Supporting IT is often compared to running the trains: people only notice when the trains are late. No one really notices when IT runs well, only when things break. But Computing Services has worked very hard to bring new improvements to the campus, without affecting what you do. I wanted to take a moment to recognize some of the work that Computing Services has done for the campus:
Since last year, we've had the ability to use Google+ for social connectivity across the University. For example, I use Google+ Hangouts in committees that span different campuses, so we can be face-to-face without having to drive 3 hours to the Cities.
Many Morris faculty have started using Google+ in their classes, too. It's a great way for students to stay connected with each other, and with their professor. Using "Circles", you can control privacy, or "follow" someone (like a professor) to stay abreast of announcements and other important updates.
However, until recently, Google+ required users to be 18 years or older. This is fine for most students; they are already 18 when they come to Morris. But many of our PSEO students are not yet 18, so have been unable to use Google+.
Aubrey McIntosh brought this problem to my attention at the beginning of this semester, and I immediately worked with OIT and our partners at Google about the need to let PSEO students participate in Google+. We're under non-disclosure rules, so I cannot give details, but you may have noticed that Google+ now allows students 13 years and older. This change happened about a week after we brought the concern to Google.
While I can't claim sole credit here (Google was going to do this anyway) I think it's fair to say that our conversations with Google helped move up the timeline. That's the value we bring to the campus: we serve the campus, to help faculty & students in the teaching & learning mission.
NEH technology grant
Before the break, Jayne Blodgett and I discussed how to enhance teaching & learning through technology. Working with Kristin in the Grants office, we collaborated with Tisha, Heather, and Pam to draft a grant proposal to the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) on technology in the classroom.
Our grant proposal focused on the benefits of mobile learning, or "mLearning", and how to experiment with this at Morris. Grants are a wonderful opportunity to try new things, and we haven't had much experience with mLearning at Morris. Our proposal (due in early March) asks for monies to purchase iPads and network infrastructure to support a mobile learning initiative at Morris, using iPads to enhance college writing.
For years, Morris has used a wiki-based ride board. But this was awkward to use, and often very out of date. Rather than use this ride board, students turned to the mail list, offering and asking for rides. Due to the volume of messages on the mail list, we needed to find another alternative to the wiki ride board.
Last year, Computing Services followed up on a suggestion, for a new student ride-sharing system. Through support of MCSA and TechFee funding, we purchased into an online service called Zimride. This new service has hooks into Facebook and Google Maps to help students get connected.
Computing Services manages the Zimride offering for the campus - including advertising and communication - and participates in a regular check-in meeting with Zimride. In January, Zimride shared some interesting ride statistics with us. At the end of the year, Zimride posted their top rankings: total new users, new users as a percentage of the campus, new rides posted as a percentage of the campus.
- Morris ranks #1 in % new users, with 28% of our students choosing to use Zimride. (The #2 school is only 18%.)
- We are tied for #1 in % new rides posted, at 30%. (We are tied with James Madison University.)
It's worth noting that we have been using Zimride since September 2011, so our stats represent only 4 months' usage.
Computing Services believes strongly in its service to the campus. We exist in a partnership with all faculty, students, and staff. Each initiative mentioned here came about from conversations with the campus. It's our job to respond to your needs, and our pleasure to make it happen.