The University of Montana

Archive for the ‘Innovation’ Category

Community Hub goes live

In Communication, Innovation, Media, Projects, Web on January 9, 2012 at 10:00 am

Social media creates a paradox for college campuses. While Facebook, Twitter and other networks help build campus communities, those communities have been disconnected from the University’s web pages.

Now there’s a tool that facilitates a connection between the two. It’s called Community Hub.

Community Hub is a searchable directory of UM-related social media channels developed by the IT web team. You can use Community Hub to find UM content in Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. It also catalogs UM blogs and email listservs. Sites are searchable by keywords and categorized by subject and social media platform.

“For incoming students it’s a great way to get involved,” says Jamie Robertson, a Community Hub developer.  “You might not know that there’s a backcountry ski club, but you can find out that there’s a group and they have a blog. Or you can search by type, so if you want your Facebook page to have all of the cool stuff going on at UM, you can just look at who has Facebook pages.”

Robertson points out that Community Hub is not a tool to consume content from social media sites. Rather, it’s a way to find communities and feeds and subscribe to them with one click.

UM departments and clubs that would like to have their social media sites listed in the directory can submit a request from the Community Hub homepage. Only University-sponsored activities and interests will be included in the Hub.

“The burden is on people who have something to put in the Community Hub to let us know,” says Tom Battaglia, assistant CIO for Technology Support Services in IT. “We can’t do that for them, but we’ve provided the tool.”

“The hope is that some of these communities that are languishing because of no exposure will benefit from this,” Robertson says.  We think Community Hub will encourage campus collaboration and community, which is something that any university wants.”

The first release of Community Hub will be a beta release that includes about 40 campus social media communities.


A good gig

In Innovation, Network on January 4, 2012 at 2:16 pm

A few months ago, The University of Montana, in partnership with the City of Missoula, became one of the founding members of Gig U. Gig U’s mission is to “accelerate the deployment of world-leading, next generation networks in the United States in a way that provides an opportunity to lead in the next generation of ultra high speed network services and applications.”

Today, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, author of The World is Flat, wrote an op-ed piece that helps us understand what’s at stake. He says that the globalization and IT revolutions are combining to give people the tools and ecosystems to innovate, collaborate and create new products and services.

“The best of these ecosystems will be cities and towns that combine a university, an educated populace, a dynamic business community and the fasted broadband connections on earth,” Friedman writes.

As one member of the Missoula contingent said, “the Friedman column is the best explanation I’ve seen yet of why this is important.”

Tech Lounge opens in UC

In Academic, Innovation, People, Projects, Support, Wireless on November 29, 2011 at 2:46 pm

TECH LOUNGE, UC – I’m writing this post sitting in a funky orange chair in the new UC Tech Lounge. Nine students are scattered around the room. Several are lounging without technology—reading or sleeping—but others have laptops open. One is tapping away on a netbook at the email bar.

There’s a traditional computer lab two doors down where patrons quietly work at banks of computers. This space is designed to be very different. Furniture can be moved. Groups can plug into big monitors at four “collaboration stations,” or schedule use of a room.

The space is meant to be noisy. There are no “Quiet Please” signs or grumpy librarians shushing you. The current crowd hasn’t caught on yet. The only sounds are tapping keys and the occasional zzzzppp, zzzzpp of a backpack zipper.

There are five internet-access computers on the corner bar, but for the most part this lounge is BYOD—Bring Your Own Device.

Wi-Fi has been beefed up, and there are lots of places to plug in and charge up. Starting next week, there will be a monitor on duty from 9 a.m. to midnight to provide technical support.

UC Director Liz Roosa Millar built a coalition of supporters for the tech lounge project, which kicked off last spring. Partners included Information Technology, the Provosts Office and the Student Computer Fee committee.

Diego Baccino, who serves on the Student Computer Fee committee, said the committee had been discussing a change of direction from using student fees to support traditional hardware-based computer labs to space where students would bring their own computers.

“The committee didn’t want to keep funding hardware that has a short lifecycle,” Baccino says. “We loved the idea of a tech lounge that encouraged people to bring their own computers and connect to the network.”

