Jul
02
Filed Under (conference) by Chris Garbutt on 02-07-2009

I have been doing a lot of learning over the last few months. I always come away from things like conferences and workshops very excited to apply what I’ve learned, but then reality strikes and much of that learning gets buried in my endless piles of paper or stored away in the back of my brain. So, I hope to share some of the highlights from events such as Podcamp, Techknowfile, and CACUSS over the course of a few posts so that some of this at least goes into the public domain. Perhaps something in here will actually be used!

Twitter is one of the things most talked about in the media today. When I was at Podcamp, everyone seemed to be using it. Attendees at sessions were making posts as the speakers shared their information. People elsewhere in the building (or elsewhere in the world, for all I know) would sometimes even respond, and prompt questions for the speaker. Twitter brought the session beyond the four walls within which it was held.

I soon got a twitter account of my own (@cgarbutt), and very slowly began to work with this medium. At some point I synced it with my Facebook account, which allowed me to communicate in both more efficiently. Truth is, most of the responses to my “tweets” are on Facebook, not twitter.

Having seen the phenomenon at Podcamp, I thought I would try it at CACUSS. Seems the student affairs crowd is not so twitter-savvy. I used the hash tag #cacuss2009, and if you look it up, you’ll probably only see my dozen or so posts and maybe one or two others.

This doesn’t surprise me – I see a lot of dismissal of Twitter among colleagues and, even more so, in the wider world. I don’t quite understand why. I can understand why it doesn’t seem relevant to a lot of people, but clearly it’s a key tool for some people.

I have found Twitter to be an amazing resource for learning things I might never have found out. Here are some of the reasons I love it so much:

  • The people I follow are really interesting, and lead me to really interesting information
  • As I mentioned before, I can synch it with my Facebook account, and that way don’t have to manage two different status updates
  • While most of the people who follow me are “Internet entrepreneurs” (ie. people somehow trying to make money off Twitter (?!)), some of them are people who follow other people I’m interested in – it leads not so much to a social network, but a loose network of virtual acquaintances who have similar interests (or are open to interesting new ideas) and can point me to things I may never have found on my own.
  • For UpbeaT, it has been an excellent way to connect across the campus – we follow and are followed by Arts & Science, Engineering, RCAT, UTM, UTM’s Career Centre, the Festival of Excellence, and numerous staff around the university I’ve never actually met!

It’s not a series of updates on what kind of toothpaste you’re using. It’s more like a set of headlines about what kind of reading you’re doing, and what kind of questions you are exploring.

That said, I do wonder how long we’ll have this resource. It doesn’t carry any ads, so it’s not making any money, and there is no way I would pay for the service. Still, while it’s around, I expect I will continue to find it to be a valuable learning resource.

Nov
07
Filed Under (conference) by Geek in Residence on 07-11-2008

My conference notes on the talk: Managing Student Disputes through Technology by Aline Grossman, Executive Director Business Integrated Services and Traci Hardy, Project Manager of the University of Phoenix and Maddy Lakshmanan, Project Lead of Apollo Group, Inc.

The University of Phoenix is the largest private university in North America, specializing in adult (working students) education.  With nearly 200 campuses, the University serves 300,000+ students with more than 100 degree programs.  So it’s a big place … and their challenge was to manage student disputes in a highly distributed and mostly virtual environment.

So they built a web-base Dispute Management System (DMS) and in the last four years, they have successfully processed 14,000 disputes.

The requirements document was 103 pages long.  They employed traditional project management with agile development and “UI engineering” to maximize results.

Here are the layers of technologies used:

Framework: Spring MVC 2.04 (although 2.05 is apparently better)

View Layer: Ext.js, Prototype.js, JSP, AJAX, JSON

AppServer: Jboss 4.05 CA (with load balancing)

Data Layer: Hibernate 3.0

Database: MS SQL Server 2000

Authentication: ACEGI, CAS, CAP

Web Services: Xfire

Tools: Fortify (protects against SQL injection), QTP, LoadRunner (performance testing)

Libraries: Quartz

Some of the technical challenges:

  1. controlled access
  2. locking feature
  3. communication with other applications
  4. securing legal data
  5. backing up secured date (every 15 minutes)
  6. monitoring the application’s availability

Future directions for development include consolidating other dispute systems, easy access to earlier disputes, dealing with retaliatory issues, work load balancing and trending.

