Thursday, December 18, 2008


by-default.GIFI just finished reading Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein.

I like it for two reasons: first, it feels to me like a direct application of computer user interface design to life, and second, I think it has a lot of applications for ASU's Web design and the ways that Web design can influence people to take advantage of what the University offers.

Simply put, the big idea in Nudge is the same as something my favorite band Rush used to say, if you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice. It's just that the choice you make is one that someone else has provided for you.

For example, road lines may be painted closer together as drivers approach a dangerous curve or potential safety hazard; by arranging the lines closer together, the driver is given the illusion that he/she is driving at a faster speed than he/she actually is, nudging the driver to hit the brakes and slow down. 

Another example Thaler and Sunstein give is cafeteria design. By placing healthier food choices, like the salad bar, at the front of a cafeteria, a school might try to nudge students into making smarter diet choices.

This idea is really familiar to user interface designers. Every time a dialog box pops up with OK and Cancel, one of them is highlighted, making it the default choice. Most of us have gotten used to clicking right past all of the Continues and OKs and Accepts that stand between us and getting our work done. In the process, we agree to terms and conditions, install useful pieces of software, and in general make all sorts of tacit and uninformed decisions that user interface designers have in essence made for us. It's a lot of power to give over to someone else, but there's no loss of freedom. You're free to be as careful as you want and make every decision exactly the way you'd like. It's just that most of us have long ago reached a decision saturation point and so tend to reserve our careful judgment for fewer and fewer things.

Which brings us to University design and the Web. By carefully crafting default positions, we could achieve all sorts of goals that might improve student success and retention. Say a University believed that having students stay in residence halls on campus was a major factor in improving student success and graduation rates. According to the Nudge philosophy, an effective way to dramatically increase the number of students choosing to stay on campus would be to, by default, assign them to a residence hall immediately upon acceptance of their application. There's no loss of freedom since a student could easily change their residence hall assignment or even apply for an exception to live off-campus. But every student would start from a different place--by default they're on campus instead of having to opt in to campus living. So those who don't want to spend their decision energy on where they live in college will end up living on campus instead of the other way around.

Feels a little like Big Brother but given that everyone has a choice, I think it's high time it fall into our Web design as a way of helping students and the University achieve its goals.

It's an interesting read either way, with some serious implications for public policy.


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Disrupting Class



Thursday, October 09, 2008

Welcome to The Cave

There is an oft-overlooked corner of the University Technology Office called The Cave.  It’s a small, cramped room buzzing with energy, and the student developers who labor within its walls are responsible for making it one of the most productive pieces of real estate on campus.

Like the cave dwellers in Plato's The Parable of the Cave, who face challenges as they encounter a larger reality, ASU’s cave dwellers must solve significant problems as they work to create a remarkable technological reality.

But unlike Plato's cave dwellers, who prefer the familiar darkness and regularity of their surroundings, ASU's student spelunkers are enthusiastically lighting the path to a new and innovative way of presenting information using Dashboards. Dashboards increase the visibility of ASU by organizing and presenting complex data and information in a way that is easy to understand and visually appealing, as shown below:


The Fact Book presents a summary of information, including student, employee, and enrollment data and resource information such as typical student costs and sponsored project awards.


In Plato’s allegory, the cave dwellers equate the path to enlightenment with madness and danger, but thanks to UTO’s Enterprise Data Services Team, including Kelly BrinerDon ChiurazziBala Gurrala, Senh Luu, John Rome, and the Cave Dwellers -- Guruprasad Ayyaswamy Balasubramaniam, AJ Fairfield, Shikha Khetan, Venkatesh Mandalapa, Radhika Nair, and Rajkumar Ponnusamy -- Dashboards have been hailed by the ASU Community as practical and illuminating.


Arizona Indicators is a community-based dashboard that answers questions about the current state of Arizona and the direction the community is heading. It includes such dashboards as Arizona's population by county; AIMS scores; and renewable energy, among others.


The Dashboards Project has also lent ASU's students a terrific opportunity to garner real-world experience while creating a world-class product and gives undergraduate students the chance to work alongside graduate students.

