An increasing number of Australian universities are establishing virtual gateways that provide staff and students online access to academic, administrative and support resources.
Users receive a password to gain entry to the my.uni portal that enables them to access email, calendars, course listings, campus events and other internet resources, such as the weather and news bulletins.
Institutions with the most sophisticated systems allow students and staff to customise portals so they can add, remove or re-order the sequence of links.
The University of Sydney's 35,000 students and 5,000 staff became the first in Australia to gain access to a web portal system last year. The portal brings together content and services on a single website. Students can call up a customised homepage to access a range of information such as outstanding library fines, or faculty announcements.
Each of these areas used to be handled by a different computer and getting all the information together meant logging on to several different systems.
As students can log on to the system anywhere in the world, international students can check their examination results without having to wait for the post.
Staff at Monash University investigated the Sydney system and others overseas before developing the My.Monash portal. They now claim the system is "better than anything anyone else is doing in higher education".
Monash deputy vice-chancellor Alan Lindsay said the portal was devised in collaboration with students and staff.
Queensland University of Technology has also established a system, QUT Virtual, that received almost 6 million hits in its first semester. Pro vice-chancellor Tom Cochrane said QUT Virtual offered a comprehensive range of services, with students using their personal profiles to access information as well as perform many administrative functions.
Students could adjust their tutorial allocations, re-enrol, view their academic histories and exam results, and download their class and exam timetables. Professor Cochrane said QUT's Online Teaching system worked in tandem with QUT Virtual to provide unit outlines and lecture material.
Another university giving students and staff online access is Southern Cross. Last month, the university launched its MySCU, which online manager Michael Singleton said was "much more than just a learning shell".
"The SCU system provides students with an online environment that allows them to experience the entire university, rather than just an online course," Dr Singleton said. "MySCU provides students with an electronic calendar, a personal organiser and address book and the ability to participate in university-wide discussion forums."
Monash portal details: http://my. monash.edu.au