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UW Information Technology

UW-IT Insights — Fall 2017

Evans School’s new international program gets boost with new distance learning platform

Student participants, group photo When the Evans School of Public Policy & Governance agreed to pilot a long-distance public health leadership program, it faced a challenge — how to bring together mid-career professionals from several African countries with their UW instructors. The school knew it needed innovative but simple technologies to connect everyone on two continents and build community.

UW-IT’s Learning Technologies — now part of Academic and Student Affairs in the Office of the Provost — stepped up to the task. The team recommended Canvas, the University’s learning management system, and coupled it with other online tools, such as Zoom, for live video collaboration, and Slack, for instant communications online. With these tools, the 18 fellows from neighboring African countries could easily collaborate with each other and with their UW instructors.

“It was really important for us to use a platform that would help build community for our fellows, with easy-to-use online tools that would let them talk to one another,” said Molly Jay, chief digital officer at the Evans School.

Jay worked with Nate McKee, director of Learning Technologies, and his instructional design and outreach team, including Julie Cruse, Robyn Foshee and Dave Coffey, to come up with an elegant solution that emphasizes simple tools that can be used from anywhere.

“Online learning is challenging for students. Everyone is often working alone. By tweaking Canvas and bringing in the appropriate technologies, we drove community first — so the fellows could feel they were all working together on their projects,” McKee said.

The pilot project, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is attracting attention from other UW departments. McKee said the tools they put together could easily work for other programs with similar needs. The Evans School graduated its first cohort in September and is now accepting applications for the 2018 program, with the Gates Foundation agreeing to continue funding for at least two more years.

Six Catalyst Web Tools to retire, users are encouraged to adopt supported replacement

laptop with CatalystAfter many years of service to the UW community, six Catalyst Web Tools — Collect It, CommonView, GoPost, QuickPoll, UMail, and WebQ Quiz — will be retired over the next year. Commonly used Catalyst Web Tools, such as WebQ Survey and Gradebook, will not be retired.

Usage of the tools is declining, with active use decreasing by 66 percent over the past four years. Many of these tools are built on outdated technology and modernizing them would require a considerable investment. The decision to retire these Catalyst Web Tools was made only after careful evaluation, including assessment of the users, usage and alternatives available. Vendor-provided, UW-IT-supported alternative tools will keep pace with technological improvements in ways that home-grown solutions simply cannot.

For more information, including on UW-IT-supported alternative tools, see:

Retirement of these tools will happen gradually over the next year, with UW-IT providing support for users needing to move to other alternatives. If you have content on the Catalyst Web Tools being retired, you will have until August 2018 to archive or migrate material.

New eSignatures service to expand, help more units go paperless, increase efficiencies

docusignThe UW’s new electronic signature service, eSignatures, has been a hit for several departments seeking to go paperless, increase efficiencies and improve their online offerings, with UW-IT now working to bring it to more users across the UW.

The eSignatures service allows users to easily upload documents so they can be accessed securely and signed online. Users also can manage and retain saved documents in the UW Enterprise Document Management System. The Office of Student Financial Aid, for example, uses eSignatures so parents and students can more quickly complete, sign and submit forms online.

The service is offered online through an enterprise license with DocuSign, the vendor working with UW-IT, and is being offered at no cost to UW departments. UW-IT is partnering with the UW Privacy Office, UW Medicine, Human Subjects Division and DocuSign to ensure the service meets state and federal laws and regulations. An Administrative Policy Statement to guide departments on proper use of electronic signatures is also in the works.

Learn more on IT Connect or contact the eSignatures team by emailing help@uw.edu.

New Integrated Service Center committed to continuous improvement

Two people working at a computer at Integrated Service CenterJust three months after opening, the Integrated Service Center (ISC) has become an important resource for helping employees navigate Workday, and remains focused on collaborating with units to provide ongoing transactional support for all faculty and staff.

To date, the ISC has successfully closed 92 percent of opened cases. While more cases are being closed than are coming in, the team is working steadily to resolve a significant backlog. To address this and other issues, the ISC has created “SWAT” teams to tackle the highest-priority issues, particularly those affecting pay and benefits.

Although employees still rely on their departments for initial support for pay stubs, work schedules and time/absence questions, the ISC helps employees navigate Workday.