"Every day is a learning experience that lets me explore different skill sets and learn how an office works," said Radhika Nair, a graduate student in computer science.

Work in The Cave has proven fruitful following graduation for a few former Cave Dwellers as well.

"It's been great seeing some of our students take the hands-on experience they've gained in The Cave into the job market," said John Rome, Associate Vice President for UTO Enterprise Data Services. “Several students were offered jobs or internships from companies like Toyota and after showcasing the dashboards they'd developed."

To recognize the efforts of ASU's Cave Dwellers, Rome dressed up The Cave by outfitting it with a fresh coat of paint; artwork; a comfy bean bag chair; and a large, flat panel screen.

"It used to be a kitchen," said Venkatesh Mandalapa, a graduate student in computer science.  "Now I often come here just to study. It's a pretty friendly place."

Pre-computer science undergraduate AJ Fairfield agrees.  "It's very personal to all of us. It's like our second home."



Students hanging out in The Cave.


The Future of Dashboards

Dashboards are quickly becoming an essential Business Intelligence tool.

"I think ASU Dashboards will greatly help various aspects of the University from operational support to student admissions," said Senh Luu, Enterprise Data Services Systems Programmer.  "They provide transparency to the inner workings of the University, and I foresee greater involvement in creating actionable dashboards as a way for the entire University to gain meaningful metrics, set goals, and measure organizational success."

For more information on ASU Dashboards, visit


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

There's no need to fear...the Help Center is here!

underdog.jpg If you haven't already seen it, check out ASU's new online Help Center. The Help Center replaced the Technology Knowledge Base (commonly called the Techbase Wiki); it's easier to use, has enhanced search functionality, and users can even request the addition of new articles. We're hoping to make it a one-stop shop, a place where you can get answers to all your technology questions.

Martha Steinacker is the Help Center's editor. She's responsible for reviewing data from the search logs, the Help Desk, and CRM to continuously find out what people want to know. It's interesting that so many of the community's questions cluster into relatively small groups. We've found that more than 70% of user questions can be answered by fewer than a hundred articles. So Martha concentrates a lot of her effort on those first hundred articles, making sure they're both technically accurate and reader-friendly.

Of course, there's the other 30% to consider. This is what you'd call The Long Tail. If your question is a little off the beaten track, its answer is still awfully important to you when you need to know it. That's why we're seeking articles from around the community. There's a terrific set of FAQs listed in the Help Center that tells you what types of articles you can submit and how to submit them. Martha will help vet them for accuracy and style and link them in to try to keep the Help Center as complete as possible.

You may remember my earlier post on the of ASU's Internet technologies. We hope the Help Center is a part of that process. By reducing the number of places you have to look (pruning) and consolidating the most helpful stuff in an easy to use place (concentrate), we hope to make ASU's technologies easier to use.

We patterned the Help Center after Amazon's site. There's an old saying in product development that's a little out of place in a university: when creating a new capability don't shade your eyes, plagiarize. Amazon probably spent a lot of money to figure out a good way to help their customers. If we can do half as well, we may be on the way.

As always, looking forward to your comments and feedback...


Tuesday, August 26, 2008


I have to say that I'm really excited about the new My ASU. It's loaded with useful tools and resources, and I believe it will make students' academic lives less rocky by making the information they need much easier to find.

My Classes (see example below) is really cool because it lets students see their course schedules and instructors by semester. Clicking on an instructor's name takes students to that instructor's ASU Directory profile, where students can learn more about their teachers' specialties, interests and backgrounds. Clicking on a course's title takes students directly to that course's Blackboard site. My Classes also has links that make it easy for students to print out course schedules, view course locations, add and drop courses, and browse ASU's course catalog.

 My Classes 

My Programs & Advising shows students what their chosen majors are, identifies the advisors for that major, tells them how to contact their advisor, and lets them know whether they're on track for graduation. How cool is that?


