal system is a website that has been set up with a multitude of features and can support various services that are related to a specific task, demographic or community (Onovughe  2012). In this case, the portal system to be set up is for an educational institution and therefore would offer such functionality such as web based email, course notes and outlines, communication between students and faculty members, information about the institution and many other functions and features that the management deems should be added to the website. (Ituma  2011)

The research was therefore conducted to get qualitative data that would define what features and applications the two groups, teachers and students would like included in the new portal as well as those that they would not want to be in the portal system. It was conducted through the use of two focus groups one for teachers and the other for students.

Focus Group 1-Students

The student focus group had six respondents. The respondents were queried on their opinions on various elements of the portal system and what they viewed was important and should be included as well as what they thought should not be included in the system.

The web portal uses the use of internet technology which has fast risen to become one of the main channels of communication in the world today. The internet gives users the ability to connect with people from all over the world and share information and documents regardless of the physical location of the parties. This is done through various methods such as laptop and desktop computers but also through the use of mobile technology such as web enabled cell phones and tablet computers. The internet is also an almost infinite pool of information for research and learning seeing as it contains data on every topic and subject available. By tapping into the collective intelligence that is brought about by the World Wide Web, students as well as teachers can further their understanding of various concepts and topics and therefore increase their knowledge base (Ituma  2011). All the students responded that they were familiar with the internet and computer technology and were able to use it them to share information and documents both regarding their private social lives as well as their academic work.

The students were asked what their preferred method of communication with their teachers was; either the traditional direct contact between teacher and student or the web based portal system. Many of the students said that the portal system was indeed a good one, with the freedom regarding distance it provided as well as the quick access to information that it facilitated. However, they expressed their discontent with how the system was being used giving various reasons such as the confusion that arose when there was absenteeism by the teacher, or when the student does not have access to the internet(Active Learning in Higher Education). There was also the point that some of the subjects taught needed personal interaction with the teachers in order to ensure proper transfer of information. The students gave the various uses that they have for the portal system such as communicating with teachers as well as printing documents from the online portal. The views expressed were that the current system was very basic and therefore needed to be upgraded in order to offer more functionality as provided by various software, many of which the students do not have. They said that they rarely use the system because of its disconnect with their lives, for example it was easier to use personal email as opposed to the sending messages through the portal as the personal email was more secure and user friendly. However most of them agreed that they would use the portal system more if it improved on its user friendliness as well as included other features such as viewing documents in different file formats such as word processing and presentation documents. This would mean that it would be possible for students to view these documents regardless of the software installed on the student’s personal machine or device since it was stated that some of the software that was to be used to open or view the files sent or available was not present on each of their machines.

However there were some features of the old portal that the students said should be retained such as the LRI system which allowed the viewing of PowerPoint presentations. These presentations are used to convey lecture notes and other information through the use of both text and other visual representation techniques such as images and graphs. The students also said that the features that provided the interactivity between the students should also be retained. The social integration would encourage the use of the portal by the students but they however stated that there was need for a moderator or a system that enabled the conversations to be reviewed so as to discourage any inappropriate or derogatory messages which might be posted by malicious users and would reduce the efficiency of the system (Lee  2003).

Some of the new features that the students said would like to see integrated into the portal are reminders for important events such as term dates and other school calendar events. These reminders would enable them to keep track of what was required of them at what time and therefore allow them to plan their time better as they had very busy schedules and they could sometimes forget to finish up a certain task in time. This would have various benefits such as quick information sharing as well as the saving of the amount of paper that is use d by the school. The students also stated the wish for teachers to better use the portal to communicate with students.

Focus Group 2 Teachers

The second focus group was made up of teachers in the institution. The respondents stated that they were happy with the idea of a portal system for use by students. Some of the features that they expected from such a system are the sharing of files and documents through such services as dropbox and email. They also expected a student portal to facilitate enhanced communication between not only teachers and students but also the students themselves. This interaction and communication would enable the sharing of ideas as well as the forming of groups for such activities as research and group discussions. The use of the portal for helping students to catch up on lessons that they have missed or in aiding of further research was also a feature that they said they expect from a student portal. The hosting of the portal on the internet means that the information contained in it can be accessed from anywhere and at any time by the students and therefore would not limit them to a specific location or timeframe such as class time or being in a classroom. This would enable continuous learning as well as communication for both the students and the teachers. (Onovughe 2012)

The teachers’ focus group said that they were content with the present system although they like the students said that there were many areas that could be improved on so as to make it more efficient. At the present the portal system was used to mainly upload documents and other basic learning materials for students. Some of the features and applications that the teachers said they would like to see incorporated into the portal system are an email feature that would allow teachers to communicate directly with students as well as a more collaborative and interactive system that would be easier and more efficient to use.

Conclusion

A web portal system is one of the ways in which large institutions such s schools can use to improve the experience of both the students and the teachers. This is because a portal system can be used to connect these individuals together regardless of which part of the world they are in or whatever time that they would like to do so. A good web portal system when implemented with the needs of the users in mind is very useful in that it will enable the quick and seamless sharing of information through the internet. 

Code: Sample20

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