Collaboration and problem-solving among local college-based IT professionals.
By Nicole Simon ‘13, B.A. in Communication Sciences and Disorders; enrolled in M.S. program in Speech-Language Pathology
More than 125 IT professionals from 20 colleges around the Long Island and New York City area attended the Sixth Annual New York Higher Education Technology Forum held on June 7, 2013, at Hofstra University. Adelphi University Hofstra and NYIT are co-founders of the event, which fosters collaboration and problem-solving among local colleagues.
Jack Chen, Adelphi’s Chief Information Officer (CIO), and Niyazi Bodur, CIO of NYIT, delivered opening remarks about the collaboration of ideas between schools as well as creating alliances for the future. Mr. Bodur discussed one of his goals for the forum as “Procurement Alliances.” This will serve as a benefit for each University to collaborate on which vendors are being used with the best pricing for hardware, software, etc., and the consulting on the best reliability.
This year’s forum used Twitter as a communication tool to initiate conversation of future topics, areas of interest for the breakout sessions, as well as trending topics of the forum.
Following the opening remarks, Carol Ann Boyle, Director of Customer Services and Staff Development at Adelphi University, introduced representatives from each school attending the forum to briefly discuss the following questions:
- In the last 5 years, what changes have been made in IT, specific to each of your schools?
- What strategies are you using or have you used to adapt to a more user friendly IT?
One of the overarching themes discussed by attending schools was the impact of mobile technology on the way IT at each school functions its daily operations. Adapting to the constant change in student devices on campus was stated as one of the main challenges seen across schools. Long Island University referred to mobile technology as a “game changer.” WiFi distribution and maintaining strong networks to support the various devices brought to campuses were challenges each of the representatives had in common. The Webb Institute indicated that it has been a struggle to add wireless access points to keep up with the increase in mobile technology on campus. Mr. Bodur of NYIT stated, “Mobile devices are a destructive evolution, not a revolution. They have changed the way we function.”
Aside from the struggle to keep up with the increase in mobile technology, needs assessment is an area Queens College indicated as a challenge. This includes assessments of the direction the department and university as a whole is headed, user needs, vendors, as well as purchasing requests. To best suit the user needs, the representative from Nassau Community College stated, “Ask the students what they want. Meet with and listen to the student and faculty.”
Following these introductions, morning breakout sessions included:
- Central IT’s Role in BYOD: From “Department of NO” to “Department of “KNOW” (Panel Discussion) led by Carol Ann Boyle of Adelphi University, Nancy Marksbury of Long Island University and Jesse Webster of Hofstra University.
- Bring Your Own Design: Building Next-Generation Classrooms led by Joseph Battaglia of Adelphi University, Fran Glazer of NYIT, and Laurie Harvey of NYIT.
- Peek-A-Portal: Share Your School’s Portal Site, and Discuss Your Positive (or Negative!) Experiences led by Brian Ferris of Hofstra University and Scott Finkelstein of Adelphi University.
- Tour of Hofstra’s Primary Data Center led by Bruce Carlson of Hofstra University.
Spotlight on the “Peek-A-Portal” Session
Adelphi’s Manager of Web Technologies, Scott Finkelstein, gave an overview of Central Authentication Service systems (aka CAS), with a focus on Adelphi’s eCampus portal. Mr. Finkelstein reviewed the pros and cons of LifeRay, which is the backend system used to run Adelphi’s eCampus portal. On this current version, customization of the home screen and modifying themes is not possible. However, with Adelphi’s anticipated upgrade to LifeRay version 6.1 in Spring 2014, users will be able to customize more features. Decreasing the number of clicks for login to portal services is another area that will be further improved in the upgrade.
Portal user groups was another hot topic at this session. The CIO from Nassau Community College explained the way the grouping within his portal is controlled. Gmail accounts are created when students apply, which causes a lot of “clean up” when students are not accepted or do not enroll. To solve this, NCC is looking to find ways of setting up specific groups such as, applied students, current students, and/or accepted students.
