The past few years I have been attending and speaking at the HighEdWeb national event. I’m happy to announce that we are bringing a HighEdWeb regional event to Michigan! I am co-chairing the event with Alaina Wiens from University of Michigan Flint. The Conference will be held Monday, May 20, and Tuesday, May 21, 2013 in downtown Flint, Michigan.
HighEdWeb is an organization of Web professionals working at institutions of higher education. We design, develop, manage and map the futures of higher education Web sites. ~ About HighEdWeb
Straight up Michigan
Michigan has always had a strong root in education, we have 106 public, private and community colleges across the state. We have a rich community of sharing and collaboration. This conference environment is the perfect opportunity to continue those themes in person. If you’re a Web worker inside or outside of Michigan this is a conference you’re not going to want to miss.
Keynote – Kristina Halvorson
We are also pleased to announce the keynote speaker for this year’s conference, Kristina Halvorson.
Kristina Halvorson is widely recognized as one of the most important voices in content strategy. She is the owner of Brain Traffic, the author of “Content Strategy for the Web,” and the founder of Confab: The Content Strategy Conference. Kristina speaks all over the world about the importance of content strategy and how to get it done. Her agency Brain Traffic is home to a team of renowned content strategists, serving clients like Autodesk, Coca-Cola, Best Buy, Thedacare, Dell, Wells Fargo, and the University of Minnesota. Kristina lives in St. Paul, Minnesota with her two kids, who often get quoted on Twitter (@halvorson).
This year’s keynote speaker is made possible by Higher Ed Experts. Higher Ed Experts has always been a strong supporter of conferences held by HighEdWeb, and has committed as the Silver-level Keynote Sponsor for all five of HighEdWeb’s 2013 regional conferences.
Submit a proposal
Presentation proposals are being accepted until Feb. 13, and are welcome on a variety of topics. We’d love to hear from you, and are happy to offer presenters a discounted registration rate. Find more information and submit your proposal.
Attend the conference
The conference is going to be held Monday and Tuesday, May 20 – 21, 2013, hosted by the University of Michigan-Flint. Registration will be open soon.
After an extensive search we are proud to announce Hassan Bazzi as our newest full-time Web Developer! Hassan comes to us from a local agency where he did end-to-end client website development. In addition to his agency work he also did freelance work on the side. His work experience has ranged from simple mobile projects to complete eCommerce systems with massive amounts of traffic.
The right fit
Finding the best fit for a position is hard, the requirements for every position are shifting every day as the Web advances and more is being demanded. Our students expect the university to stay on top of technologies, services, and more, to give them the best experience possible. The only way to achieve this is to find someone hungry to learn and make change.
Hassan personifies the drive to get things done and absorb every bit of knowledge possible in the process. In the fast-paced environment we work in every one of us has dozens of competing priorities, and short and long term initiatives that can impact individual students every day and their success long term.
I have a feeling you’ll be seeing the impact Hassan is making pretty quickly. Follow him at @habazzi and on this blog.
The first week of classes can be nerve-wracking for students: new classes, new buildings, and new professors. We strive to provide students with every tool possible to make the first week a great experience. For example, the university emails every student their schedule a week before classes start, our campus map is completely mobile, and the student’s schedule is available at any time through the Wayne State mobile app.
Utilizing digital signage
This week we took another step to help students. By utilizing the digital signage in the Nursing building we were able to display all the current and upcoming courses in the building for a given day. A screenshot of the sign can be found above. Not only does this catch all the students as they walk in the door but it also helps those students who may not always be staring at their smartphones.
Build once, use many
Nursing specifically asked for this sign, but we made it in a way that allows us to plug in any building and display the current and upcoming classes for that day. The sign updates throughout the day and courses drop off as they end.
It’s a basic proof of concept at the moment but the initial feedback from students has been very positive. We hope to expand the level of information and reach of this sign in future semesters.
Power of local information
Digital signage is a powerful tool that has been a focus of the Web Communications staff for almost two years now. After experimenting a lot, visiting other campuses, experiencing the signage ourselves on a daily basis we feel that this medium is just as important to students as the Web or email. I know that’s a bold statement but nothing beats the ability to dynamically pull up local information in real time without students having to take action.
