New Email and Calendar Services

Office 365 has been selected as our new email and calendaring service.  This cloud-based service provides many enhancements over our existing email and calendaring system.  ITS has created a website to provide information on Office 365, it’s implementation, the email migration process and training opportunities.

http://www.washburn.edu/a-z-index/its/email-calendar/index.html

We will continue to add information to this website as well as blog posts to the Washburn Technology blog (http://blog.washburn.edu/technology/) to keep you informed and assist in the effective implementation and use of this new service.

Over the next three months, ITS will be implementing Office 365 for Washburn University and the Washburn Institute of Technology.   A 3rd party vendor with experience migrating educational institutions to Office 365 is being selected to assist in this initiative.

All faculty, staff and student email will be migrated to Office 365.   Our intended timeline is to migrate most of ITS to the new service later this month.  We are seeking early adopters to migrate in mid-November and who are willing to assist faculty and staff in their departments during the final implementation.   The final implementation is scheduled for early January, 2014 before classes begin.   That said, we have been collecting critical dates for different units and departments and we are planning to work around these events.

I’m sure you have lots of questions and we will work to answer all of them in the coming weeks.  For example, your email address will not change.  You can continue to use Thunderbird, although we believe you will have a much better experience if you move to Outlook.  And support for mobile devices is seamless which is a big enhancement when you consider managing calendars.

Look for more messages on Office 365 implementation, demonstration and training opportunities.

In Memory of Rob Burton

This last weekend we lost a friend and collegue in the Washburn community.  Rob Burton worked in Information Technology Services (ITS) as an Application Analyst supporting the Finance office and reporting services.

Rob’s passing was very sudden and I’m sure many of us are still expecting to see him come around the corner to discuss a specific project or new technology.  On a personal note, I wish I had taken the opportunity to get to know Rob better and to thank him for his service to the University.

Below are a few statements from Bob Stoller and a little information about Rob’s background… and a few pictures to remember him.

Rob in his earlier days with ITS.

rob_burtonRob had superb skills as a programmer/analyst and excelled in database queries and reporting.   He exemplified an IT employee. He loved to write code and solve problems. He would often come into the office excited about some new and clever way he found to resolve a difficult programming requirement. Rob was always interested in keeping his skills current and would take specialized continuing education courses in various rogramming languages and techniques. In addition, he was a good listener, a critical soft skill for a programmer/analyst.

Rob graduated from Washburn with a degree in Computer Information Systems in 1996 and immediately joined our ranks as a programmer in what was then the Administrative Data Processing department. At this time all of Washburn’s administrative software was developed in-house by university programmers.

Rob is saying goodbye to an old friend, the IBM AS400 system, as we prepared to shut it down with the deployment of Banner.

Rob with AS400Rob left Washburn University a couple of times to work with Blakely Crop Hail Inc., Topeka Public Schools and Emporia State University.  Fortunately, Rob would return to Washburn and play a significant role in  the development and deployment of key IT systems. He was the only remaining IT person on staff who still knew all the data and code from the legacy administrative software when Washburn chose to implement Banner to support administrative systems. His understanding of our business data and legacy software helped overcome the complexity of migrating and translating coded data from a home-grown solution into a new commercial system.

Below, Rob with the Administrative Systems team at the time of Banner implementation.

Application Services Team

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rob was a kind hearted and caring individual; and we were very blessed to have him as a member of the ITS team and the Washburn community.   He will be missed.

MOOCs, the new Buzz in Education?

I was recently in a meeting where MOOCs were discussed and I found a few individuals who were not aware of this new phenomenon.

Never heard of a MOOC?  Nope, it’s not a cow with a cold… it stands for Massively Open Online Course (MOOC).    Still confused?  You’re not alone.

Massive – targeting large numbers of students

Open – anyone can enroll and there is no fee

Online – uses new web-based technology for delivering content

Course – activities for meeting a set of learning objectives

A number of independent projects or services for providing MOOCs have emerged over the last year and while they are managed in partnership with institutions of Higher Education, like Coursea which grew out of  Stanford University, they have also raised questions about the future of these institutions.

To learn more, check out Wikipedia.

However, you should know that MOOCs don’t provide college credit.  Yes, you can take and hopefully complete a MOOC and receive a certificate, but you will not receive any college credit for your work.  Or is that about to change?

In a recent article in The Chronicle, the American Council on Education is now recommending credits be given for individuals who successfully complete one of five MOOCs.

So, what might this mean to institutions like Washburn University?  Will it be disruptive?  Let us know what you think… if you care to post a comment. :)

 

 

Improvisation…

On a recent trip to St Louis, my wife and I listened to Tina Fay talk about her life.  We were listening to her audio book Bossypants.  It was all very entertaining, but I found her stories on “improv” very interesting… and I thought I would share what I learned.  I know it sounds a little odd… why would I share little gems about improvisation on this blog?  One answer is that stories from every walk of life can help us reflect and provide insight into our own situations.  My wife’s answer is that I think too much… and that might be just as valid.  You can use your own judgement.

