UW Information Technology

UW-IT Insights — May 2019

Table of Contents

Prereq Map will help students navigate prerequisites
Major overhaul of post-bac, transfer process marks next step in admissions modernization
Combatting phone and email spam with new tech, constant vigilance
Leading the way: How UW is improving software product accessibility on a national scale
UW Finance Transformation on track to conclude readiness phase, entering design phase
Technology Recharge Fee set for FY 2020
What is the most popular email service at the UW?
In brief

Prereq Map will help students navigate prerequisites

Prereq Map graphic example shows path students can take. In this example, chem 153 is a prereq for Bio 200, chem 223, chem 237, chem 312 and chem 321Course planning can be tricky for students, but a new app will soon be available to help.

Prereq Map, under development by UW-IT, will enable students to easily track prerequisites — and give them a quick view of courses available once a prerequisite has been completed. Prereq Map will be accessible early this summer via its own URL and a link from MyPlan.

Prereq Map will help students discover what majors are open to them based upon the courses they have already taken, and which courses open up the most opportunities for taking other courses of interest. The app is also expected to be a powerful tool for UW administrators, helping them assess the impact of proposed curriculum changes and identify bottleneck courses that are a primary gateway to upper level courses.

Major overhaul of post-bac, transfer process marks next step in admissions modernization

Photo of man holding a personal electronic device with computer-generated floating transparent images of pieces of paper above screen

In a major leap forward, the paper-based admissions processes for transfer and post-baccalaureate students have gone entirely paperless, and are significantly more streamlined and efficient.

Until recently, about 6,000 transfer and post-baccalaureate applications received each year at the UW Seattle campus were processed by hand, producing an equal amount of manila folders filled with multi-page applications, transcripts and supplemental documents that weighed heavily on Undergraduate Admissions staff.

Now, under the latest phase of the Undergraduate Admissions Modernization project, those applications are paperless, and handled digitally by Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Customer Engagement and Ellucian Recruit software. The software is coupled with custom functionality provided by UW-IT to ensure the online admissions process meets the UW’s needs.

Recruit, launched in 2016 as part of the Undergraduate Admissions Modernization project, also supports use of the online Coalition Application for freshman applicants, with about 45,000 applications coming in last fall.

The ultimate goal of admissions modernization is a unified “one-stop-shop” system that will allow Undergraduate Admissions to continue to process an ever-increasing number of applications and remain competitive in attracting and admitting high-achieving students, said Wes Greenberg, a project manager and business systems analyst in UW-IT.

Combatting phone and email spam with new tech, constant vigilance

Student using mobile phone with graphic floating email envelopes above screen

Spammers have increasingly targeted UW desk phones and email services in the past several months, but a robust response by UW-IT, including a new phone-call-blocking application and an additional layer of email scanning, is reducing spam, and with it, costly disruptions.

“Phones and emails are valuable collaboration and communication tools,” said Brad Greer, UW-IT Infrastructure associate vice president. “We are focused on keeping those lines of communication open and safe as we continue to take steps to reduce spam.”

At best, spam is a disruptive annoyance that fills email boxes and keeps the phone ringing. At worse, it’s a major source of risk. Consider that in April 2019 alone, UW-IT’s multiple email spam filters detected about 126,000 emails carrying viruses, blocked 175,000 emails with forged “from” fields and rejected 13.1 million emails on blacklists. Of an average 3 million emails coming into the UW per day, UW-IT blocks around 1.2 million — about 40 percent — as spam.

Blocking a rising flood of spam

Spam also has flooded UW desk phones. To keep spam callers at bay, UW-IT developed and now manages a new phone-call-blocking application that came online in October 2018. The app has been so successful, other universities have inquired about how to deploy it.

The app blocked 605,000 out of 3 million calls from October 2018 through April 2019, said Steven Mack, who manages telecommunications operations for UW-IT. The highest number of calls blocked in a single day reached 29,751. Read more about how UW-IT created the app.

Fighting email spam requires constant vigilance

“Spammers are always trying to circumvent spam filters, which means we have to work hard to stay in front of them. Also, we don’t want to make our systems so strict that they begin to stop legitimate emails from reaching your boxes,” Greer said. “Our goal is to keep getting better.”

For email, UW-IT collaborated with UW Medicine earlier this year to add an additional layer of email scanning to deal with the increased volume of email spam. Greer said the UW is already seeing improvements, but reducing spam is a continuous effort that requires constant monitoring and adjustments.

“As a global academic, research and health care institution, the UW spans a great many disciplines and knowledge domains, making it a challenge at times for our filtering to determine real messages from spam,” said James Morris, email infrastructure service owner for UW-IT. “An email about research on medications or pharmaceuticals can be difficult for a computer to distinguish from drug spam.”

“We seek to ensure that we’re only blocking the messages that are truly spam,” he said, “and tagging the rest with a score that individuals can use in their filtering.”

What you can do

To reduce and report spam in your email boxes, see the following resources on IT Connect:

If you’re receiving frequent calls to your work phone or fax that are clearly spam, email help@uw.edu with the subject line “spam call” or call 206-221-5000. Remember that calls that are harassing or threatening should be reported to the police.

Leading the way: How UW is improving software product accessibility on a national scale

Student working at computer with accessibility toolsWhen a software vendor recently approached Hadi Rangin to make significant accessibility improvements to its app, he sensed the needle was finally moving in the right direction.

They were knocking on his door instead of the other way around.

Rangin, who came to the UW in 2014, leads a team of students who test, evaluate, and consult on the accessibility of software applications and other technologies for both on-campus developers and third-party software vendors.