Digital signage as an afterthought or without centralized control is just as useless as a campus-wide Listserv that everyone has access to. Yes, it would be convenient but the mass amount of messages screaming for attention just reinforces the desire to ignore them all. Like all mediums, respect the user and they will thank you ten fold.
Along the lines of my last post, we are going to be making a few changes to the Web maintenance agreements that many units around campus have with the Web department. These agreements create the best of both worlds for the unit and the Web department. They allow a unit to send us a number of updates per month via email, phone, fax (yes, we still get some) and we handle the work. The cost we incur by hiring the content staff is spread out across the campus units which makes it cheap for everyone. The units don’t need to train or have a “Web expert” on hand; for a small fee the units can call on us for expert advice when they need it.
Over the past year we took a deep look at how units were using their maintenance and discovered a few things:
- Some units were not using it at all for content, but requesting slight visual or programming changes
- Some units only updated at specific times of the year, and typically went over their limit in those months
- Some units used their updates regularly throughout the year
This got us thinking, so we are making the following changes starting in January 2013:
- Instead of 5, 10, or 15 updates per month we are moving to a bucket of hours for the entire year. This will allow units to use the time when they need it without fear of going over in a given month or leaving updates unused.
- The hours allotted will no longer be limited to just content updates. Time can be used for training, small template programming changes, formy assistance, and digital signage assistance if the unit has signage.
- Because the new agreements span beyond content the cost will be going up slightly, but not by much. Agreements will be $50 more than the 2012 prices.
The new agreement structure
- 36 hours of service for $500/year
- 48 hours of service for $750/year
- 60 hours of service for $900/year
By spreading the agreements out across all units we are able to keep the cost very low. We believe this new structure will allow the units to be flexible and get the best Web services available to them.
If your unit doesn’t already have a maintenance agreement and you would like to get one set up, simply email email@example.com.
Over the past dozen years a bit of dust has collected on the Web here at Wayne State. The end of the year is a good time to do some pruning and focus on the tools that will impact our students, community and alumni in 2013. Over 500 websites have been moved into the university CMS, each with a reduction of pages, files and images. In addition, we have been creating a number of centralized tools to assist with this transition. Some of these tools have had a great adoption and continue to be used and expanded today. But others haven’t had the same rate of adoption or the same result can be accomplished using a different tool.
What does this mean?
From time to time it’s necessary to prune the loose ends of a tree to allow the trunk and healthy branches to grow stronger. It’s these healthy branches that push the department higher, toward a more abundant sun, that helps everyone.
We’ll be pruning a few things in the Web Communications department:
Moving beyond physical Web servers.
We’ll be moving to a complete VM environment which can grow and shrink as needed.
Removing the domain silos.
We will no longer, for all practical purposes, be creating a new subdomain (http://*.wayne.edu/) for every site at the university. Instead we will be migrating almost all sites to the http://wayne.edu/* construct. Of course there will be exceptions, schools/colleges, centers/institutes and others may still be hosted off the main domain but all recruitment, retention and main university sites will eventually be part of one single university website. Existing subdomains will always work, we will create permanent redirects.
Deprecation of the wayne.edu/* URL shortener.
The go.wayne.edu URL shortener will be recommended and used long term. Because Twitter now wraps all URL’s in their t.co domain, we no longer need to be concerned about having the shortest URL possible. All old URL’s will still continue to function.
All photo galleries in the CMS will be migrated to Flickr.
There is no longer a need for us to maintain a photo upload and view service when the university is already using Flickr’s solid and far more supported platform.
All university videos will be hosted exclusively on YouTube.
We have a handful of locally hosted videos with custom Flash players embedded across the Web. It’s time to retire these and let YouTube handle the hosting and serving. Like Flickr, YouTube has a more robust toolset that will serve out users far better than we can.
Moving Today@Wayne website/email management to the Public Relations team.
The PR team is in a great position to take over the promotion and coordination of the university’s daily internal newsletter. It will be in good hands.
CD/DVD duplication no longer offered.
It’s a little known fact but the Web group has offered the service of printing on and duplicating CDs/DVDs. There is no need to worry if you’re just learning about it now because we will no longer be offering this service.
