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Currents Awry: The Problems With

The flow of information on Palomar’s website reminds me of a rip current. All looks peaceful from afar, but as one attempts to navigate, it’s easy to be dragged down into the vast depths of hidden issues.

For prospective students wanting to attend Palomar, the website works well enough… but current students find the website falls short on reliable information or resources. In essence, the website is good at attracting new students but not supporting them once they are enrolled.

After over a year of development, a major update of the main website rolled out in the spring 2018, promising easier accessibility and ease of use. I cannot say that they delivered on those promises but poor functionality is only part of the issue.

A secteen shot of the the theater departments page with course list from Fall 2022
The Theater Department’s page features a course offering list… from a year ago.

The site primarily suffers from out-of-date information. There is no central entity responsible for checking and maintaining the site’s accuracy, leaving each department responsible for their respective page with mixed success.

The frequency with which a page is updated is in the hands of too many different people with much more pressing responsibilities, resulting in pages left with out-of-date information. Additionally, departments determine their page layout and information offered which leads to a lack of consistency from department to department.

Student Jayden Alvarez experienced the site’s unreliability firsthand at the start of the semester. He claims it was posted on the website that student services would have extended hours the first week of class. “I work so I showed up to get a student ID during the hours…. I waited a half hour outside before giving up and leaving,’ Alvarez said.

While the primary concern is inaccurate information, the site’s woefully poor functionality should also be addressed. The search website feature works so poorly it only adds to the confusion when navigating.

Searching the website through the provided tool is more likely to bring up out-of-date pages than current ones. The first result of a search for “lockers” brings up a Summer 2022 application page that is no longer in use with the current Student Services page coming up six results down.

A screen shot of a search result webpage with the first result being an out of date page from 2022
The website search brings up out of date information and pages that should be archived before relevant information.

The accompanying directory of faculty search feature is comparably out of date. Out of the 728 faculty teaching in the Fall semester, 198 of them were unlisted in the directory and 32 of them had a listed name different from what was given on the class schedule. Combined, that is 30% of current teaching faculty with inaccurate or missing information.

“I usually use Google or ask my professors to get better answers,” said student Sarah Wilson, “Sometimes the stuff I’m looking for isn’t even on there at all. It can be frustrating for sure.” Using the website to find any sort of specific information throws students into a maze of pages and links that is often unfruitful in the end.

With technology only advancing, having a functioning and accurate website is critical to Palomar’s retention and success. Despite having such a recent site revamp, it is clear the website as a whole is due for another update. The sheer size of the site (13,000 pages as of 2018) and all its nested pages make it confusing and next to impossible to navigate for the average student.

A smaller, streamlined version with clear paths and consistency in page structure could take Palomar’s website out of the labyrinth and into the light. Compounding that with a dedicated team responsible for ensuring all pages are maintained and accurate, would soothe the all consuming rip current of issues into a calm sea of easily accessible information for all.

Corrections: A previous version of this story had a sentence that read “… page that is no longer in use with the current Student Services page not coming up…” and has been changed to “… page that is no loner in use with the current Student Services page coming up…”

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