Roosa Millar, along with her talented staff, conceptualized the space that delights with color, lighting and openness. A grand opening of the lounge is scheduled for Monday, December 5th at 4 p.m

“We’re almost there,” Roose Millar said. “It’s going to be amazing seeing students use it.”


In Innovation, Strategy on November 3, 2011 at 3:35 pm

I’m working with colleagues to analyze technology trends as part of an IT strategic planning process. One way to speculate on the future is to look at the trajectory of the past. Here’s a little stroll down my own technology memory lane.

“The Zenith SuperSport 286 may well be the harbinger of a new era of laptop computing. It embodies a combination of speed, weight, size and battery life that we’ve seen in no other laptop computer. Zenith’s engineers have come closer to the ideal laptop than any so far.”

Thus begins a glowing product review in the October 17, 1988 issue of InfoWorld.

Zenith SuperSport 286


The SuperSport 286 came with a 286 processor, 64K of RAM and a 20-megabyte hard drive. It was three inches thick, and at 10 pounds was considered lightweight. It cost $4,999. For $600 more you could get it with a 40-megabyte hard drive.

I owned a SuperSport 286, or “Sporto” as I called it. I paid for the extra 20 megabytes. I was proud to be on the front lines of the mobile computing revolution.

In July 2001, MaximumPC magazine reviewed three new digital cameras, calling the 2.1 megapixel Canon PowerShot A20, priced at $499, a “Maximum Kick Ass Product.”

I owned a Canon PowerShot A20. It was a little bulky at 13 ounces, but it produced nice 5×7 prints. I miss the Fotomat huts, but I’ve never missed buying film. It felt good to be an early adopter in the digital media revolution.

This week I bought an iPhone. It weighs five ounces and fits in my pocket. As a computing device, it’s something like 16,000 times faster than the SuperSport 286, and can store 400,000 times more data. A handful of images from the 8-megapixel camera would fill Sporto’s hard drive and reproduce beautifully on a 20×30 poster. I could purchase 30 iPhones for what I paid for my first laptop and digital camera combined.

One might conclude that I was foolish to spend so much for new tools when better and cheaper technology was just around the corner. Looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing. Despite my determination to keep up, in midlife I lag behind the digital natives . . . but only by a little.

Imagine where I would be if I had waited.

Academic Planner earns innovators award

In Innovation, Projects, Web on July 12, 2011 at 3:36 pm
Jon Adams

Web programmer Jon Adams

The University of Montana joins the likes of Duke, Penn State, Purdue and Pepperdine as winners of a 2011 Campus Technology Innovators Award. UM’s Academic Planner—a homegrown Web application that helps students plot short-term course schedules and develop long-term academic strategies—was deemed one of the 10 best innovations in higher education out of 393 nominees.

The awards are presented annually by Campus Technology Magazine, a monthly publication focused on the use of technology in higher education.

Academic Planner provides advanced search tools to help students sift through hundreds of University course offerings and create primary and alternate course schedules. Jon Adams, lead programmer on the project, says the most popular feature of Academic Planner is an interactive visual calendar. Students can simply mouse over search results and see how each course would fit into their schedule.

The first version of Academic Planner was released in 2009. Since then, 12,600 people have logged in and used the tool.

While Academic Planner was developed by UM’s Information Technology office, Loey Knapp, Associate Chief Information Officer, credits more than two dozen people serving on advisory groups for guiding the development and evolution of the tool.

“Having user groups was enormously helpful in the process,” Knapp said. We had outlined what we thought should be versions one, two and three of Academic Planner. Our user groups restructured what should be developed first. They turned out to be right.”

The Office for Student Success was also key to development and adoption of Academic Planner, Knapp said. “They did the project an enormous favor by seeing the value in it and adopting it.”

Sharon O’Hare, who directs the Office for Student Success said that an early prototype of Academic Planner convinced her that the tool had great potential.

