'UB Explorer' Helps Students Customize Their Visit During Open House

By Arthur Page

Release Date: April 15, 1998 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- So many choices. So little time.

That's the predicament facing the more than 1,500 accepted students and their family members who will attend Preview Day 1998 on Saturday.

They will have six short hours to visit the North and South campuses; tour facilities; learn about crucial areas such as financial aid, academic advisement and information technology; meet faculty members and students at the departmental level, and participate in special events. And that's not anywhere near half of the activities they will be offered by a university that prides itself on the number of choices it provides students.

Accepted students this year will get major assistance in making their selections from a one-of-a-kind, Web-based program called UB Explorer that's making its debut at Preview Day 1998 as the preferred alternative to the traditional one-size-fits-all schedule still utilized on campuses across the country.

As the directions on the UB Explorer Web site explain to accepted students, "We can't put you in two places at once, but UB Explorer will personalize a schedule to get you to the events you want to see."

The electronic breakthrough in event scheduling was developed by the UB Web Team in partnership with the Office of Admissions. Building the site were Ross Winston, UB Wings webmaster, and Kevin Eye, freshman computer-engineering major who is a student assistant in the Electronic Media Unit in the Office of Publications.

"This gives us an opportunity to provide good customer service on the Web by not making our visitors look in a million places for information, but to bring to them the information they want," explained Rebecca Bernstein, head of the UB Web Team and director of the Electronic Media Unit.

"We're the first university in the U.S. to offer such a Web-based program based on information relationships. The key to UB Explorer," Bernstein adds, "is its ability to satisfy information-relationship needs by facilitating 'marriages' between the information and the needs of the electronic-visitor."

The result: A campus visit that will be more personalized and enjoyable and, hopefully, increase the likelihood that an accepted student will enroll in the fall.

Accepted students were provided with the Web address for the site in material promoting Preview Day and told that UB Explorer was available for their use at any time.

UB Explorer asks them to check boxes based on more than 150 areas of interest (from "accounting" to "women's studies"), as well as whether they want to learn more about such topics as academics, campus life, the residence halls, financial aid, technology on campus, etc.

Once they have completed and submitted the form, they get a preliminary schedule based on their interests and which they can use to further refine their visit. It asks them to check the box next to each event they want to attend, while highlighting in red those that conflict with others.

The accepted students then click on "continue" to produce a final itinerary and a campus map on which buildings in which events they selected will be held are numbered according to their schedule. Both the schedule and customized campus map are printable.

No problem.

By repeating the process, they can change their schedule, producing a new itinerary and a customized map at any time -- and as many times as they want -- before Saturday. During Preview Day, they can further refine their schedule using kiosks with computers and printers that will be accessible to the visitors around campus.

Bernstein explained that UB Explorer is a large database of information that creates customized pages "on the fly" by "marrying" events to the more than 150 keywords that represent accepted students' interest areas. For example, she noted, the event "Computing at UB" has eight keywords -- including e-mail, World Wide Web and Computing Information Technology -- "married" to it.

When students arrive on campus for Preview Day, they will find their virtual travel guide will have the "value-added function" of also serving as a virtual post office from which they will be able to e-mail a friend a Preview Day Postcard featuring a message and a campus scene, such as Baird Point or the fountain in the courtyard at the Commons.

To see how UB Explorer works, go to http://www.buffalo.edu/explorer