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As our organizations grow, we often find ourselves looking for new ways of informing our employees about changes, procedures, and new policies. We want our employees and administrations to be well informed about our corporations' missions, goals, and corporate events. Furthermore, we want to present as much information to our employees as possible and not limit it to specific systems. The use of the Internet as a tool to disseminate relevant information seems to be a good start, but can our target audience sift through the hefty amounts of data on most corporate intranets?
In an educational context, we are faced with similar challenges. How do we keep the administration, faculty, staff, and students well informed about institutional policies and procedures? How do we ensure the student body receives accurate and up-to-date information to help them achieve their educational and career goals? In addition, we hope to build learning communities—communities of students, instructors, administration, faculty, and staff all collaborating and constructing strong relationships that provide the foundation for students to achieve their goals with greater success. We also want to promote information sharing so users can build on their experiences at the institution. Plus, we want to provide seamless integration with legacy and other applications.
One solution to these goals is to provide a support tool for such learning through a Web portal. This portal should provide all users with valuable information about their personal details and interests, and about the institution. However, building a portal is no small task, especially when you consider the shrinking budgets and limited resources in today's economy.
A good solution might be one of the available out-of-the-box portals. However, if customization, direction, and cost are a concern, you might want to look at uPortal by Java in Administration Special Interest Group (JA-SIG). uPortal is a free open source portal project built on Java, XML, and XSL (Extensible Stylesheet Language). Current releases include support for Web services channels, permissions, and group managers, which were absent from the initial releases. uPortal gives you the flexibility to open your favorite Java editor and implement any new features you or your institution might need. The portal is specifically focused at higher-education institutions, although some businesses and high schools use it as a framework for building collaborative communities. The framework has pluggable components known as channels that deliver focused information to the user. Users can select what channels they want to view based on their roles in the institution and customize the site's look and feel to their preferences.
uPortal is free; however, there is an investment cost incurred by the development team in learning Java, XML, XSL, and the portal framework itself. This article focuses on reducing that investment by helping you get uPortal up and running. In addition, it shows how to configure the portal with a production database and explains its basic authentication methods.
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