By Sarah Tewksbury, Free Press Staff
Since the fall semester of 2008, the University of Maine System has been using MaineStreet, an online tool, to aid students, faculty members and employees in university business such as registering for classes, managing work study hours, paying university bills and accessing personal academic information. In recent years, however, some members of the USM community that are using the system have determined it to be outdated and archaic.
The system-wide tool is used by many universities nationwide, such as Cornell University and Princeton University. The software’s true name is PeopleSoft, but the University of Maine System has nicknamed it MaineStreet for local use.
One major complaint from students is that the web design of the program is akin to that of an aging and worn-out website, making it seem more difficult to use than it truly is. According to USM’s Director of Registration and Scheduling Services Karin Pires, the problem could potentially be fixed.
“It is powerful in terms of its database capabilities; where it falls short sometimes is in the user interface,” Karin Pires wrote. “Other schools have purchased ‘add-ons’ to PeopleSoft in order to make it easier for students, particularly when trying to put together a schedule. I am exploring some of the same products.”
Pires went on to discuss the benefits of USM purchasing “add-ons” to the MaineStreet system. One of the most appealing supplementary features USM could buy is one that would allow students to build their schedules in a more visual and modern way. Dragging and dropping classes into a viewable block schedule would allow for students to create a schedule more easily.
When students navigate MaineStreet to find courses for upcoming academic sessions, courses that have not been offered for several semesters are often listed. When students consult their academic advisement report on MaineStreet, they are shown lists of courses that would satisfy program requirements. However, the lists of potential courses are often outdated. For example, a student looking for a course to satisfy a political science major requirement could come across courses that are no longer offered, such as POS 340 (The Politics of Developing Nations), which has not been offered at USM since fall term 2011.
Though there are issues surrounding MaineStreet, the advising department at USM has placed a great emphasis on students understanding the possibilities and benefits the system offers early on in their academic careers. Being able to efficiently navigate the portal can help students track their own academic progress and be completely aware of their GPA, financial aid and class registration.
“I think that the degree progress report is important, even though it isn’t always perfect. It can show what core are still needed, and what major requirements have to be met,” said Janis Albright, an academic advisor at the Portland campus.
Though the system could benefit from an update and become more user-friendly, advisors say that there is currently a large host of resources available to students who need help with the system. A simple search on the USM website turns up 12,700 results that help students and faculty members navigate, use and explore MaineStreet. According to the USM Advising Office, the resources available are not often utilized, making the system seem more difficult to operate than it really is.
USM staff members are also available during business hours to assist all students with issues they find when using the MaineStreet system. However, staff has found that the majority of questions and problems about the system come from new students who have not used MaineStreet before and that problems upper-class students have with the system are focused on the web interface and web design.
“I don’t get a lot of questions from most students,” said Jami Jandreau, the associate director of Student Financial Services. “Brand new students typically have questions about how to activate their accounts, but other than that I don’t see many students who are unable to use MaineStreet.”
Several departments at USM are available to answer topical questions about the system. Staff members in the Advising Office, the Technology Support Center, Student Financial Services and the Registrar’s Office are all knowledgeable and willing to aid any student or faculty member having issues with MaineStreet.