The University of Montana

Archive for the ‘Web’ 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, 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



 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.


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.


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.

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.”

NetID as master key

In Communication, Security, Strategy, Systems, Web on February 11, 2011 at 1:58 pm

UM joins federation that will allow campus users to log into external services using local credentials

Every UM student and employee has a NetID login and associated password that provides access to a growing number of web services on campus. The next step is to extend the convenience and security of a single login credential beyond campus.

UM recently joined InCommon, a federation of higher education institutions and partners who have a need to collaborate and conduct business through secure web services. Partners include research funders, government agencies and vendors who provide web-based services to colleges.

Logging into off-campus web services using a local username and password is achieved through federated identity management. UM and other members of InCommon will use standard data formats for identifying users, making it easy to set up trust relationships.  The benefit is that users have one set of login credentials to remember and manage rather than a separate username and password for every system they access. And service providers no longer need to manage databases of user accounts for access control. Beyond convenience and efficiency, federated identity management reduces the risk that your personal information will be compromised or misused.

Don’t know your NetID?

Go to and click on the
“What is my NetID” link

About 200 colleges and universities have joined InCommon, along with about 80 government, non-profit and business partners. The National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation are InCommon members, as are Microsoft, Apple iTunes U, Blackboard, MoodleRooms and the National Student Clearinghouse, all of which provide services to UM students and faculty.

Gary  Trethewey, manager of Directory Services in IT, says he expects UM to have the hardware and software in place by fall to begin taking advantage of federated identity management.

This article appears in the February, 2011 edition of IT’s Bits newsletter.

CyberBear login to switch to NetID

In Academic, Administrative, Banner, Systems, Web on February 2, 2011 at 8:27 am

Beginning March 14, UM students and employees will use their NetID and password to log into CyberBear rather than their 790 number and PIN.

CyberBear provides web access to academic, employment and personal information as well as course registration and fee payment functions. Faculty also use CyberBear to view class rosters and advisee lists.

This authentication process isn’t new to campus. CyberBear will use Central Authentication Services (CAS), UM’s standard for accessing network resources. Blackboard, Moodle, Onestop, UMConnect student email, Mansfield Library, campus wireless and numerous other systems use the NetID and CAS for authentication.

All students are assigned a NetID upon admission, and employees receive a NetID when they are hired. To find your NetID, go to and click on “What is my NetID?” Your initial password is the last six digits of your 790 number. The first time you login with your NetID, you will be prompted to change your password and set up a security question. That allows for self- service password reset if you forget your password or it expires.

This article appears in the February, 2011 edition of IT’s Bits newsletter.


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.

Your online reputation

In Communication, Media, People, Security, Web on April 29, 2010 at 3:40 pm

Graduates looking for their first professional jobs and students applying for summer employment may find that their reputation precedes them.

According to a recent survey commissioned by Microsoft (PDF), 84 percent of recruiters and HR professionals said they thought it was proper to consider personal data posted online as part of the hiring process, and 70 percent said they have rejected candidates based on information they found online.

Job seekers appear to underestimate the impact that their online activity can have on their prospects. Only seven percent of job seekers said they thought online data affected their job search.

Hiring professionals report that concerns about a candidate’s lifestyle, inappropriate comments or text written by the candidate and unsuitable photos or videos are the most common reasons for rejecting candidates. Criticism of former employers online doesn’t help your cause either.

How do you protect your online reputation?

Many survey respondents said they have taken steps to separate their professional and personal identities online. By separating identities, they can keep some profiles anonymous and restrict access to personal information. And it’s always good think about your future before you post . . . anything.

The Butler did (or didn’t) do it

In Communication, Web on April 8, 2010 at 8:54 am

The Butler University basketball team played in the NCAA national championship game Monday, nearly beating heavily favored Duke. Butler has about 4,500 students and plays in the Horizon League. It is considered a “mid-major” basketball program like our own Grizzlies.

What does it mean to a small university to make such a big splash on a national sports stage? The Chronicle of Higher Education reports today that on the day Butler beat Kansas State in the NCAA tournament, the Butler website got 137,000 visits, up from the normal 5,000-15,000. The stampede of traffic required significant ramping up of web servers and network bandwidth.

Butler’s director of web marketing, Sheila Shidnia, reported that the most popular page on the website during March Madness was the “About” page. People wanted to know about the institution, not just the team.

Kyle James, a blogger at .eduGuru, contends that Butler missed a major marketing opportunity. His take is that every page of your website should drive visitors further down some conversion funnel, like a prospect becoming an applicant or an alumnus becoming a donor.

The University of Montana football team regularly plays on a national stage, like when they played two nationally televised games last December. And Wayne Tinkle’s basketball program shows signs that it could one day spring a major upset or two in the NCAA tournament. When that happens, are we ready to take full advantage of the attention?

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