Penn just took another step forward into the 21st century.

This summer, the Penn InTouch web portal underwent a major overhaul, intended to make essential information more accessible and user-friendly.

The Web site's clean interface resembles the Course Search & Schedule Planning tool that debuted in March 2008 and includes a variety of new tools which have been well-received by the student body.

"All this info is really cool," said College freshman Brittany Nargi. "[Penn InTouch] lives up to its name. . .it really gets you involved."

On the Penn InTouch homepage, students are greeted with updates and announcements at the top of the page, a class schedule below, links to the left and right, and their PennCard picture in the lower-left corner as a reminder that the student is logged in.

According to Regina Koch, information technology director of Student Registration and Financial Services, improvements have been functional as well as aesthetic - many of the same features from before are available, but have been arranged in a simpler layout. From drop-down menus, students can access academic planning worksheets, transcripts, financial aid and their class schedule.

With links to the left, students can view their progress on major requirements and their transcripts. On the top of the page are frequently-used pages, such as Campus Express, Webmail, PennPortal and Student Financial Services.

One of the best-received changes was the integration of the registration and schedule planning tools. Students can now add classes from a mock schedule to a shopping cart and register for those classes in just a few clicks.

Textbook-buying has been made easier with a similar one-click link that places textbooks for each class into a student's online Penn Bookstore shopping cart.

Previously, each class and book had to be requested through a separate interface.

"The schedules were so boxy," said Engineering sophomore Jing Pei. "Some things were really difficult to use, like buying textbooks."

The Penn InTouch redesign comes as part of a sweeping initiative to bring academic information online, said Jeanne Curtis, executive director of Administrative Information Technologies and Communication. Penn InTouch, she said, is the product of collaboration between student committees, Information Systems & Computing, and SRFS, and relies on student support and feedback.

"Student reactions have been overwhelmingly positive," Koch added.

Administrators planned these changes several years ago to combat widespread frustration over course selection and planning.

PennPortal is under consideration for a revamp in the near future as well, Curtis added.

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