“It allows students to develop a specific pathway for four-year graduation,” she said. “And it gives them the ability to play with ‘what-if’ scenarios and what it would mean to take different paths.”

O’Hare’s staff used Academic Planner to build about 1,500 preliminary schedules for incoming freshmen last summer and will do the same with incoming students this summer.

A new version of Academic Planner, scheduled for release later this summer, will allow students to share plans and collaborate with faculty advisers in an environment similar to social networking sites.

“Academic Planner can be a focal point in advising where students and advisers can interact,” Adams said. “Right now that interaction is via email, but in the next version it will be done via shared space online.”

Dan Doyle, co-chair of UM’s sociology department, has advised on the new version of Academic Planner. He says the tool is part of an overall effort to systematize advising.

“Academic advising has been done haphazardly across campus, and a student’s exposure to advice usually depended on the student’s willingness to seek it out,” Doyle said. “With a tool like Academic Planner, we can at least start everyone at a base level so students don’t find themselves going astray.”

Adams, Knapp and O’Hare will present at the 18th Annual Education Technology Conference, which will take place July 25-28 in Boston, and will accept the Campus Technology Innovators award on behalf of UM.

What would happen?

In Communication, Innovation, Web on March 23, 2011 at 1:40 pm

Communication challenges bedevil organizations like The University of Montana. Our instinct is to attack communication problems by communicating more—producing more web content, sending more email.

We’ve been building web pages and filling inboxes at an astounding rate for 15 years. Shouldn’t our communication challenges be solved by now?

As Jerry Seinfeld once observed to his friend George Costanza, “if every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right.”

George discovered that ignoring every urge towards common sense and good judgment made all the difference.

Perhaps you don’t have the guts to abandon your common sense and good judgment when it comes to communication, but it doesn’t hurt to indulge in some “opposite” thinking.

  • What would happen if you deleted half of your departmental web pages instead of doubling the number?
  • What would happen if you removed half the words in every email message? And then removed half of what was left before you hit send?
  • What would happen if you communicated when your audience was ready to hear you rather than when you were ready to speak?
  • What would happen if you communicated as if you were a human being talking to another human being who had a connection to you rather than a faceless institution pontificating to the masses?

As George found out, “This is no longer just some crazy notion. Jerry, This is my religion.”

Two ways

In Innovation, Leadership and Management, People, Projects, Strategy on November 19, 2010 at 12:52 pm

Running a marathon is a worthy goal. If that’s your goal, there are two ways to approach the challenge.

Approach one:

Pick a marathon—say next year’s Missoula Marathon, which starts on July 10 at 6 a.m. The date is set. The time is set. You can lock in your commitment today.

Now, work backwards from the date of the race to plan your training. What will you need to accomplish every week for the next eight months to be ready to run 26.2 miles on race day?

Make training part of your daily routine. Seek out expert advice. Build a support network of kindred spirits to share the journey.

Be aware that some will think you’re foolish and seek to discourage you. Prepare to sacrifice activities you enjoy. Acknowledge that you will feel pain and suffer setbacks. Know that doubt and anxiety will be your constant companion. Success will require that you overcome all of these obstacles.

Approach two:

Do some runs when you have spare time. When you get distracted or feel discomfort, stop until your motivation returns. Most importantly, wait for the day when you’re sure there’s no chance for failure before you commit to the goal.


Advancing the operation of the University through technological innovation is a worthy goal. There are two ways to approach the challenge.


In Academic, Communication, Innovation, People, Web on October 28, 2010 at 9:42 am

This from an Educause Review article titled Attention, and Other 21st Century Social Media Literacies:

Michael Bugeja, a journalism professor at Iowa State University, conducted an online survey of several hundred students and found that a majority had used their cell phones, sent or read e-mail, and gone onto social network sites during class time. The kicker was that a quarter of the survey respondents admitted that they completed his survey while attending another class.

Plan your spring with Academic Planner

In Academic, Innovation, Support, Web on October 18, 2010 at 7:26 am

Every semester, UM students cull through thousands of academic courses that will be offered during the next semester, and choose four or five courses that have seats available, meet general education or major requirements, and don’t have time conflicts with each other.

