Technology Tuesday: IRT welcomes students, faculty, staff with new improvements

Technology Tuesday: IRT welcomes students, faculty, staff with new improvements

On behalf of my colleagues in IRT, I would like to add our welcome back for fall semester. Client Services’ computer replacement summer program, the opening of McNeely Hall, and wireless, network and server upgrades provided IRT folks with a busy summer. As we have looked at trends broadly in information technologies and at UST in particular, those identified by the Pew Internet and American Life study seem clear.

  • The information technology environment will have more “intelligence.”
  • Mobility will continue to increase.
  • “My media” will catch up with “mass media” – the growth of social computing, especially among younger enthusiasts, is apparent in MySpace, Facebook, YouTube and many more sites.
  • Search tools will continue to get better – more contextual and more social.
  • Pressures to stratify the Internet will become greater.
  • The dangers of intrusion will continue to intensify.

University Technology Advisory Committee

These trends and others and how they impact teaching, learning, scholarship and the university’s business will be on the agenda of the University Technology Advisory Committee (UTAC) this year as we begin work on the draft of an information resources and technologies plan for UST. We will undertake that task in support of the University’s Strategic Plan, now entering its next stages of development consistent with the themes of Access, Excellence and Catholic Identity. We look forward to sharing a draft version of the plan for campuswide review and comment. I’m pleased to welcome Marisa Kelly, dean of Arts and Sciences, as a new member of the UTAC. Dean Kelly brings extensive experience with instructional technologies to the committee.

Part of IRT’s planning work this year will include universitywide preparation for a UST response to emergencies. Pandemic planning, much in the news in recent months, will provide us with a “roadmap” for emergency planning. Led by Student Affairs, the process will be a first step to, and a template for, broader disaster recovery and business continuity planning during the year.

The Information Commons

The Information Commons at the University Libraries continue to evolve as learning spaces, and new programs and projects will continue that work in the coming years. We are pleased to welcome May Chang as the new associate director for Virtual Services. She will be joined by Carolyn DeLuca in developing new directions for virtual resources. The University Libraries invite everyone to take a look at the new Libraries Web site, which features a rich set of resources for the community. Just five years ago, our University Libraries had no electronic periodicals available online. Today, there are more than 32,000 available online for teaching, learning and scholarly activity.

University Libraries director Dan Gjelten is leading a planning group that is completing a master plan for O’Shaughnessy-Frey Library that will include design changes that will enhance the opportunities for community building within that space.  We also will be starting on the development of a center for teaching and technology, in which faculty, librarians and instructional support specialists can collaborate on effective integration of technology in teaching and learning.  Finally, we will continue to develop collections which combine the best of what is being published in print as well as increasing our digital offerings and making them as accessible as possible via the Libraries’ new Web page.

As the Libraries look to the future, we are excited by the opportunity to create, in partnership with our colleagues all over the UST campus, the academic library of the 21st century -- an energetic and vital library that continues to stand at the center of the academic enterprise as it has for centuries.


As part of continuing Web development, we recently announced IRT’s redesigned Web site. We believe the new site provides excellent, easy-to-access resources for technology support and services for students, faculty and staff, with important information to support learning, teaching and the university’s business.  The new site combines the former IRT, Teaching and Learning with Technology, and the Enterprise Web sites, and contains many new features.
WebSPACE continues reaching its aggressive milestones.  Approximately 45 percent of our Web environment has been redesigned and is now managed by the Collage Content Management System. While a Web environment is never considered complete, we have a planned completion date of June 2007. Redesign projects have been planned in phases. Academic sites were first, with sites that provide admissions support at the top of the list, moving to student-service sites followed by administrative sites.

The WebSPACE project is more than giving UST sites a face-lift; we are also working to make sure that our Web pages are usable and easier to find. Over the summer we added analytics capability with WebTrends, which will give us better statistics and deeper understanding of how our constituents are using the site. We also have been conducting usability testing and we have improved our search capabilities.

Web and Media Services director Liz Houle will be addressing these and other developments in an upcoming Bulletin article.

