Hopkins Rolls Out New Website
This fall, Hopkins rolled out a new version of its website.
While the online face of the school, plastered with pithy slogans and glossy pictures, remained the same, Hopkins’ internal website changed drastically over the summer. The new website, more interactive than its predecessor, functions much like Google Classroom.
The transformation was prompted by factors outside the school’s control. Last year, the company which had provided Hopkins with its Student Information System (SIS) -- the software responsible for keeping track of grades, schedules, transcripts, and courses, among other things -- informed the school that it would be removing the program from its lineup. As Ben Taylor, the Director of Academic Technology, put it, “We had a choice last year: get a new SIS, or don’t have school any more. We picked get a new SIS.”
That new system has some powerful features. Hoping to streamline the student experience, Hopkins opted for a system which integrated with its pre-existing online presence, bringing functionality to the previously mundane website. Taylor said, “The SIS that we picked is the one that integrated...with our website. When we got the SIS, [the website came] alive.” Now, the informational tabs on the site are populated with pages for classes, teams, activities. Additionally, teachers can post assignments and collect homework via the Hopkins website. Hopkins.edu has become, in essence, a Learning Management System (LMS) -- an online program, which facilitates assignments, assessments, and content transfers, a role also done by Google Classroom.
The introduction of this new system has caused practical problems, however. Most teachers, citing quality, ease of use, and familiarity, have stuck with Classroom. Dr. Philip Stewart, the Head of the Science Department, is an exception. “I think it’s unfortunate that we’re not on one system. I do [like the new system]. [It’s] a lot more convenient.” Thomas Peters agreed: “I like the features of the new [website]. It will take me time to get used to it, [but] I’ll probably shift to the new [system]."
But most students disagree, and the among the student body reception of the new system has been almost universally negative. Most cite efficiency concerns, expressing frustration at having to visit multiple sites to get their work done. Noah Slager ’19 said, “My homework is split up into a bunch of different websites. Instead of visiting one website to get all my homework and assignment sheets, now I get to visit two. Thanks, Hopkins.” Zaryah Gordon ’19 agreed: “Some of my teachers don’t like it, so we went completely to Google Classroom, so now I have to split between two [websites]. It’s annoying.” Kallie Schmeisser ’22 agreed: “Yeah, I really don’t like it. All of my classes are on Classroom except for one, which is on the Hopkins website. It’s extremely inefficient and I don’t really use it at all.”
Shifting back and forth between platforms seems to be the main issues, but some students just don’t like the new system. Eric Martin ’19 said, “I really prefer Classroom because I think there’s a better feel to it.” Sam Jenkins ’19 added, “It’s bad. They tried.” Still, there is hope for the future. Taylor conceded, “Technology is something that should improve our lives; if it makes our lives worse, it’s worthless.” He is well aware of students’ displeasure. “I think people are aware of the fact that we have some inconsistency in the way that we interact with these tools, and if we could come together more things would be better for students and teachers.”
Taylor noted opportunities for more student feedback. “I’ll be sending out [surveys] to you guys and to faculty to give feedback so that we can make a decision [on our LMS] with the community behind that decision and then create the support materials that you need to use it effectively.” In the meantime, he urged students to be receptive and hopeful. “The right option is to check it out and to try to have an open mind.”