My next post will summarize notes from the talk The Unique Human Brain: Clues fromNeurology by V.S. Ramachandran, Professor and Director of the Center for Brain and Cognition, University of California, San Diego.

Nov
05
Filed Under (conference) by Geek in Residence on 05-11-2008

My notes from the talk Can One Institutional Calendar, Used Creatively Boost Retention by Rita Cheng, Provost and Vice Chancellor and Bruc Maas, Chief Information Officer of University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

I love simplicity and clarity.  The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee is very clear about student roles and the University’s role.  The students learn, work and play.  The University provides tools to enable student success in all three realms (learn, work and play).  Simple and clear.

And they have a very clear goal:  improve retention of freshman students through the creative use of technology to strengthen communication and social networking.

The result:   Retention numbers are steadily improving.

A new question: “Can a research university use an old friend—the enterprise calendar—to produce even better results?

Assumptions:

  1. freshmen can benefit from organization
  2. students want calendar information in ONE place (for all roles: learn, work, play)
  3. calendar provides synchronous communication in vital areas

Hypothesis:  One institutional (electronic) calendar used effectively by students, faculty and advisors will contribute to student success and thus increase student retention.

Getting Things Started: The Technology Innovator Grant Program was created to stimulate creative, applied used of campus technology.  Early adopters were given $500 one-year grants and were required to participate in public forums and provide periodic updates on their projects.

Learn about the case studies in the PDF version of the presentation.

Complimentary features included instant messaging, social networking and a calendar subscription center.

Is it working?  “Early returns are promising!”

Take a test drive of the tool they used:  Zimbra.

Some other notes generated by a question and answer session.

– Course calendars were pre-populated but beyond that subscribing to a particular calendar is a choice that the student makes.  The working philosophy is “one student and one experience at a time; pre-populating is a non-thoughtful (presumptious) thing to do”.

– Any individual can create a calendar and any other person can subscribe to that calendar so that calendars can be used for specific groups of people.

Next post will cover notes from the talk: Managing Student Disputes through Technology by Aline Grossman, Executive Director Business Integrated Services and Traci Hardy, Project Manager of the University of Phoenix and Maddy Lakshmanan, Project Lead of Apollo Group, Inc.

Nov
05
Filed Under (conference) by Geek in Residence on 05-11-2008

My notes from Is IT Really Strategic for Higher Education? The Annual Gartner/EDUCAUSE Update by Michael R. Zastrocky, Vice President and Research Director, Academic Strategies of Gartner.

Zastrocky spoke faster than I could record so my notes comprise points of interest rather than a collective message.

– A problem:  50% of higher education IT strategic plans are not linked to the institutional plan and/or the budget plan.

– Change is the new norm; periods of stability and predictability are the exception.  Change is informed by society, the organization, technology, economy, politics and the environment.  Planning becomes more difficult as a result.

– How do you deal with RIO during periods of instability?  Answer:  understand consumer electronics.  The real money is in market research of student behaviors.

– Review what your business is.  It is important to know what to do and what not to do.  A strategic plan is not always a straight line between A and B.

– Strategic is different than tactical.  Strategic is longer term.  Tactical will change in 2-3 years.

– Traditional strategic planning:

  1. enterprise vision (setting mission)
  2. strategy formulation
  3. process design
  4. application to technology

– Emerging strategic planning:

  1. enterprise vision with knowledge of technology
  2. formulate technology enabled strategies
  3. co-development of enterprise process and technologies

– PROCESS is more IMPORTANT than the plan because it allows for the human interface and the experience of inclusion; build bridges to maximize wisdom and understanding.

– CAUTION: the dog (vision) should wag the tail (technology) and not the other way around.

My next post will review my notes on Can One Institutional Calendar, Used Creatively Boost Retention by Rita Cheng, Provost and Vice Chancellor and Bruc Maas, Chief Information Officer of University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.