Regardless, I took away the following advice when you are asked to do improvisation.

  1. Commit.  Seems simple enough.  You can’t go into improv half way.
  2. Agree.  If someone tells you an apple is really a banana and you say “no it isn’t”, then you’ve just killed the conversation.  This is a partnership in which each party must agree with the other in order to be successful.  No matter where the story goes, you have to go along.
  3. Add value.  If you are told the apple is a banana and you simply reply with a question like “where did you get it?”, you are placing the burden back on your partner to continue the conversation.  On the other hand, if you say “that banana is radioactive”, you’ve added to the story. 
  4. Don’t limit yourself.  After all, this is improv, anything is possible.

OK, so why did I find this relevent to my work with technology?  Because the use of technology is a partnership and its too easy to disagree and kill the conversation.  Its much more rewarding if you can agree with the desired application and add value.  Try to guide the conversation to a successful end.  And don’t limit yourself to existing models and practices, there may be options not yet on the table.  Participate, be positive and be flexible.

Obviously, life is not improv.  We have limitations to what we can do… and we have to ask a lot of questions to understand desired outcomes and applications.  But we can add value and have some fun along the way. :)

Maybe my wife is right…

ITS Staff Breakfast

ITS came together this morning for a very nice staff breakfast.  It was a great opportunity to visit with everyone and enjoy some good food.  We don’t come together very often and while we didn’t have a professional camera or photographer, we did take a few minutes to run outside and take a photo of everyone in their nice, new Washburn ITS shirts.  We did lose a few staff in the scramble to get the picture (you know who you are).  :)

This is a great group of professionals who work very hard to keep Washburn’s technology current and operational.  Information Technology is a very broad field and its a little mind boggling how much experience and knowledge these folks have… I feel pretty lucky I have their support.

ITS Picture

Technology Consumption from 1900

I thought I would add a short and fun post on technology.  See the graph below (I got it from the NY Times).   It’s pretty amazing if you think about how much our world has changed since our parents and their parents were born.  To help consider these changes, I added a few lines which show around when my grandparents were born along with my parents, me and my kids.  I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions.  Click on the image to see a larger view.

Technology Adoption Rate

New Website

I hope you’ve had a chance to visit and browse around the new website for Washburn University.  This is a great step in enhancing our online presence and engaging our community as well as those we hope will join our community.  Below are some of the features of the new website taken from a news release written by Amanda Hughes.

  • A consistent and professional design for all areas featuring new imagery. The Cascade Content Management System (CMS) provides a framework for managing the brand across the website, while allowing individuals to publish specialized content.
  • A new “Meet Our Faculty” area allows students to get to know more about the Washburn faculty reflecting Washburn’s commitment to student engagement with faculty taught courses and other faculty lead opportunities, such as service and research.
  • The new interactive virtual tour gives insight into Washburn University and not only covers academics, but includes student activities, campus life, and athletics through an interactive map, pictures and videos.
  • Highlighted are six messages, with accompanying videos, which speak to realizing your dreams through quality, affordable education at Washburn.
  • A number of new tools have been added to include a comprehensive calendar of events and news services from across campus.
  • In addition, schools and departments can personalize the displayed news and events on their web pages which are relevant to their specific audience.
  • The use of social media has been adopted to better promote campus programs and allow faculty, staff and students to share information with their friends and colleagues.
  • With the growing use of mobile devices, Washburn employed a “responsive” design for the new website enabling the effective use of smart phones and tablets as well as laptop and desktop computers.

Reflecting

I’ve been at Washburn University for four months now and I thought I might reflect a little.  As you can imagine, I still have a great deal to learn, but I feel that I’m really finding my place.  It’s not just the technology, although that would certainly fill the time; it’s the staff, the culture and the community which interest me most.  The tag cloud below gives you a visual of projects, feelings and focus during my first few months.

Initial Months Word Tag Arriving in January gave me the opportunity to dive into the budgeting process at Washburn.  :)   My emphasis was on governance and understanding how we can prioritize and fund the numerous projects waiting in the wings.   What I found was dedicated and passionate staff, a warm community and enthusiasm   for the future.  For those of you who don’t know me… I like chocolate and usually have some in my office so stop by… I still try to swim and run a little, but have found Kansas to be a little windy, so I’m adjusting…

I’m very happy to have joined the Washburn community and look forward to working with you and getting to know you.

Our Blog is Live

Welcome.  I’m extremely excited for our new web blog to go live.  I hope you’ll find the information posted here useful and interesting.  Since I like short postings, I’ll simply direct you to the About page for a more detailed introduction.