My Tasks alerts students to tasks they need to complete before registration, like immunizations they'll need to have before attending classes on campus, or outstanding fees they need to pay. My Tasks even includes a notepad for jotting down ideas and reminders.


My Accounts gives students direct access to financial information, including financial aid, tuition and scholarships. Other useful links include Test Scores, Parking, Health Insurance, and more!


My Tools, in the toolbar on the right of the My ASU screen, features links to email, My Files, My Docs, and Blogs & Wikis. My Files is a terrific new application that gives students 4GB of storage space to save their work on, keeping their files organized and secure, always available online from any computer.

Check out the new My ASU Interactive Tour for more rockin' features, including Resources and My Stuff.

Here's what My ASU users are saying...

I like it. Its easier to get to certain areas like DARS, financial aid, and etc. One of my favorite parts is that I can click on the "books" link and the exact books for my classes come up. I don't have to enter in all the numbers to search for them on the bookstore website. Good job!!!!

I love the new site! It has everything I could need, all in one place. I can't think of anything better!!!

Looks great and easy to use.

I think this is really organized. I love it and it is very useful. I like this version better than the other one.

This new site is AMAZING! I love how much more simple and easy it is to use! Thank you!

I think everything is so much easier to get to now that we don't have to go through multiple sites to take care of our academic needs.

I LOVE this new format! Much easier to find things!

The future of My ASU

The future of My ASU is partly up to you. I'd like to hear what you, the ASU Community, have to say about things we should do to keep improving My ASU - what to add, what to remove, what's working for you and what's not. You can comment on this blog or send your ideas using the feedback button at the lower right corner of the My ASU page.



Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Better together...


ASU is sweeping up its garage and organizing those boxes that have been sitting around collecting dust.

By combining the functionality of ASU Interactive with the features of the students’ page and the personalization of the Google Personal Start Page, ASU has created an altogether better My ASU experience for everyone in the ASU Community. Finding what you need has never been easier; now you can find everything all in one place.

Some of the enhanced student features include:

• Easy-to-find class schedule with class information and course registration links
• Campus maps
• Academic advisor information
• To do’s and Holds
• Financial account quick links

Enhanced faculty/staff features include:

• Easy-to-find access to HR information
• Calendars
• Teaching and student support tools
• Faculty/Staff news

And there’s more… The My Tools section includes links to useful applications, like email, Google Docs and Sheets, plus there's new functionality provided by My Apps and My Files. I'll tell you more about these later.

For now, you can take the My ASU Tour to learn more about the new, "combined" My ASU - a better integrated, more seamless online experience.


Thursday, July 10, 2008

My World gets Lively

ASU My World student

You may remember the strangely ambiguous "My World" posters placed around campus last year. (What was that about?)

Now the secret is out: thousands of ASU students volunteered to solve the mystery, and, as reported by the Associated Press in the New York Times, two thousand of those students were selected to join Google’s Trusted Tester program to test Lively, Google’s new interactive virtual environment. The students were asked to use the alpha version of Lively and to provide feedback.

For more information about Lively and ASU's collaboration with Google, see
"Google Ventures into Virtual Reality with 'Lively'" from the New York Times Business section, and Kari Barlow's blog post, "3D Social Networking for REAL Life".

But that's only part of the news...

ASU is excited to present My World powered by Lively, a virtual environment that enables members of the ASU community to interact with one another and other Web users in real time and in 3D.

My World at ASU isn't just seriously fun - it's also a fun way to pursue serious ideas. In the beginning, it will support several educational initiatives, including advanced placement (AP) instruction and virtual study halls for subjects like English and math.

For instance, ASU will use Lively by Google to offer Calculus instruction to students preparing for the College Board’s Calculus AP exam, with more virtual-world advanced placement courses available in the future. You can learn more about the planned My World AP Calculus course at

Can you imagine the ways that education and research could flower in a virtual world? We want your ideas. Think about the box.


Monday, June 16, 2008

The Concept of One & the Concept of Zero: Achieving More with Less


Information technology organizations in institutions, both private and public, are struggling to shift their energy and expenditures from Context to Core. Context activities are those that an institution requires but which do not distinguish it from its competitors. Core activities are those which, when improved, provide an institution with differential advantage. For a university, Core activities are those that improve teaching and learning, enhance the growth and quality of research, and attract talented students and faculty.

