SESP Information Technology Staff Share Advances at National TechForum

SESP Information Technology Staff Share Advances at National TechForum

SESP Information Technology staff members Alyssa Dyar, Ryan Nix and Matthew Rich are making presentations at a national professional development conference about innovative technology initiatives at SESP.

Dyar, Nix and Rich will present at the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC) CIO TechForum2015 on October 13 and 14 called "The New World of Higher Ed IT." This professional development conference for campus IT managers and project directors is being held at the University of Iowa in Iowa City.

Alyssa Dyar

Online Communities
Instructional technologist Alyssa Dyar’s presentation on “Building Online Communities that Foster Engagement and Self-Directed Learning Beyond the Classroom” describes SESP’s innovative use of technology for educational community building. Her case study focuses on leading-edge platforms to support online communities for two of SESP’s graduate programs — the Master of Science in Learning and Organizational Change program and the Master of Science in Higher Education Administration and Policy program.

Dyar will compare the differing needs of the two programs and the platforms used to build and support these communities. While MSLOC has been using Jive software to host its online “Hive” community for several years, MSHE only recently implemented an online community via Canvas, with the addition of the social networking tool Yellowdig.

“In both cases, the online communities serve to support many types of communication and collaboration outside of the classroom, both for social and academic purposes,” says Dyar. These communities not only allow students to discuss program topics outside of a specific course but also provide a space for student and career services, networking and program communications.

Ryan Nix

“In addition to these communities supporting students’ needs and promoting greater engagement between students, faculty and staff, we hope the platforms will mimic the digital collaboration and networking environments that students may encounter in their professional lives,” Dyar adds.

As part of her presentation, Dyar is sharing research conducted by MSLOC faculty, which demonstrates that high levels of self-directed learning and sharing are taking place in the community space. Dyar will also discuss the affordances of these platforms that may be essential to successfully implementing an online learning community. 

Platform as a Service
SESP is one of the only universities across the nation to adopt the use of a “platform as a service” (PaaS) system for web developers. IT consultant Ryan Nix and web developer Matthew Rich will share the benefits of such a system in their presentation “Forget the Public Cloud: Early Wins from an On-Campus Private PaaS.”

SESP has seen gains in efficiency and service from adopting a PaaS system, which allows quick publication of web applications as it automates the configuration of a server for a web developer’s use. “It makes deployment incidental, which is the way it should be,” says Rich. “What would have taken me half a day a year ago now takes seconds.”

Matthew Rich

While earlier PaaS providers were expensive and posed security concerns, Rich and Nix champion current affordable systems that allow a tie-in with internal secure systems. “It’s like building the Cloud in-house and can add resources as needed,” says Nix. SESP is not only using the system within the School but has also rolled it out for use by the rest of the University.

Advantages of using a PaaS also include being able to reduce the number of servers needed and the overall complexity of the system. A PaaS adjusts to scale by providing server space only when needed; as a result, a server can host more applications.

“We can provide services faster,” Nix explains, noting that the PaaS can provide access within seconds. “It helps us to meet the growing needs of the School.”

By Marilyn Sherman
Last Modified: 10/9/15