It’s a tedious task that has been made easier with a homegrown web application called Academic Planner.

“We use Academic Planner for nearly every student who comes in,” says Beth Howard, director of UM’s Undergraduate Advising Center. “We have them pull it up and log in and we talk about how they can use it to look at various schedule scenarios.”

Academic Planner provides multiple ways to search and filter UM’s course offerings, and lets students build an unlimited number of alternate course schedules. The course listings for spring semester 2011 include up-to-the-minute information about how many seats are still available in the course.

Academic Planner was developed in 2008 and enhanced during the past year. Jon Adams, a programmer in UM’s IT web technologies group, says the biggest improvements were the addition of a student’s academic history and a better calendar. The planner now displays courses and general education requirements that a student has completed in past semesters as well as those that are in progress and proposed for future semesters. The calendar graphically displays course times in a schedule grid. Adams pointed out that you are now able to hover over search results and see instantly how a course fits into your schedule.

“It’s particularly helpful for any student with special scheduling conditions,” Howard adds. “If you have work or childcare or athletics considerations, you can use the tool to maximize your time.”

You can find Academic Planner at The tool requires authentication using a UM NetID.

Spring semester pre-registration begins at the COT on Oct. 20, and on the mountain campus Oct. 25. UM Registrar Ed Johnson reminds students that actual registration still takes place in CyberBear. He encourages students who have planned schedules in Academic Planner to recheck course availability when their registration time comes up.

Motivation 3.0

In Innovation, Leadership and Management, People, Policies, Strategy on August 5, 2010 at 7:05 am

Autonomy is an innate psychological need in humans. Our basic nature is to be curious and self-directed (at least until our parents and teachers break us).

In our jobs, we are most motivated and productive when we have autonomy over what we do, when we do it, how we do it, and with whom we do it. So says author Daniel Pink in his new book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.

Pink borrows from the software world by dubbing the carrot-and-stick approach to management as “Motivation 2.0.” Most organizations have been stuck in this mindset since the industrial revolution. Pink argues that it’s time to upgrade our thinking about management to adapt to a new world that demands more complex, right-brained work.

We need “Motivation 3.0,” he says.

“Motivation 2.0 assumed that if people had freedom, they would shirk – and that autonomy was a way to bypass accountability,” Pink says. “Motivation 3.0 begins with a different assumption. It presumes that people want to be accountable – and that making sure they have control over their task, their time, their technique and their team is a pathway to that destination.

Here’s how a few organizations have put motivation 3.0 principles into practice:

In the 1930’s and 40’s, 3M adopted a policy that staff could spend up to 15 percent of their time working on projects of their choosing. One result of the policy was the invention of Post-It Notes. The company has made a few dollars off that innovation.

Not many organizations followed 3M’s lead. Google is an exception. Google has a 20 percent time policy – meaning that employees can spend 20 percent of their time working on any project they choose. In a typical year, half of Google’s new offerings emerge from this period of pure autonomy. Gmail, for example, was the product of the 20-percent policy.

At W.L. Gore and Associates (makers of GORE-TEX), anybody who wants to rise in the ranks of management can do so by assembling a team of people willing to work with them.

Meddius, a healthcare technology company in Virginia, adopted a policy called ROWE – Results Only Work Environment. Employees have no schedules. They can come in at 11 if they want. They can take off for their kid’s soccer game at three in the afternoon. No guilt. No icy stares from co-workers. Employees are still interdependent and accountable to project deadlines and sales goals, but after a six-month trial period, the company made the policy permanent.

Universities prove the power of Motivation 3.0. Universities have flourished for a thousand years because faculty have tremendous autonomy. That autonomy drives them to learn, to create and to make the world a better place. Not a lot of shirking going on.

But parts of the university still haven’t upgraded. Staff employees are predominantly managed in a “Motivation 2.0” system in which control is more important than creativity, innovation and making the world a better place. 

Give staff more autonomy over their tasks, their time, their techniques and their team and see what happens. The results might surprise you.