“We’re incredibly grateful for the partnership of the University community on this large and complex project,” said Nancy Jagger, ISC executive director. “A cultural shift of this magnitude is bound to come with frustrations, but thanks to the continued commitment and support of University partners, we are responding to challenges while driving together toward an improved, streamlined workflow designed for a modern-day university.”

The ISC is continuing to focus on:

  • Assigning resources to the highest priority cases: pay and benefits
  • Deploying Mobile Support Units to conduct deep dives into specific areas of need
  • Identifying issues and root causes of errors in order to optimize systems and processes
  • Improving communications with UW stakeholders as issues arise

The launch of Workday at the UW is now considered a model implementation — even with some challenges — and several other institutions have sought guidance from program leadership at the UW.

MyUW now more personal — and easier to use

myuw1A new, streamlined MyUW launched this summer offers faculty and staff personal, timely and relevant information with personalized quick links and an academic calendar to help them plan their schedules and holidays.

To better support faculty, the new MyUW provides an upgraded Teaching page to help with the quarterly workflow of preparing and leading a course. MyUW also closely integrates with other teaching and learning tools and the Office of the University Registrar’s systems, making use of these tools more efficient.

Faculty and staff will see Workday and related HR links, including the Integrated Service Center, highlighted on the homepage, with other links to key information. Users also can select from popular links or add their own.

MyUW also has been improved for students, with a menu at the top of every page that lets them navigate to important information, such as courses, the academic calendar, accounts, notices and profile. Their homepage also offers a quick look at account balances and library borrowing status. Clicking these balances takes students to screens with more detailed account information. As part of the refresh, UW-IT is asking users to send comments, requests or suggestions.

New curriculum management tool improves efficiency and transparency

technology students group in computer lab classroomAn online tool launched last spring is helping academic units across all three campuses manage their curriculum more efficiently – marking a major milestone in efforts to implement a central system of record for the UW’s curriculum offerings.

All faculty and staff can access the new UW Curriculum Management (UW CM) system to view all active and historical UW courses, active undergraduate programs and approved and pending course proposals. The online system has vastly improved the efficiency and transparency of the course proposal review process. In September, 90 percent of the 273 course proposals were created, submitted, reviewed and approved via UW CM rather than paper forms. Once all new and change course proposals go through UW CM, it is estimated to save 16,000 pages of paper per year.

The new system, a Software-as-a-Service product by vendor Kuali, is being implemented at the UW as part of a collaborative effort between the Office of the University Registrar and UW-IT. The next step is to modernize the academic program management processes.

Survey shows Poll Everywhere tool promotes student learning

Poll Everywhere-150x142Both students and instructors say that Poll Everywhere, the in-class polling system that students can use on their handheld devices, promotes student understanding and engagement, according to the results of a spring 2017 survey conducted by UW-IT.

The tool, launched a year ago, also provides a quick way to administer knowledge checks in class, the survey found. Among the benefits of Poll Everywhere, students noted that it:

  • Helped them recall information
  • Provided real-time feedback
  • Promoted peer-to-peer interaction
  • Engaged them in the class lecture
  • Incentivized them to go to class
  • Motivated them to prepare for class

Many students noted that Poll Everywhere’s response history was helpful as a quick way to narrow down study topics, to go over questions likely to be seen in the exam, to review past course material and to check their knowledge. Funding from the Office of the Provost made it possible to bring Poll Everywhere to the UW.

In brief:

  • Need answers to your IT questions? Email help@uw.edu. For the fastest, most accurate response to your IT inquiries, please email help@uw.edu where UW-IT staff respond within 3, 6 or 9 business hours depending on the urgency of your need.
  • Don’t forget to ZOOM your video collaborations. In response to demand at the University for better video collaboration services, UW-IT is now offering cloud-based UW Zoom Video Conferencing. Zoom allows users to host live online courses, share and annotate screens, remotely collaborate on research and more. A collaboration between UW-IT and the Zoom vendor resulted in significant accessibility enhancements to improve the tool’s ability to be used by students, faculty and staff who require assistive technologies or other support for disabilities.
  • UW-IT is encouraging students, faculty and staff to connect to Wi-Fi using eduroam, an encrypted world-wide roaming access service, to increase the security of their wireless connections. Eduroam was developed for the international research and education community and is already available at the UW and at thousands of locations across 70 countries. During the past several months, UW-IT has been working to deploy a more robust eduroam service on all three campuses to ensure it is ready to meet demand.