A typical IT enterprise spends 80% of its resources to run the operation (Context) and only 20% to improve it (Core). However, some leading-edge IT enterprises have been able to shift these percentages dramatically, pushing more resources into advancement by using IT Simplification to continually reduce the costs of operation. ASU believes IT Simplification involves the repeated application of two concepts: the Concept of One: Do it once. Do it right. Use it everywhere and the Concept of Zero: Don’t do it at all. Let someone bigger do it.1

University IT is often characterized by differences that make no distinction. Applying the Concept of One means identifying and eliminating such differences. The simplification that results from doing things one way and doing that one way well releases resources and energy that can be put toward advancing the institution.

Beyond the Concept of One is the Concept of Zero. ASU’s technology alliance strategy is an expression of this idea. When a university technology service can be replaced by one provided commercially, by a firm operating at a scale hundreds to thousands of times greater than the university can ever attain, efficiency and progress result. Large-scale technology services afford greater security, reliability, speed of innovation, and come at ever-lower cost. ASU believes such alliances are critical to maintaining an information environment that continues to meet ever-rising student and faculty expectations.

1The Concept of One was originally put forward by Hossein Eslambolchi, former CIO at AT&T and current President of AT&T Labs. Dr. Eslambolchi also formulated a Concept of Zero that differs from the one presented here, but the symmetry of expression was irresistible.


Saturday, May 03, 2008

UTO Reorg

opscaredev-cropped.jpgIf you haven’t already heard, we've made some changes to UTO's organizational structure to help us serve the University better. You can see the new organization chart on the UTO People page. We've focused the bulk of the team around three principal activities: Operations, Customer Care and Development - Ops, Care and Dev for short.

Ops NapkinThe Ops team, headed by Bob Nelson, is charged with making today as good as yesterday. This means the Ops team is focused on providing a rich and reliable technology utility including robust network and voice connectivity, managed technology services, and 24x7x365 access to the range of applications and online services central to ASU's academic, research, and administrative activities.
Care NapkinThe Care team, headed by Sarah Hughes, is charged with making every day a great day. Their mission is to create “raving fans” of ASU’s technology services by providing in-person, online, and self-service aid to ASU’s students, faculty, and staff. The Care team also works closely with Ops and Dev to make ASU’s technology environment understandable and enhance our customers' productivity.
Dev NapkinThe Dev team, headed by Max Davis-Johnson, is charged with making tomorrow better than today. and is responsible for working with all of ASU’s administrative units as well as students and faculty to continually improve the information technology environment at ASU in support of University priorities.

We are determined to use this new organization to improve UTO's operational efficiency and reliability, accelerate development, and provide better customer service. Making the three missions of Ops, Care, and Dev as distinct as possible will give us greater clarity on how to measure and improve success.

Next up: the Concept of Zero and the Concept of One.


Friday, April 11, 2008

Boys & Girls Clubs Team Up with ASU


I'd like to thank Karl Bond and Duane Woerman from UTO Network Communications and Sam DiGangi's group at alt^I for working with Qwest to bring the Internet2 network to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Scottsdale's Vestar Branch. Internet2 is an R&D consortium of researchers and educational institutions working with industry and government to accelerate the development of tomorrow's collaborative, universally available Internet. Internet2 broadcasting capabilities are being used at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Scottsdale to provide telepresencing, streaming live video communications directly from the Internet. Members of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Scottsdale will use telepresencing to view live images of Dr. Robert Ballard, discoverer of the Titanic, as he explores and studies the ocean for months at a time as part of the larger Immersion Presents program. Immersion Presents exposes youth to ongoing scientific explorations, encouraging them to learn about the positive roles science and technology play in our everyday lives.

