The University of Montana

Archive for the ‘Support’ Category

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.”

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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 www.umt.edu/academicplanner. 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.

Tech Partners reconsidered

In Communication, Innovation, Leadership and Management, People, Support on July 15, 2010 at 7:53 am

My summer to-do list includes engaging others in a discussion about Tech Partners.

Tech Partners was conceived more than a decade ago as an alliance between central IT folks and distributed IT support staff.  Today, Tech Partners consists of an email list and four dysfunctional meetings a year.  It falls short of its potential to build meaningful and mutually beneficial relationships.

The first question we might want to answer is, “why does it matter that we build those relationships?”

Matt Ridley delivers his TED talk entitled "When Ideas Have Sex."

Matt Ridley delivers his TED talk entitled "When Ideas Have Sex."

British author Matt Ridley delivered a TED talk this year entitled “When ideas have sex” in which he attributes human progress to the sharing of ideas.

“What’s relevant to a society is how well people are communicating their ideas and how well they’re cooperating, not how clever the individuals are,” he contends.

There it is. Communication and cooperation—the mating of ideas—drives progress. It’s a compelling argument for making the effort to renew and nurture relationship among all of us who support technology and innovation across a diverse campus.

I look forward to hearing ideas from you about how we can build trust and change culture. As Ridley says, “we’re all working for each other.”

Help us help you

In Communication, Strategy, Support, Web on January 4, 2010 at 11:37 am

It’s the first workday of a new decade and I’m thinking about New Year’s resolutions for the IT website.

Like most of us, the site could stand to lose a little weight. It’s easy to keep adding pages and links to the site. Much harder to remove outdated content and say no to new demands.

The site needs to be more caring of the people it serves. If you depend on the site to let you know about system maintenance, you should be able to find that information with ease. If multimedia would help you understand technical issues better, the site should provide that too.

I’d like to hear from you. What are you looking for when you visit the IT website? What do you find frustrating about it? What’s missing? How can we make it better for you?

Comment here, or email us at italk@umontana.edu with your thoughts.

1,415 have made the switch

In Communication, Support, Systems on October 12, 2009 at 1:12 pm

One in ten UM students have switched from GrizMail to UMConnect in the first four weeks of the voluntary email transition period.

If you’re a student, sign up today.

If you have a reliable channel of communication to students, we would appreciate your help in getting the message to them to make the switch early.

Voluntary account sign-up will continue for several more weeks. All students who have not signed up for UMConnect accounts by the end of fall semester will have accounts created for them in early January.

What are the benefits?

UMConnect is powered by Microsoft’s Live@edu, which provides email, file storage and a collection of collaboration and networking tools. The email interface is similar to the Outlook Web Access used by GrizMail. The big difference is that students get 10 gigabytes of email storage instead of the 35 megabytes provided by GrizMail.

Live@edu also provides 25 gigabytes of file storage. Files can be saved for public or private use. Office Live provides additional storage space for Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents.

Have questions? Go to our UMConnect FAQ page, or email us at italk@umontana.edu.

Barking up the right tree

In Innovation, Leadership and Management, Support, Web on July 2, 2009 at 1:40 pm

Arboretum:  A place where many kinds of trees and shrubs are grown for scientific and educational purposes.

Tree icons

The Montana legislature  designated the UM campus as the state’s official arboretum in 1991. UM’s College of Forestry and Conservation maintains a database of all of the trees that make up the arboretum. Where there is data, IT web developer Jamie Robertson sees a layer to the new UM campus map.

The latest map layer is a simplified view of the arboretum. Toggle the arboretum button and you can see all of the trees on campus represented by icons that distinguish various species. The new feature includes an educational supplement with photos and tips on how to identify trees.

“We tried to make it so the average user can look at it and learn something,” Robertson said.

More detailed data views are available on the Montana Arboretum page maintained by Michael Sweet in the College of Forestry and Conservation.

Note:  Some some trees that have been removed from campus still show up on the map. The CFC is updating its inventory of campus trees. When the database is updated, the map will reflect the most current state.

The end of the parade

In People, Support, Training on April 29, 2009 at 8:41 am

You see them at the end of every parade–beleaguered kids with wheelbarrows and scoop shovels. Just doin’ their job.

That’s where IT has traditionally delivered technology orientation to faculty and staff. At the end of the parade.

