Ohio State’s digital interface connecting students to faculty, carmen.osu.edu, got an extreme makeover that was unveiled May 4 in efforts to bring a number of technological improvements to its users.
These improvements, dubbed “Carmen 10,” came to pass after a year-long collaboration among student and faculty advisory groups that met to address everything from Carmen features and functionality to go-live dates for the new and improved site, said Katharine Keune, director of Office of the Chief Information Officer communication, in an email.
Two areas of improvement the advisory groups focused on most were better site navigation and tablet performance, said Michael Hofherr, associate vice president for the Office of Distance Education and eLearning.
The Office of Distance Education and eLearning website lists several additional key things users should know about the new Carmen:
1. “The new interface is designed to let the full system work smoothly on desktop / laptop computers and tablets. The smartphone interface is still best suited for checking news, reading content, or participating in discussions.”
Like any OSU student who has at one point not been able to access to the full desktop version of Carmen during a frantic pursuit to check grades, I cringe at the thought of having to log into Carmen’s mobile version, “Carmen2go,” on my iPhone, simply because finding posted grades seems impossible. If you are like me, you probably wait for the site to load so you can scroll to the bottom of the page for the link to the full Carmen site. Although the new version of Carmen for smartphones still has a similar set-up with the dropdown menus and tabs, its much more enjoyable to use mostly because course material actually loads. (Although I still prefer the full desktop version for familiarity’s sake.)
As for the accessing Carmen on my iPad, the Carmen team did a superb job of making Carmen easier to navigate. That’s because Carmen looks the same on the web browser of your iPad as it does from the screen of your desktop computer. This means the world to us iPad users who long for the luxury of the full Carmen site in the classroom without the extra bulk of having to lug our 15-inch laptop around.
2. “All course navigation bars have been set to the new style. The default tool set includes a larger number of options than in the past. In addition, instructors can access more tools from the Edit Course menu and can provide access for students by linking to course activities from Content.”
This new style includes a “my courses” sidebar on the left side of your home screen where you will find all of your OSU courses past and present grouped by term and subject. There is also a search bar to find classes quickly and easily. I like this new set up because it allows for a news feed in the center of your home screen for alerts and updates about the new site from the Carmen team.
One of the new features that professors will most likely appreciate is the option to either “publish” feedback or “save as a draft” on dropbox submissions. I know what you’re thinking: this gives professors a chance to delay feedback even more, but look on the bright side. In the meantime, you can update Carmen with your interests and hobbies, your favorite TV shows, your favorite websites and your future goals in the new “profile” tab.
Yes, you can now update Carmen with your very own profile. And yes, this profile comes complete with an option to upload your most precious selfie. (If only you could upload your critically acclaimed Vines, too.)
Perhaps my favorite aspect about the new Carmen design is the ability to send emails from your Buckeye Mail account via the messages tab at the top right corner of your Carmen home screen. This means an end to the hassle of opening separate tabs for Carmen and Buckeye Mail. (Enter: Readers’ throwing up a hand while soulfully saying “Hallelujah!”)
3. “Use the notifications area in your Profile menu to sign up for email or text messages about new information and due dates in courses.”
This new Carmen feature shows that students participated in the Carmen improvement advisory groups. I think this is a fantastic new feature because students can have notifications sent to their email accounts or mobile phones to tell them about upcoming quiz due dates, when new information is added to the course page by an instructor, when a grade is posted (which means an end to obsessively logging into Carmen to check your Chemistry 2510 grade after the midterm wasn’t quite what you expected) and when a dropbox due date is approaching. Even better, students can choose to get none, some or all of the notifications from present or even past courses. All of this can be customized after clicking the dropdown arrow followed by the “notifications” button located at the top right corner of your Carmen home page.
Overall, I give the new Carmen 10 two thumbs up. The changes that were made, including the ability for notifications, better mobile accessibility and an overall simple but tactful new design, give something I think most students and faculty were looking for with Carmen: an easier-to-use interface with enhanced features that allow its users an even better OSU experience.
OSU did not pay any additional expenses for the new and improved Carmen because the software update was included in OSU’s contract with the software vendor and was implemented by the existing Carmen staff at OSU’s Office of Distance Education and eLearning, Keune said.