The session also focused on accessibility of Adelphi’s services through the mobile site, AU2Go. This piqued interest among attending colleges regarding the creation of future mobile applications in higher education.
Hofstra’s Brian Ferris gave an overview of his university’s portal, Luminis. The login page is used solely for announcements with tabs at the top of the page. These tabs are strictly role-based and were originally only faculty, student, employee or alumni. With Admissions pushing to add more tabs, prospective students, applicants, and accepted students are now included in these roles. A system clean out of the students who did not enroll at Hofstra, is completed a few months following start date. Student email accounts are not generated until the student makes a tuition deposit.
As far as managing content for the future, Mr. Ferris hopes to put together a more centralized content management group. Unfortunately, resources are limited to manage content, along with the structure of specific content groups. For the future, this is an area to be strengthened. With various departments responsible for updating content, this causes outdated information on the site. With a more centralized group, this could be rectified.
The use of Banner Web at Hofstra requires multiple logins to complete certain taks such as registering for classes, which has been a complaint from students. However, the use of this program has a positive spin in terms of disaster recovery. In the event that the portal is inoperable, students are still able to access each Banner Web account directly.
Compared to Adelphi’s portal, connections to social media are not accessible on Hofstra’s portal, which was referenced as downfall, but access to the mobile community on Android and iOs softwares is beginning to take off. Incorporating parental access into the portal is an area Hofstra hopes to expand on.
Following a networking lunch, afternoon breakout sessions included:
- More Than Wires and Plugs: Tour Collaborative Spaces for Students led by Judith Tabron and Rose Tirotta, of Hofstra University.
- Who Are Your At-Risk Students? Using Data Mining to Target Intervention Efforts, led by Lalitha Agnihotri and Alexander Ott, of NYIT.
- Any Device, Any Location: Making It Work With What You’ve Got, led by Carol Ann Boyle, of Adelphi University, Nancy Marksbury, of Long Island University, and Jesse Webster, of Hofstra University.
Spotlight on “Who Are Your At-Risk Students? Using Data Mining to Target Intervention Efforts”
NYIT’s Lalitha Agnihotri and Alex Ott began the session with definitions of retention rate and the benefits of early targeted intervention. It has been noted that intervention, both academically and socially, changes student behaviors. To keep student retention from decreasing, NYIT focuses on various behaviors and patterns, such as:
- Who are the ones at risk?
- What are the risk factors of each individual student?
- What are factors that force students to leave the University?
To aid in this process of student retention, STAR Version 1.0 was established. To collect relevant data to support retention, mandatory surveys are provided to their freshman students. In order to move forward with placement exams, each student is required to answer questions similar to the following:
- How confident are you in your major?
- How confident are you that you will remain at NYIT?
- How many hours will you work outside of school?
Counselors review each variable and flag any students he or she feels are at risk for leaving the university after the first year. The issue with Version 1.0 was that these variables used to flag students “at risk,” were assumed. There was no direct correlation between students returning in the fall and these variables.
To better intervene, STAR Version 2.0 was created utilizing data mining tools to select and weigh each variable to predict retention of each student. 25 variables are used within NYIT’s Data Warehouse (full time/part-time enrollment, work hours, completion plan, certainty of career goals, living situation, GPA, etc.) Updates to the data mining are constant, on a daily basis to ensure accurate results. According to NYIT, the key is to receive information and retention rates specific to your school. General information will not give you accuracy. Financial data and mandatory surveys help determine the variables in this model as well. The keys to building a successful model are to collect relevant data, house the data in one location, integrate the variables and your research based on your institution, and finally use data mining tools to analyze the data and build appropriate models.
This is an area of growth and development. Collaboration between IT and other university departments is crucial to development and success with this program.
The afternoon breakout sessions were followed by focused “Birds of a Feather Group Discussions,” based on trending topics on the NYHETF Twitter feed at twitter.com/NYHETF.
If you are interested in attending or participating in planning of the 2014 event, please join our Facebook Group at facebook.com/NYHETF.
Look for videos from the 2013 event to be posted later this summer.
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