We are excited to announce the launch of a new financial planning calculator for U of T students. The planning calculator is a publicly available tool available to current and prospective undergraduate students. Use it to plan your budget and find out how much it will cost to study at U of T for one academic year.
- See what it would cost to live on or off-campus, or study in a particular undergraduate program at U of T
- Based on the expenses the tool estimates for you, create a budget for food, entertainment and other living costs for the upcoming academic year
- Browse a list of personalized budgeting resources that aim to help you save money
We’ve been working on a number of new features for ACORN over the summer and are excited to launch three of these today in time for the fall-winter academic session.
1. Responsive Mobile
With this release, 90% of ACORN screens will be mobile friendly making it easier to read, navigate and take action on small screen mobile devices. This includes the dashboard, end to end course & program enrolment, paying fees by credit card, updating address & contact information, Planning Tools and all ‘Life’ content.
2. Awards & Financial Aid Module
This new module will do two things:
- Display links to potential financial opportunities available to the student depending on their home faculty and college
- Display upcoming award payouts and an awards history the student has received from U of T.
3. iCal Personal Timetable Export
- This feature enables students to download and add their personal timetables from ACORN to their own mobile and desktop calendars (I.e. Google, iOS etc).
- This feature will replace the existing Academic Activities Calendar but the static Personal Timetable will remain on ACORN.
- The personal exam list that has been present on the Academic Activities Calendar will be displayed during exam periods on the same Timetable & Exams screen in list form.
This release focused on a few minor enhancements:
- Improve the messaging displayed when the transaction broker hits capacity
- Allow certain graduate students to enrol in programs
- Extend Invoice history availability to 7 years
- Refine the display of the receipts for credit card payments
This release included the first of several financial improvements coming to ACORN as well as a few enhancements to course enrolment.
New Feature: Credit card payments are now available on ACORN. This brings some convenience with paying tuition and fees online through ACORN.
-Note: There is a 1.75% convenience fee collected by Moneris, the transaction vendor.
Enhancement: Updated ‘Life’ content for UTM to ensure links are pointing to up to date web information.
Enhancement: Improved messaging on Transcripts page for students without an academic history.
Enhancement: Improved display of currently enrolled course activities on course modals.
Enhancement: Improved display for the ‘enrolment blocked’ label for full courses without waitlist options
For this release we focused on a number of enhancements to course enrolment. We know that getting into courses is incredibly important for students and ensuring that this area is easy to use and understand is one of our core goals on ACORN. To that end, here is a sample of the updates we made:
- Enhancement: Allow enrolment cart items to be modified (e.g. switch sections). Previously there was only the option to add new items or remove existing.
- Enhancement: Improved warning message if a student reaches their 30 course capacity on the enrolment cart.
- Enhancement: Prompt student for confirmation before completing a request to remove a course from their enrolment cart. This brings this interaction into consistency with dropping an enrolled course.
- Enhancement: Enrolment cart space availability was previously showing a static snapshot of when the course was added to the cart so we introduced a mechanism to update this information.
- Enhancement: Add system time for FAS, UTM and UTSC enrolment days for students attempting to log in prior to their enrolment start time. This helps to clarify when a student will be able to gain access to the system on their enrolment day.
- Enhancement: Typeahead course search results have been streamlined to remove courses that don’t have enrollable sections available on ACORN.
- Enhancement: The dashboard is now mobile friendly.
On May 10th we updated ACORN with another release focused on a set of enhancements and fixes. Here is a sample of the updates:
- Enhancement: Enrolment start date and time notification – In recent years we would inform students of their upcoming enrolment start date and time only when we had both of these values. This would lead to some late notice for certain divisions. This year, where applicable, we’ll provide a notification of the day you can start enrolling in courses for fall-winter and update this once we have a confirmed start time as well.
- Enhancement: Enrol & Manage landing screen – If a previous academic session is still showing, for example Summer session in October, we now default to the current academic session rather than simply the first tab showing.
- Enhancement: Courses –> Enrol & Manage – Recently we introduced a fix so that the session tab you were looking at on Enrol & Manage would be the same session tab if you navigated to the Courses screen. We’ve further updated this so that this functions when navigating from Courses to Enrol & Manage.
- Enhancement: Dashboard – Up until now, if you weren’t enrolled in any courses for the current session, we didn’t have a direct link to the Courses screen from the dashboard. We’ve added this now.
- Enhancement: Academic History – Last month we provided better print/pdf layouts for the invoice and timetable. This release we added a cleaner print/pdf version of the academic history as well.
- Fix: Dashboard Events – For somewhat mysterious reasons, on the 24th day of every month, events showing on the dashboard would be highlighted in red. This won’t happen anymore.
- Fix: Enrolment Cart – For values that are not yet set for course activities in the enrolment cart (i.e. instructor and location), we’ve added ‘TBA’ in lieu of blank spaces. This brings this in line with information displayed on course enrolment modals.
- Fix: Term workload link – Undergraduate Architecture students were seeing links to Arts and Sciences website information pertaining to term workloads. This has been updated to link to the relevant Architecture website instead.
Our April release is a mix of convocation enhancements, fixes and general improvements. Here is a sample of what went out:
- Enhancement: A collection of convocation ticket related enhancements regarding the rsvp’ing for tickets and clearly marking intention to graduate if a student was in more than one degree program.
- Enhancement: Timetable conflict layout improvement to clearly show side-by-side conflicting course sections.