While other Boys & Girls Clubs across the nation participate in the Immersion Presents program online or through delayed satellite feeds, Scottsdale's Vestar Branch is the only Club in the U.S. with access to telepresencing and the live interactions and communications it provides. ASU is excited about helping provide this free educational service to young people in Arizona.


Thursday, March 13, 2008

Deep Linking

I’d like to talk about a nifty piece of technology that has great potential — deep linking. Deep linking lets two systems communicate with one another in a way that looks and feels seamless. ASU’s PeopleSoft system now has the ability to deep link to ASU Dashboards and vice versa.

What are ASU Dashboards?

ASU Dashboards organize and present data and information in a way that is easy to understand and fun to look at. Check out an example of a dashboard below.

CRM Support Dashboard

Dashboards are being created by UTO’s Enterprise Data Services Team, which includes John Rome, Don Chiurazzi, Senh Luu, Bala Gurrala, Kelly Briner and several students. The team thought it would be beneficial to be able to “deep link” into PeopleSoft via dashboards when looking at a student’s records or an open CRM case. UTO's Development Duo Robert Yosowitz and Ron Hill helped make this happen using PeopleSoft technology. With this newfound ability, a person using dashboards can drill down into the original, live data where appropriate. Pretty nifty?

Many of the dashboard developers are students who are gaining great experience developing dashboards.

Want to see deep linking for yourself? ASU employees who’d like to look up their Year-to-Date earnings can login to Employee Self Service, click on “2007 YE Balances,” and easily view their earnings without realizing they are actually using a dashboard. Because dashboards can be customized, ASU's dashboards look just like a PeopleSoft screen. This is the beauty of deep linking and is a terrific example of Amazondotcomification as everything is stitched into a single environment. Deep linking has great potential going forward.

Other Cool Dashboards

Another new feature in ASU Dashboards is the Research Dashboard, which allows you to take a closer look at research projects going on across the University. The drill-down interface is easy to use and gives an overview of proposals, awards, and expenditures. You can check out different research projects by academic department, research center, or sponsor, and you can even search by an investigator’s name. Get monthly details or watch for trends using three-year charts spanning back as far as February 2000.


The Research Dashboard is filled with all kinds of handy built-in features, thanks to Rick Bolin, the database programmer behind the scenes; the PRIDE Analytics team, who helped with the initial design; and Senh Luu and Don Chiurazzi, who implemented the design as the dashboard we see today. For example, clicking on an investigator’s name will take you to that investigator’s ASU Directory profile so you can learn more about the person behind the research. Data is also rolled up together and presented in a consistent manner, eliminating discrepancies that occur over time, like changes in an academic department’s name or location.

And thanks to the collaborative efforts of videographer and editor Matt Robinson and cameraman Andrew Maher, you can now watch a movie explaining how ASU Dashboards work. Leading actor John Rome takes center stage, and Anish Adalja’s creative direction adds clarity and a designer’s edge to the movie.


Looking forward to your questions and comments...


Friday, February 29, 2008

Strap on Your Rocket Shoes! Google Sites for ASU

Students, faculty and researchers, strap on your rocket shoes: "Google Sites" was just released to ASU as part of our Google Apps for Education suite.

"Sites" is not only a killer web page and site building tool, it also excels as an intuitive web-based collaboration medium. Google has blended web pages, blogs and wikis into a seamless, virtually effortless whole.

Sites will let us - ASU students, faculty and staff - forget about specific software and special languages we've needed to manage blogs, wikis and web pages in the past. Now, collaboration and commenting is an option on any ASU sites page. Sites aims to be a one-stop shop - a Mom-and-Pop-easy-shop - for creating interactive pages that you can co-publish with others, whether they're in the next chair or on the next continent.

"Enough!" you say. "How do I get started?"

Just go here and follow the directions. Making a personal site is a great way to test the waters. You can also create a practice site and then delete it when you're done.

To make a new page, just hit the "Create a new page" button. You'll see several options that define not just form, but more awesomely, function. In addition to standard web page layouts, you can create a "Dashboard" page full of gadgets ("mini" applications embedded in the page; think "My ASU") or a "List" (really a whole set of functions for project management and other kinds of task management) or a "File Cabinet" (all of your uploaded files, lined up and reporting for duty).

