UW Information Technology

UW-IT Insights — February 2019

Table of Contents

New tool in Canvas improves access for all learners
New app being developed to help address food insecurity and food waste at UW
Curriculum management brings major improvements, with plans for online general course catalog
Email modernization reaches successful conclusion, improves compliance
UW TechConnect Conference to emphasize community
MyPlan’s new Registration Preview feature to improve student experience
New UW-IT app blocks thousands of spam calls
In brief

New tool in Canvas improves access for all learners

Student working at computer with accessibility toolsInstructors now have an “Ally” to help them improve access to course content for diverse learners. Ally is a new tool within Canvas, the UW’s learning management system, that can help boost the accessibility of course materials.

For students, Ally automatically generates alternative formats of instructors’ uploaded course files to provide options for improved accessibility, including audio, electronic braille and text readable by a screen reader. Ally also provides feedback to instructors to help them see any accessibility issues in the materials they’ve uploaded.

The content conversion feature for students was implemented last fall for all Canvas courses. Features for instructors have been rolled out gradually over the past several months by UW Information Technology (UW-IT), with a full release expected by this spring.

“We are committed to ensuring that the technologies and digital resources we use are accessible to all students,” said Terrill Thompson, a technology accessibility specialist with UW-IT. “Many instructors are unaware that the files they’re uploading to their courses could pose barriers to some students. Ally plays an important role in helping instructors understand this, and in helping all students get accessible class materials from Canvas.”

Ally promotes more inclusive learning by helping instructors evaluate the accessibility of materials they are uploading to Canvas. For example, it shows accessibility scores for each uploaded file and HTML web page, and offers step-by-step guidance for remediating the top accessibility issues.

Ally also provides an institutional report about the quantity and nature of accessibility issues in uploaded content, metrics that will enable the UW to track improvement over time.

New app being developed to help address food insecurity and food waste at UW

photo of sandwiches with lots of tomatoesA surplus of high-quality food is often left over after catered or hosted events at the UW. No one wants to throw it away, but getting the food to those who need it most is logistically challenging.

That’s why UW-IT’s Academic Experience Design & Delivery (AXDD) team is working with the Any Hungry Husky program, housed in the Office of the Vice President for Student Life, to create a tool to help reduce food insecurity among students and others at all three campuses — and reduce food waste at the same time.

Currently, there’s no good way for event hosts to distribute leftover food, and no avenues to send timely notifications to those who need it most. The new app would change that, said Lauren Manes, a user experience designer with AXDD.

The proposed web app would allow hosts to indicate what kind of food is available, the number of servings, when food will be ready for pick up, and whether people need to bring their own containers. When the food is all gone, hosts can send another notification to prevent app users from making unnecessary trips.

Any Hungry Husky users with a UW NetID will be able to sign up for notifications via email and/or text message. Manes said they’re still working with stakeholders, and the app does not yet have a firm release date.

Curriculum management brings major improvements, with plans for online general course catalog

Man and woman working in front of computerFollowing a successful effort to improve the efficiency and transparency of the UW course proposal review process through a new UW Curriculum Management System (UW CM), the UW is now getting ready for the next phase of modernization — automating and significantly streamlining production of the general course catalogs at all three campuses.

The catalogs are a vital resource, serving as a reference for current and prospective students, a contract with enrolled students, and the source of truth for University policies, department listings, programs, academic and course offerings. However, creating and maintaining them is a manual, paper-based process that requires a huge amount of effort by Registrar staff on all three campuses — a process that has grown increasingly more complex as the University continues to grow and offer more classes. The Seattle campus catalog alone has quadrupled in size over the past decade, to more than 2,800 pages.

This is where UW CM, a Software-as-a-service product by vendor Kuali, comes in. The online tool was launched a couple of years ago to help academic units on all three campuses manage their curriculum more efficiently — replacing 99 percent of intensive paper-based course management processes.

“With UW CM, we have the ability to track exactly where a course request is in the workflow. This is such an improvement over when we had packets of papers going everywhere,” said Tina Miller, senior associate registrar and chief residency officer. “I can’t even begin to count the hours — and trees — we’ve saved because of UW CM.”

The effort recently achieved another major milestone, with all undergraduate, graduate and professional programs defined, mapped to the Student Data Base majors and degrees, loaded to UW CM and available in the Enterprise Data Warehouse. Next up is to begin adding content about UW’s programs and credentials, starting with the details needed to produce the University catalogs.

“Our goal in the next year is to get the catalog data off of paper and Word documents and into UW CM. We can then automate the catalog creation and update process, making Registrar staff more efficient and improving the user experience across all three campuses,” said Jodi McKeeman, UW-IT project manager on the UW CM effort.

Integrating the catalog with UW CM also lays the foundation for more transformative work:

  • Enabling departments to begin managing their program data directly in the system of record instead of the current paper-based proposals
  • Allowing academic departments and other academic tools and applications to source program information directly from UW CM instead of maintaining “shadow” databases

This effort is bringing significant improvements, said Helen B. Garrett, university registrar and chief officer of enrollment information services. “The ease of use to propose new courses and eventually replace the paper program development or alteration proposals, creates more efficiencies for staff and a more transparent collection of curriculum records and processes,” she said.