- Fix: A few keyboard accessibility related issues related to modal windows and progress bars on Planning Tools.
- Fix: T4A and T2202A tax forms broke after using once. This was a quick fix to allow multiple years of tax forms to be viewed.
- Fix: Active tab continuity when navigating from the enrol and manage screen to the Courses screen. Previously if both the Summer and Fall-Winter sessions had tabs available and a student was viewing Fall-Winter, using the left side navigation would bring the student, by default, to the Summer tab on the Courses screen rather than keeping a student on Fall-Winter.
On April 11th we updated ACORN with a fairly substantial set of enhancements and fixes. We’ve introduced a number of new convenience features and addressed quite a few nagging annoying bugs. Our work over the coming months will be focused on more of the same with several high priority new features and functionality rolling out.
- Enhancement: On the Enrol & Manage screen we display a number of academic support resources that are tailored to the home campus of a student. We’ve updated the layout and styling for these resources and added new content.
- Enhancement: A better printed layout of the invoice for all! In an effort to make this document as good as possible we revised how the invoice is laid out with U of T headings, contact information and document layout. This can be easily downloaded as a PDF through most browsers or printed directly from ACORN.
- Enhancement: Similar to the invoice, we’ve improved the printed version of the personal timetable. This should be better represented when printed in black and white as well as in colour.
- Enhancement: Added proper headings and clarified text on the ‘View Timetable’ screen.
- Enhancement: When enrolling in a course via the enrolment cart, a success notification appears in the top right of the screen. An extraneous notification indicating the course was removed from your enrolment cart was also displayed. Given this is redundant information, we’ve removed that messaging.
- Enhancement: Program search results will now only display appropriate results depending on the students home campus and will not display for graduate students, given they don’t use this functionality on ACORN.
- Enhancement: Accessibility improvements for dashboard notifications for students using screen readers, keyboard commands and other assistive tech.
- Enhancement: Enrolled courses list is now displayed in a more logical alphabetical order. Previously courses were listing alphabetically based on their title, not their course code. We’ve updated this to improve ease of scanning through enrolled courses.
- Fixed: For a short time (a couple of hours), the dates controlling displayed information such as enrolled courses in a session fell on the floor. At its worst, this looked to a student like they weren’t enrolled in classes anymore for the current session. We jumped on this one quickly and fixed this as fast as we could.
- Fixed: An aesthetic issue relating to ordering transcripts where when the screen viewport was constrained, transcript status buttons would jut off the status card container. This hurt was hurting our eyes (and soul), so we fixed it.
- Fixed: A minor aesthetic issue pertaining to text on the fee deferral screen. In ACORN we try to avoid using too many styles in our text content meaning to avoid a mishmash of bold, highlights, colours and italicized fonts all at once. We try to intentionally use consistent styles and call out (actually) important content as needed. We missed a spot on the fee deferral page and adjusted accordingly.
- Fixed: For courses with multiple titles in our ROSI system of record, ACORN was picking these up and awkwardly displaying them as entries on a student course list or search results. There wasn’t any harm done by this other than causing a bit of confusion. This has now been fixed.
- Fixed: Course activity section times occasionally displayed out of order on course listings. Rather than display logically as say Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, some courses would display as Monday, Thursday, Tuesday. An annoyance no longer.
- Fixed: A more complete fix for an issue initially addressed in January regarding students switching from course sections that are closed behind the scenes.
- Fixed: Activities on course modals for which we didn’t have information (class location, instructor etc) would show up as blank spaces. We’ve bumped this up to ‘TBA’ for clarity’s sake.
- Fixed: Course modals with a long list of course activities requiring scrolling would cut off the modal header from view. This fixes this issue and makes the modal headers and footers stick in place while still permitting scrolling.
Last week (and this week) we updated ACORN with an iceberg release – A whole lot of work, but most of it is felt behind the scenes (or underneath the surface if we want to extend the iceberg metaphor).
Over the past weeks and months we’ve been working hard to get ACORN’s codebase in top shape for the coming year. We have several high priority features that we’ll be introducing in 2016 and this requires having an efficient and well organized codebase to work from. With that in mind, this release includes only a couple updates on the student front-end with most of the effort being put into stuff hidden from view.
Notable surface level updates:
Enhanced: Course sub-titles are now on ACORN! Ok, maybe not that exciting, but fairly useful especially for courses with sections that have different subtitles and areas of focus.
Fixed: An accessibility issue in Firefox where course search would no longer be operable by keyboard once a course modal was invoked. Apologies for any headaches this caused our Firefox users!
With November convocation happening earlier this month (congrats grads!), we held off any production releases for five weeks. This marks the longest stretch since we launched June 22nd that we hadn’t updated ACORN.
- Enhanced: UTSC students should see separated Fall/Winter registration statuses if their statuses differ. Up until now this was not displayed well. To the best of our ability, we will let each unique registration status shine.
- Fixed: Waitlisted courses were not displaying warnings when in conflict with enrolled courses. Welcome to the team, waitlisted courses.
- Fixed: For students using keyboard inputs, searching for courses by code would provide a dead end fairly quickly. This has been revised accordingly.
- Fixed: Did you know a course activity can be set to ‘closed’? It’s true, but isn’t really important. The important thing is when this happened some confusing content would be displayed to a student who happened to find a course section that was closed. We’ve updated this information to make more sense in context.
- Fixed: As noted we redesigned the full convocation flow on ACORN for this November. The way phone numbers were collected provided some unneeded confusion so we updated error state messages for this field.