New instructional technologies and applications

The application of E-Learning continues to develop at UST, and IRT joins with many academic partners as the number of courses supported through Blackboard and other technologies continues to grow. Several of those new technologies bring new tools for teaching and learning.

Web and Media Services also introduced Macromedia Breeze, powerful and flexible Web conferencing software with many options for E-Learning. Pilot courses using Breeze in Healthcare MBA and Theology have produced promising and exciting results. Other technologies being piloted include the use of blogs and podcasting in Journalism, Education, School of Divinity and more. Look for Bulletin articles from Web and Media Services’ Rosann Cahill, Elizabeth Smith and Eric Larson in the coming weeks on these topics.

We have developed a proposal for a significant upgrade to UST’s Video Studio and O'Shaughnessy Educational Center auditorium, linking an important instructional media facility to UST’s largest presentation space. We look forward to working with the community to identify resources and timelines for moving that essential project ahead.

McNeely Hall, Smart Classrooms, and Videoconferencing

McNeely Hall, home to the University of St Thomas ’ Undergraduate College of Business, employs the latest technologies to provide an innovative approach to learning and scholarship. The new building offers more than 75,000 square feet of state-of-the-art classrooms, conference rooms, study rooms, and faculty and administrative wor
k space. These new spaces are designed with technology in mind to accommodate the latest teaching and problem-solving techniques that businesses require of top college graduates.

This high-performance building joins Schulze Hall in having installed technologies such as wireless access, thin client computing, LCD projectors, cutting-edge servers, and Voice-over-Internet Protocol. McNeely and Schulze Halls are the first VoIP facilities employing converged technologies. The new buildings have given IRT a great opportunity to pilot digital convergence of voice, data and video technologies that will be part of our university’s future. We in IRT have enjoyed our partnership with the College of Business, Physical Plant, and others across UST in making McNeely and Schulze Halls’ model of new technologies application.

IRT has joined with Academic Affairs in recent years to increase the number of smart classrooms, based on priorities established by the academic deans. Of UST’s 287 classroom and presentation spaces, 179 are now “smart,” including new facilities and 10 spaces that were upgraded this summer. This month, Thornton Auditorium will receive a much-needed upgrade.

Last year, we installed a videoconferencing system in Room 102, O'Shaughnessy Frey Library Center, to capitalize on UST’s connection to Internet2 and the I2 Commons. Successful videoconferences to international locations, including Australia and Uganda, followed. We have installed a second location in Room LL09, Terrence Murphy Hall, Minneapolis, for intercampus videoconferencing as well.

Wireless coverage and network enhancement

IRT's network team has been actively working to expand wireless coverage on campus. With the arrival of students this fall, we expanded the IP addresses for wireless from 1,000 to 1,300 to meet demand. This summer we widened our already extensive campuses’ access to include the entire Minneapolis campus and all of O’Shaughnessy Science Hall, Owens Science Hall, the Summit Classroom Building, the Murray-Herrick Campus Center and new McNeely in St. Paul. We will continue to increase coverage in St. Paul this year to complete the St. Paul campus. In addition, we have enhanced the wired network, including the upgrade of O’Shaughnessy Science Hall and Owens Science Hall to gigabit speed.

Banner and business intelligence

We look forward to a year of continuous improvement in supporting the university’s business functions efficiently, and enhancing our abilities to analyze institutional data. Director Mike Coglan and his team in Institutional Research and Analysis and Gary Thyen and his team in the Controllers Office have done outstanding work in making information available on the Web in a timely way to improve decision making across campus. Our IT staff have worked to support those efforts, and additional enhancement to UST’s capabilities will be made this year. Changes for this year will include an upgrade to Banner 7.3 and increasing emphasis on systems monitoring.

Consistent with our focus on security, we will undertake a security audit this year and develop a new IT security plan for UST. As well, we will need to upgrade HVAC and other systems in the Lindsay Computer Center in Aquinas Hall next summer. Planning for that will include upgrading the Minneapolis Data Center so that it can handle operations during the renovation work in St. Paul.