Today, the UW is a leader in accessibility issues, with software developers from across the country seeking Rangin’s expertise to improve their products for all. His team has significantly influenced accessible design and development of multiple nationally prominent products, including Google Cloud Platform, Internet2, ServiceNow, Workday, Zoom, Canvas, Panopto, Microsoft Office Tools, Microsoft Windows and Interfolio Faculty Search. Some of these companies have found these services so valuable that they have hired his former students to lead accessibility efforts.

“We want software developers to think about accessibility in the design stage before a single line of code is written, instead of as an afterthought,” said Rangin, a senior computer specialist in UW-IT Accessible Technology.

“While software companies are not required to make accessible software, we as a higher education entity have to deploy accessible software. Thus Accessibility must be a functional criterion in all purchasing decisions,” Rangin said.

A case in point is Rangin’s recent partnership with the UW Office of Academic Personnel and its selected vendor, Interfolio Faculty Search, which offers an app that streamlines the faculty hiring process.

From the start, Academic Personnel included accessibility as a key criteria during its software purchasing process, and accessibility enhancements were part of its contract negotiations. Incorporating accessibility from the beginning is an important part of the process, Rangin stresses, and should be part of contract discussions with any vendor.

Working closely with Academic Personnel staff, Rangin’s team tested and evaluated the accessibility of the application, prioritized issues and provided solutions. They helped the Interfolio development team fix and redesign the application as needed to deliver accessibility enhancements. Since its launch in summer 2018, 121 academic units have conducted searches through Faculty Search and more than 9,800 individuals have applied for positions.

“It is a win-win for everyone,” Rangin said. “Our community gets a product that’s accessible and usable by everyone. And because these vendors make their products accessible from the get-go, they are more marketable.”

UW Finance Transformation on track to conclude readiness phase, entering design phase

photo of bronze block W that stands at entrance to UW on NE 45th Street. In background is Memorial Way. Fall.

The UW Finance Transformation (UWFT) program is currently on track to conclude its Readiness Phase at the end of June 2019, followed immediately by the launch of a six-month Design Phase.

The need for a Design Phase was confirmed through broad stakeholder engagement efforts during Readiness and is a natural outcome of this collaborative effort. During the Design Phase, the team and its governance partners will work together to further inform the scope, schedule, budget and funding plan. Allowing time for this will enable the UW to more carefully and thoughtfully achieve its target transformation level.

Even as the University works to transform the financial systems, policies and processes, and deliver a modern, cloud-based system that will improve how the UW manages financial information, there is a real need to maintain strong support for our current financial applications. This includes managing day-to-day operations, upgrades and system stabilization efforts.

The UWFT program team is focused on balancing the need to maintain our current systems with the equally pressing need to support other major projects underway across the University. UW-IT, UW Medicine IT Services, UWFT and its diverse governance teams, and other appropriate leadership are partnering to prioritize all of the work that is critical to the long-term strategic goals of the University.

Technology Recharge Fee set for FY 2020

The Technology Recharge Fee (TRF), which provides essential information technology services to the UW, will see slight adjustments for fiscal year 2020, under a recommendation by the University’s IT Service Investment Board and approved by the Provost.

The FY 2020 TRF rates, effective July 1, 2019, will be: $57.53 per month per capita for all academic and administrative units, a 0.4 percent increase (the current rate is $57.28); $51.75 per month per capita for the medical centers, a 0.8 percent decrease (the current rate is $52.20).

The rates do not represent an increase in new funds to support basic IT services delivered by UW-IT. The slight adjustment in the two rates offset each other and is due to a change in the cost of each of the covered services and to whom those services are allocated.

What is the most popular email service at the UW?

Infographic shows where students, faculty and staff forward their email to, for years 2019, 2014 and 2004; For 2019, with approximately 616,000 UW NetIDs, Gmail was top at 220k, UW Exchange Online at 64k; Hotmail at 49K, UW mailing lists at 48k and Yahoo! at 44k; for 2014, there were approximately 440k UW NetIDs, with Gmail at Number 1 for forwarding at 120k; hotmail at 46k; UW Gmail at 43K, UW Deskmail at 43k and UW Mailing lists at 41k; for2004, there were 214k UW NetIDs, with UW Deskmail at Number 1 with 106k; UW mailing lists at 34k, Hotmail at 19k, Yahoo! at 9k and AOL at 6K; Note: UW Deskmail was retired in 2018; UW Mailing Lists include both UW "Mail Lists" and "UW Mailman Lists."

In brief:

  • Leaving for the summer? Don’t forget to set up your UW NetID recovery options. Add your mobile number and email address, so if you forget your password or get locked out, you can regain access to your UW NetID. The options allow you to recover your password by having a verification code sent to you by phone (text message or voice) or by email.
  • Make sure your computers at work and home are safe with Sophos Home Premium anti-virus software. Thanks to a new licensing agreement, you can now get the same protection that you have at work for your personal computers too — available at no cost to UW students, faculty and staff.
  • The Department of Atmospheric Sciences cut its electrical demand by 47 percent by decreasing the number of servers and moving them to the UW’s central data centers operated by UW-IT, a move made by 60 other departments. The reasons are clear — data centers are more cost and energy efficient. Read more about why the UW’s central data centers may be the better choice.
  • More than 400 people participated in the 2019 UW TechConnect Conference in early spring, making it one of the highest attended in its six-year history. The conference started with keynote speaker Melody Biringer, who challenged attendees to stay curious, connect with others through their own vulnerability, and share their stories.
  • Did you know eduroam is the safest method to connect to the UW’s network through Wi-Fi? Even better, once configured, eduroam gives you seamless connectivity at thousands of participating locations around the world. To get online with eduroam, visit the UW on-boarding site at onboard.wifi.uw.edu
  • The UW’s new Burke Museum building, opening this fall, features modern technology implemented by UW-IT, including almost 200 data ports that provide internet connections for a host of research lab needs.