Email modernization reaches successful conclusion, improves compliance

hands working with phone device and floating envelope graphics on topA yearlong project to bring the latest email and productivity tools to students, faculty and staff, retire old email systems and ensure the UW’s ability to  maintain compliance with email retention laws is reaching a successful conclusion — thanks to support from partners across all three campuses.

The Email Modernization Program (EMP) sought to give students, faculty and staff modern and effective email and productivity tools, and retire older systems that were not being widely used, such as Deskmail and related Alpine/Pine email services, and UW Windows Live.

It also deactivated email accounts of former staff and alumni whose growing numbers were straining the UW’s ability to maintain legal compliance.

  • A new lifecycle and deletion process sets timelines for deleting email accounts after someone leaves the University:
  • For faculty and staff: Two pay periods
  • For students: Two quarters

No changes for Emeriti Faculty and Emeriti Librarians, who retain their email accounts and related services

EMP also makes it easier — via a new online tool — to provide email services to UW affiliates and others who qualify for shared and sponsored UW NetIDs.

Because of the new deletion policy, UW-IT is advising the UW community to regularly check and preserve files that have been shared/created in UW Google Drive and UW OneDrive for Business files. The practice would ensure continued access to critical shared files after an individual leaves the University. For more information on preserving files, visit IT Connect https://itconnect.uw.edu/action-required-to-avoid-loss-of-shared-uw-google-drive-and-uw-onedrive-for-business-files/.

UW TechConnect Conference to emphasize community

TechConnect attendees at presentationTeamwork and technology will be the focus of the sixth annual UW TechConnect Conference on March 26, 2019, that brings together technology enthusiasts from throughout the UW to connect and learn from one another.

The conference features three keynote speakers, including Melody Biringer, founder of Women in Tech Regatta, a group that helps to connect women in technology to mentors, peers and resources. Biringer focuses on inclusivity and connection in technology, and is a master in designing alliances. Also speaking are David Levy, a professor in the Information School, and Erik Hofer, UW-IT associate vice president for academic services and deputy chief information officer.

Levy’s current research is focused on information and quality of life. He has written about our relationship with digital devices and apps, and the challenges of balancing our digital lives. Hofer is responsible for partnering with students, faculty and staff to offer technologies and approaches that meet their needs.

The conference will provide plenty of opportunities to learn about technology at the UW and to connect with colleagues, including a complimentary networking lunch and opportunity to talk with UW’s Communities of Practice <[[https://www.washington.edu/techconnect/communities-of-practice/]]>, special interests groups that share knowledge and best practices on specific IT-related topics.

Register for the free conference today.

MyPlan’s new Registration Preview feature to improve student experience

Male student looking at his cell phoneStudents now have an improved and simplified way to preview the courses they plan to take in upcoming quarters in MyPlan, the UW’s academic planning tool.

Students who sign on to MyPlan can now click on the upcoming academic quarter in the header to get to the new “Registration Preview” page (only available to current students with a UW NetID). The new Preview page shows scheduling conflicts, highlights actions they need to take, such as choosing the section of a desired course, and displays courses ready to pass off to the web registration system.

The Preview page also displays relevant messages, holds, and their estimated registration date — all in one mobile-friendly format.

New UW-IT app blocks thousands of SPAM calls

Several phone receivers hanging from their cordsLast November, a new UW-IT app blocked 29,000 junk phone calls coming into the University, including some that appeared to be coming from legitimate UW phone numbers.

How did all of this spam get thwarted? Read how UW-IT developed and now manages a new phone-call-blocking application for University desk phones, and why other universities concerned about lost productivity, fraud and the cost to keep these calls at bay are paying attention.

In brief:

    • Are you traveling to another country for work and need to stay in touch with colleagues at the UW? Be sure to onboard your devices to eduroam, the UW’s preferred Wi-Fi connection method for students, faculty and staff. Eduroam is a global Wi-Fi service with secure and fast internet connectivity across thousands of campuses and millions of access points around the world.
    • Don’t miss the recently published UW-IT: A Year in Partnerships 2018 series, which highlights the impact of UW-IT’s collaborations with UW partners to advance teaching, learning, innovation and discovery. Read about the great work students, faculty and staff have accomplished in the past year.
    • Improving data reports for academic administration is the goal of the newly reformed Report Prioritization Group, which has enhanced academic reporting and analytics in the Business Intelligence (BI) Portal. Examples of key academic reports available in the BI Portal include Current Student Information by Major; Current Student Transfer Summary; Student Grade Report by Curriculum, Course and Section; and the Satisfactory Progress Policy Report.
    • The UW Tower Data Center has earned an EPA Energy Star Certification for 2018, for the sixth straight year. The data center uses significantly less energy and produces far fewer greenhouse gas emissions than similar buildings across the nation.
    • Do you need to caption highly visible UW videos? Accessible Technology Services will caption videos at no charge through June 30. Use the project’s Catalyst survey link to apply.