The University of Montana

Archive for the ‘Projects’ Category

Homepage tools get revamped

In Projects, Web on January 12, 2012 at 9:18 am

A few subtle but significant changes are in the works for The University of Montana’s homepage complex. New and improved tools are available for you to try out now in a beta site.

UM web developers would like your feedback on changes described below. To help the effort, go to beta.umt.edu, use the tools and click on the feedback tab on the left side of the screen to report your experiences.

In addition to the visible changes, the new site is hosted on a cluster of four servers rather than a single server, which should enhance speed and availability.

“We can upgrade one server while the others are in operation,” says Tom Battaglia, who heads up the IT web group. “We’ll have no planned downtime. And we’ll sleep better.”

 

What to look for

 

Login

 You can log into UM’s central authentication services with your NetID directly from the new homepage. The link is on the tip right between the Directory and Search options. If you are logged in, your name appears on the page. You can click on your name to access secure services like CyberBear, UMOnline and student email without having to authenticate again.

In the future, you will see a notice when you have official messages waiting for you.

Enhanced search

The new search tool returns more than just web pages and featured UM links. Now you get People and Places. People results are pulled from the campus directory, while Places are connected to the campus map. The results page also displays results from a UM acronym database, an idea that came from the University’s incentive award program.

Directory

The directory tool streamlines the people search process. Two input fields—Last Name and First Name—have been collapsed into one. And search results are displayed on a single page, rather than requiring you to scroll through multiple pages. For UM employees, you can click on the department name to view all of the people who work in that department.

Default tab

On the current UM homepage, you can choose which tab you want to set as your default, such as “Current Students” or “Faculty & Staff.” The new site will simply return you to the last tab you were on during your previous visit.

Feature stories controls

The navigation for the feature stories at the top of the homepages has been simplified. Now there are arrows on either side of the graphic to allow you to scroll through the features, taking up less space on the screen.

Photo gallery

A photo gallery has replaced the postcard gallery. The plan is to allow people to submit photos for possible inclusion in the gallery.

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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.

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.”

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.

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.

Student email in transition

In Communication, Projects, Systems on September 21, 2009 at 11:51 am

Last week, 79 students blazed a trail to UM’s new student email system by signing up for UMConnect accounts.

UMConnect provides access to Microsoft’s Live@edu, a suite of web-based services including Outlook live email, Skydrive virtual document storage, Office Live for storing and collaborating on MS Office documents, and other collaboration and networking tools.

UM students will have the opportunity throughout fall semester to sign up for UMConnect accounts. In early January, UMConnect accounts will be created for all remaining students.

Check out Ask Monte for UMConnect FAQs.

And the Hugi goes to . . .

In Academic, Innovation, People, Projects, Web on May 6, 2009 at 1:12 pm

Note:  This article is included in the May issue of Bits, IT’s monthly newsletter.

UM’s Academic Planner web application has been awarded a Hugi Excellence Award by the Northwest Academic Computing Consortium (NWACC).

The academic planning tool, programmed by IT web developers Jon Adams and Tom Fite, provides an intuitive interface for students to plan course schedules and share them with academic advisers. The application was released in beta this spring, with students in the Davidson Honors College putting it to the test. New UM students attending orientations beginning in June will be the first to use the application in full production.

Loey Knapp, ACIO for Technology Support Services, said the project has received support and guidance from several UM offices, including the Registrar’s Office, Enrollment Services, the Office of Student Success, Extended Learning Services and the Davidson Honors College.

The Hugi awards are named for former University of Oregon Chief Technology Officer Joanne R. Hugi. UM’s recognition was in the category of business processes and systems.

The seven year switch

In Academic, Innovation, Projects on February 24, 2009 at 4:40 pm

Note: This is one of three articles in the February special edition of IT’s Bits newsletter.

UM classrooms to get high-tech makeover 

Garry Kerr describes himself as a stone and chisel guy . . . who loves technology.

Kerr, a UM Anthropology professor, says the nearly 1,000 students he teaches each semester benefit greatly from his ability to show details of relics using a high-tech camera and projector.

“It makes a huge difference,” Kerr says. “It makes my job a lot easier when a student can see an article and feel it with their eyes. That will stick in their minds forever.”

Today, only 26 of UM’s 156 general-purpose classrooms have the technology Kerr and his students desire. But that will change.

A seven-year plan calls for installing or upgrading technology in 22 classrooms per year. That will take the percentage of high-tech classrooms from today’s 17 percent to 95-plus percent. About $200,000 a year will be spent on the installations, with an increasing amount invested each year in maintenance, equipment replacement and other support costs.

The plan emerged from the Academic IT Advisory Committee and was championed by Provost Royce Engstrom and Registrar David Micus.

“For the first time, we have alignment between the Provost, the Registrar and Information Technology on classroom technology,” says Loey Knapp, assistant CIO for Technology Support Services. “It took the sponsorship of the Provost and the Registrar to make it happen.”