All forms we create will be through Formy.
Because we have created such a flexible self-service form creator, the need to hand create forms is reduced to almost nothing. All forms moving forward, with a few exceptions, will be created in and use Formy. C&IT will be introducing an extension to Formy, dubbed “Informy”, in the coming months which will greatly expand the power of these forms.
Why do this?
As Hugh MacLeod has illustrated above, these things are not being pruned because they aren’t good or don’t work, it’s because they’re not great. With limited time and resources our group is always re-focusing to ensure we are making the largest possible impact on the university. To do this we need to spot spending time on the “good” in order to make “great” things.
This pruning lets in new light where it wasn’t able to shine before and opens up opportunities for us to work on:
- Complete the re-structure of wayne.edu. Something we need dedicated time to do right.
- Change how our Web projects are run. Our current process isn’t easily adapted for the responsive Web.
- Change our social dashboard into a product called “Socialy” for the entire campus to use.
While it was a hard decision to cut things in the end this is the only way for us to explore uncharted territory.
Last week a group of Web workers from across the university got together to talk about projects, what they hope to learn, and most importantly how they hope to impact the university in the next year.
The goal of the meeting, which will now occur monthly, is to get all the Web developers from around campus in the same room together to solve programs and increase coordination. This first meeting did just that, below is a wrap up and my thoughts.
Some current projects
- Enhancements to the university CMS
- Campus map will have the location of the campus shuttles soon
- A redesign of the College of Education & Fine, Performing & Communication Arts websites is in progress
- Internal tools to extend Salesforce
- WAMS, an advising appointment management system is launching soon
- New Student Orientation
- College of Liberal Art & Sciences is 95% done moving in to a new CMS
- Student portal being re-engineered
- Informy – Mashup of Formy data with student record information
- eCommerce – Central system for selling items on campus
- Admissions dashboard enhancements
- Facility space management tool
- Finishing up the new Engineering website
- Commencement streaming
- Mobile advisor application
- Student rewards, check-in at events with OneCard swipe or scan
Hoping to learn in the next year
- Different MVC frameworks
- Mobile and responsive design
- Mojolicious, a Perl framework
- JS client side frameworks
- Web interfaces
- More ASP.net, photoshop & video editing
- Predictive analytics, SBSS, machine learning
- Python and machine learning
- IA skills and content strategy, Web writing
- More native iOS and Android, JS client-side stuff
- CSS3/transitions, responsive
Impact on the university
Across the board everyone has the same outlook on how they hope to impact the university in the next year. The hope is to impact the student experience, make it easier, or more enjoyable. Because so much of the student experience is going digital, this group is positioned to do exactly that. They have the ability to make or break the student experience.
The next Web Workers meeting is set for Dec. 20, the topics include Frontend UI elements (framework independent) and a discussion about Web authentication. If you’re on campus and do frontend Web development or design, we would love if you could join. Just let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“The goal of a marketing interaction isn’t to close the sale, any more than the goal of a first date is to get married.”
Developing an Idea
An idea is not a business. We’ll talk about how to get through the early steps by building a team that can move from the idea stage through customer discovery to an MVP. Developing an idea takes more than technical talent but many non-technical people struggle to engage the development community correctly and we’ll address how you can avoid common pit falls and how to make yourselves valuable.
Tyler Paxton is the founder and CEO of Are You a Human which uses simple and fun games as a replacement for CAPTCHAs. Are You a Human is based in Detroit and has grown to serve 20 Million games a month on over 3000 sites. Tyler previously founded and IT services and consulting company and attended graduate school at the University of Michigan where he founded Are You a Human. Tyler currently lives in the Detroit area and spends all of his free time with his wife and three kids
This month’s event is being hosted at The Qube or more commonly known as the Chase Building, one of the recent additions to the Quicken Loans family of buildings! The entrance is located on Fort Street, once inside head to the front desk located on the south side of the building. Just mention that you’re with the Refresh Detroit group, and you will be directed to the Asteroids meeting room.
We suggest parking in the Compuware parking structure, located on Farmer and Monroe streets. Parking is $5 and is a short 5 minute walk to The Qube (see map below). The address for the Compuware building is 1 Campus Martius Detroit, MI 48226