ZEANA HAMDONAH/THE VARSITY

After over a decade of use, U of T’s learning management software, Portal, is being replaced by a newer program called Quercus. U of T’s Academic Toolbox Renewal Steering Committee announced the new software’s name following a university-wide contest. The name, Latin for the Oak tree genus, follows the oak theme at the university that is seen in ACORN and the university motto and crest.

The university’s Chief Information Officer, Bo Wandschneider, told The Varsity that the change marks an important step forward in improving the system used to move academic content throughout the university. “U of T is one of the leading institutions in the world, and we really need to provide our faculty, staff, and students with the best tools possible.”

The new academic toolbox, developed with the Canvas engine from educational technology company Instructure, will have new tools and better flexibility than Portal. The university is currently focused on transferring existing tools and features from Portal to Quercus. While there will be some changes, the major tools will be carried forward to Quercus.

U of T is running a pilot during the winter semester with approximately 3,100 students in 33 courses that are taught by different instructors. It is expected that by September 2018, all students, faculty, and staff will transfer to Quercus, and Portal will be decommissioned.

Students were quick to take to social media about the change. Student groups on Facebook created posts about what they called the “broken Portal,” even though, according to Wandschneider, Portal is simply outdated rather than broken. Meanwhile, some students on Reddit criticized the name choice, with one user commenting, “Welcome to the University of Toronto, where we have the brightest minds yet the worst creativity.”

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