It also took some help from Administration & Finance, who worked out the funding model for the project. Multiple sources of funding contribute to the $475,000 annual investment according to Rosi Keller, Associate Vice President for A&F. Keller says no current services are impacted by the commitment to classroom technology.An oversight committee will determine priorities for classroom upgrades and approve the standard equipment that will go into the rooms.

Randy Gottfried, manager of IT’s Presentation Technology Services, says that standardization will allow for discounts on equipment, make maintenance and support affordable, and end-user training much easier.

“There will be some leeway on add-ons and upgrades as long as they’re compatible with the standard package,” Gottfried says. “But the big thing is, there will be consistency for a professor using different classrooms to teach.”

“Students expect it,” Kerr says of technology in the classroom. “It’s worth its weight in gold. I think this is one of the best investments this campus has ever decided to make.”

No longer isolated

In Innovation, Leadership and Management, Network, Projects on February 20, 2009 at 10:00 am

Note: This is one of three articles in the February special edition of IT’s Bits newsletter.

Montana universities lead effort to connect Northern Tier to national network

UM’s network bandwidth capacity to the outside world will jump dramatically this summer, from 300 megabits to 10 gigabits.

In planetary terms, that’s like a leap from Mercury to Jupiter.

“We’re talking about an orders of magnitude increase in Internet bandwidth at a modest cost increase,” says UM CITO Ray Ford. “Everybody at every UM network port going to the outside world will see advantages.”


Northern Tier Map

The Northern Tier Network, depicted by the dashed line on the map, will tie UM and MSU into the national research network, and provide new research, educational and economic development opportunities.

The advantages come as UM and MSU tie into a national research network in collaboration with universities along the “Northern Tier” between Seattle and Chicago. Ford, a co-founder and former president of the Northern Tier Network Consortium, has worked with colleagues from Montana and 11 other states to build agreements and garner funding.

“We’ve made a capital investment to light and maintain our own fiber, giving us bandwidth at the level of a ‘bandwidth wholesaler’ rather than having to buy bandwidth in large quantities but at ‘retail prices,'” Ford says. “Buying at wholesale prices rather than retail prices allows us to increase quality and quantity, yet lower costs.”

“We’re taking some risks,” Ford admits. “For example, will we need all of this bandwidth? We think we will. In fact, we think we’ll need not just a little more bandwidth, but orders of magnitude more bandwidth to support applications we don’t currently use-either because we can’t or because the applications haven’t yet been invented. That’s what has happened in the last 20 years, and we think that will continue to happen over at least the next 10 years.

“Ford sees the increased network capacity being used for high-quality video conferencing that begins to approximate true “remote presence.” It will also aid researchers connecting to remote super computers, and provide new learning opportunities for students, like the ability to operate equipment in a remote lab through the Internet.

For more on the Northern Tier Network Consortium, go to:  www.ntnc.org.

Mapping without boundaries

In Innovation, Media, Projects, Web on January 26, 2009 at 10:17 am

In IT we have been working to create a mapping application for The University of Montana.  And today we’ve released it to the public.  map.umt.edu will take you to the new interactive campus map. It should act a lot like google maps but in addition you can toggle on different themes which you can find just to the right of the map.

Map Image

We started with very few requirements.

  • Make it better than the black and white PDF that is the current map.
  • You can’t buy any software to make the map.
  • And you’ve got some AutoCad files and some imagery from 2006

My partner in crime, Jamie, had read an article about creating interactive maps on the web. And having just graduated with a degree in Geographical Information Systems he was intrigued.  We started working on an old development server we had and installed Ubuntu Server on it and started hacking away attempting to get all of the pieces in place. It took a lot of tinkering with different products, and arguing over the best way to implement and set up this application, but finally after trying out several different rendering engines, trying it with and without caching the tiles and tweeking the JavaScript we had something we could show to the people signing our paychecks. Since then it seems it’s been non stop development and feature implementations and UI meetings and reworks and polishes and on and on. The limitations of this tool seem to be non-existent.

This kind of application has so many uses for Higher Ed institution or even for a non-profit. It gives you so much flexibility, by allowing you to give your users spatial representations. Small scale representations of campuses or large scale representations of states or countries. Show your users exactly What you want to, and How you want to. Choose your own features show overlays to depict coverage areas in relation to different points or routes. The map we produced was taken from Auto-Cad data and pulled into arcGIS and stretched over ortho-photography. In our case we (and by we I mean Jamie) had to create and clean up the shape files that were needed to produce the map. We did a little test and were able to take files from the states web site and create a new map file, so we were running multiple maps going at once. Of course the unstyled map wasn’t much to look at it but it proves that it can be done, and with a little work those maps could be brought to life.

One last note. All of the photos we’ve used on the map we’ve found on flickr and gotten permission from their owners. So this is truly a community effort