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.
Enhancements: A number of enhancements (and a couple fixes) were introduced to the convocation section of ACORN. This was an area that saw a full redesign prior to November and we had a few more updates to roll-out for spring convocation.
Enhancement: Display of fee deferrals and financial arrangements. E.g. say you managed to successfully defer your fees during the summer for the upcoming Fall/Winter academic year. Until now, ACORN wouldn’t display this deferral until the fall term began. This quite reasonably caused confusion and some concern for students if they didn’t see their fee deferral displayed. ACORN will now show a list of financial arrangements for future sessions on the dashboard as well the Financial Account 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.
The ACORN Team was out talking with students at September’s UTSU Street Fest. Members of the team spent the day at the festival and were visited by over 1000 thousand students, each of whom cast their vote on whether they preferred using ACORN or ROSI. We spoke with many students about their experiences and gathered feedback on what worked well, what needs improvement, as well as their ideas for future enhancements to online services at U of T.
ACORN’s Early Impressions
When the votes were tallied, ACORN came out the victor. Students told us they appreciate the enrolment cart (more on that in a moment), the clean new content layout, useful new functionality like timetable conflict warnings, as well as improvements to meta-information about courses and their current space availability. We’ll continue to keep refining the information that’s displayed to students about their academic and financial accounts to make it more timely, personalized and helpful.
ACORN vs. ROSI:
The majority of votes cast in favour of ROSI were due to infrastructure issues that kept ACORN offline for over an hour during a peak enrolment day. We are working towards ensuring this downtime will not occur again, via changes to the the ACORN web application, its underlying technical infrastructure, and real-world enrolment processes.
Some upper-year students asked if they’d be obligated to transition to ACORN from ROSI. We’re happy to say that this will not be the case and students will have the opportunity to complete their final year of studies without switching to a new online student service (students will have the choice of using either ACORN or ROSI and switching between the two services at will until ROSI is eventually decommissioned after this academic year).
We received a great deal of positive feedback regarding this new feature. We’re glad it’s been well-received by students! The ACORN team will continue to refine and expand on the capabilities of this feature, as well and work to ensure current and additional functionality is clearly explained to students.
During the street fest we heard two common complaints about the timetable: The timetable was difficult to locate and, once discovered, it was difficult to differentiate between various courses making up each student’s timetable. We’ve since released updates to ACORN that have resolved both of these issues. The timetable can now be accessed via a link in the Academics section of ACORN’s main navigation menu. In the timetable itself, various courses are now distinguished with different colours (one colour per course).
Students also raised questions regarding the “enrolment blocked” notice that appears in course enrolment pop-ups in various circumstances. In the future this notice will become personalized, timely and include specific information regarding what’s affecting students and their ability to enrol in a course (i.e. priority or restricted enrolment, enrolment controls affecting your campus, division or program of study, etc.).
We thank everyone who offered their feedback during the street fest and took part in helping guide improvements to their online student services at U of T, and we encourage those who want to take an even more impactful role to join our student braintrust. You’ll be part of research exercises to determine the long-term expectations and priorities for ACORN, as well as participate in usability tests of functional prototypes and beta features that will assist the ACORN team adjust and refine these features before they’re released.
Summary: The major focus of this release was a fully redesigned convocation ticketing flow for the upcoming November convocation ceremonies. In addition to convocation enhancements, a number of fixes were included.
Enhanced: Graduates for November’s convocation will find personalized content throughout the convocation screens, a streamlined ticket ordering flow, and for the first time at U of T, e-tickets will be used at convocation, replacing physical paper tickets.
Fixed: Minor wording update to the Transcripts ordering section.
Fixed: Added a re-apply option for programs to which a student had been invited to but didn’t accept entry during the sessional date range. Don’t call it a comeback. Ok, it’s a comeback, it was in ROSI-SWS.
Fixed: Some students would get stuck in a time-out and login loop where an ACORN session would time out, the student would try to login again and they’d redirect to a timeout page only to have to login again. Sorry, this was extremely annoying.
Fixed: We were missing a tooltip for programs with higher fees on the Financial Account landing screen. It’s back now.
Fixed: It’s hard to get to class if you can’t find your timetable. We’ve made links to the personal timetable more explicit and added ‘view timetable’ to the main navigation.
Fixed: After multiple attempts to invoke a course modal, some notices would get stuck at a perpetual ‘Loading…’ which helped no-one in this situation. No longer.
Only two fixes in this release, but while small in stature, they were large in impact.
Enhanced: Most students would call reverting the personal timetable back to a colourful display like they were on ROSI a fix, not an enhancement, but why quibble over details. Colours are back on the timetable to help more easily differentiate course activities. This time the colours aren’t overly offensive to the eye.
Fixed: Canada Post had some strict rules we needed to comply with for Transcript ordering so that these important documents landed at their desired destination. Done.
Nothing sexy in this release, just a collection of usability fixes and technical enhancements.
Fixed: If the bank account entered on ACORN was about to expire, or had already expired, you would have received a dashboard notification that would cause English majors to pull their hair out. This notification is now (slightly) more comprehensible.
Fixed: When viewing bank account information some students would see an out of place system generated message. Gone.
Fixed: When a student is unable to enrol in a course for reasons, a tooltip should appear on the disabled ‘enrol’ button. It wasn’t, but is now.
Fixed: Notices on the enrolment cart were determined to sit single file in a vertical hierarchy. They weren’t supposed to do that, so now they sit in a horizontal row.
Fixed: For students not feeling so well at UTM, they can fill out an absence declaration form on ACORN. We were perplexing these unfortunate students with some unintelligible language on this form. This has been cleared up.
Fixed: When a student becomes enrolled in a course that is also on their enrolment cart, the course should be removed from their cart. This wasn’t happening in some cases.
Fixed: In Internet Explorer when a session timed out students would have to completely close their browser and re-open in order to login again. Extremely annoying but now fixed.