New UM employees endure a mind-numbing blizzard of bullet points about benefits, policies and paperwork during Human Resources’ 90-minute orientation program. Shoehorned in at the end–when brains and bladders are bursting–are a dozen departmental representatives, each with 90 seconds to cram in PSAs about their programs and services.

That’s the extent of a new employee’s formal introduction to campus technology. It’s barely worth the stuff in the wheelbarrow. We need to do a better job. It’s time for us to get on a horse and ride.

IT, with input from colleagues, is designing a two-hour introductory course to help new faculty and staff get off to a good start with campus technology. We plan to offer the course at least once a month beginning in August. We’ll also reconsider the collection of short courses we offer throughout the year that provide specific skills training. And we want to beef up online training and tutorials so continued technology training is accessible and convenient for employees.

Thanks to everyone who helped us with our survey and especially those who participated in our follow-up focus group. Keep your ideas coming.

Don’t take the bait

In Policies, Security, Support, Training on January 21, 2009 at 4:46 pm

IT launched a campaign at the end of fall semester – and will continue it through spring – to educate the campus community about phishing. A phishing email message is one that attempts to dupe the recipient into giving up personal information, usually his or her email username and password.Sometimes these fraudulent messages do a reasonable job of disguising themselves as legitimate messages by including terminology and branding specific to our campus. They usually include the threat of loss of service if you don’t comply with the request.

Our message to UM students and employees is simple:

Never respond to email asking you to provide personal information

The University of Montana will never ask you for personal information by email

How you can help

Campus departments can help with this campaign in a couple ways. The first way is to adhere to the promise that you will never ask students or employees to provide personal information by email. The second way is to help us spread the word. IT has posters, table tents and PowerPoint slides in a variety of designs to communicate the message. If you have bulletin board space, a computer monitor that displays public announcements, or some other channel of communication, and you would like campaign materials, let us know.

Don’t take the bait poster

Ask Monte provides a new answer

In Communication, Innovation, Support, Systems, Web on October 21, 2008 at 1:20 pm

Ask Monte received a facelift over the noon hour today. It now features a beautiful little orange icon.

Ask Monte now produces an RSS feed.

In case you’re wondering, Ask Monte is UM’s dynamic knowledgebase powered by RightNow Technologies out of Bozeman. Fourteen UM departments and schools currently have 346 answers to frequently asked questions on the system.

In Ask Monte, you can search for answers by keywords or filter them by topic. With today’s upgrade, even filtered search results and topic areas produce unique RSS feeds. Why is that significant?

As a user, you could subscribe to topic areas of interest in OneStop or any other RSS feed reader. Departments that use Ask Monte can now harness the content in the knowledgebase for use elsewhere.

For example, if Career Services wanted dynamic FAQ’s about student jobs on their website, they could simply filter the Ask Monte answers by selecting the Career Services topic and the Student Employment subtopic. That produces this granular RSS feed that could deliver dynamic content elsewhere.  

RSS in Ask Monte opens a lot of possibilities. If you have ideas about how the new feature could improve our customer service, please share.

KISS me, please

In Communication, People, Support on August 7, 2008 at 6:51 am

My Little League baseball coach was a good communicator. On the first day of practice, he told us we were going to use the “KISS principle” for our signs. He meant we were going to “Keep It Simple, Stupid.”

“If I touch my skin,” coach Redpath told us, “that means steal. Get it? Skin. Steal. If I touch my belt, that means bunt. Get it? Belt. Bunt.”

That was it.

Coach would go through all kinds of crazy gyrations from the third-base box. Nearly all of it was to distract the other team. All we had to do was watch for him to touch his skin or touch his belt.

We remembered the signs throughout the season (and into midlife) because they were indeed simple and memorable. And perhaps because using words like “kiss” and “stupid” with 12-year-old boys makes them giggle. And listen.

As I struggle to develop effective communication about technology on campus, I’ve concluded that we make almost everything too complicated. Case in point: I could not articulately explain campus email to you. We made it too complex.

IT professionals obfuscate when we should elucidate. We need to change that. If you read Wikipedia’s entry for the KISS principle, you’ll see a reference to Albert Einstein’s maxim that “everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.”

If Albert Einstein could make his world simple, imagine what we could do with ours.