Want to change the format of the navigation menu? Just drag-and-drop content blocks or edit them after hitting "Edit sidebar" in the sidebar. Want to stir calendars, spreadsheets, slide shows, video and other rich media into your page? In page edit, hit the "Insert" button in the toolbar, locate your file - it's done. Versioning is automatic so you can change your mind and switch to an earlier revision. And if you're collaborating, versioning allows you to see who changed what.

It took just 30 minutes to port the content of the blog you're now reading into a quick Google Site: check it out. It doesn't take much of a leap to see how researchers might - much more easily than before - exploit the power of The Cloud to build shared bodies of knowledge; how teachers could publish their course materials and encourage student interaction within course-based sites, and how students could work together, inside or outside of classes, to learn and to teach one another.

And here's the best part: the power and flexibility of Google Sites is free to ASU students, faculty, researchers and staff. The elves who brought us this technology from an advanced alien culture created it while we were sleeping.

There's plenty more to come. Stay tuned!


Monday, February 04, 2008

Power for Algernon

Transformer rat outlineMaybe he was a rat with dreams...Maybe he came from the wilds of Arizona seeking a higher education. Maybe he was just cold...We don't really know.

What we do know is that a lot of people spent most of the weekend repairing the damage caused by one little rat that crawled his way into a transformer.

Now, the rat couldn't have known that this transformer powered many of ASU's computer systems and that, besides the small matter of frying his brains, he was going to cause a major service disruption. Fortunately, he sought shelter late on a Saturday night during the lowest period of computer use. We have a UPS but the battery ran out before our power problems were resolved. Technicians worked through the night to grab a generator, hook it up and then restore our equipment.

We were back to full power by 6:30 am Sunday, when the software and hardware people took over to restore services. Support services, such as Blackboard, Exchange and IDEAL, had to come up first so that they'd be available when the Web came back up. Most services were available by 11:30 am, though system functions needed to be reviewed throughout a very long day.

 I'd like to thank each and every person who helped get ASU's services back up and running.  Many thanks to:

Terry Hinton & his staff - Chris Beke, Robert Blackmon, Alexandro Bonos, Shawn Bryan, Mark Fornefeld, Kevin Lockart, Reyes Mori, James Prather & Brian Shaw; Jack Hsu’s staff - Chris Coffin, Brent Dunlock, Jim Durand, Jane Flores, Sean Garrett, Paul Harper, Bob Kaneshige, Joe McDonald, OJ Redhair, Jim Salverson, Jeff Scheib, & Greg Wilson; Ken Carl & his staff - James Muscara; Robin Manke-Cassidy & her staff - Gregory Alcorn, Zach Chamberlin, Erich van Sanford & Goska Zapolska; Dave McKee & his staff - Franco Lomonte, Tom Bauer & Duane Woerman; Kari Barlow & her staff - Nancy Lee, Nathan Gudmunson, Andy Beier & Minnie Fontes; John Rome & his staff - Sangeeta Agarwal, Ali Benmalek, Jack Davis, Daren Kahus, Dennis Monce & Bob Sookvong; Max Davis-Johnson & his staff - Walt Ellis, Neil Fritz, Jason Green, Ron Hill, Tasleema Lallmamode, Joe Nadeau & Lori Reents; Sarah Hughes & Samuel DiGangi & his staff - Ruvi Wijesuriya.

And what about Algernon? He may not have made it to grad school, but he did help us learn some things. We knew that we needed redundant power systems and Algernon helped make it a priority. Unfortunately, the more elaborate the infrastructure, the more expensive redundancy becomes. As we move toward a 24 by 7 world, the last couple of 9s are the most expensive. It's interesting to note that services supplied by our partners, Gmail from Google and PeopleSoft functions from CedarCrestone, were not affected by this power outage. Our little rat friend would have had to travel a long way to disrupt them, and due to their scales of operation, they may be a little more varmint-proof than we are.

Comments - even rat jokes - are welcome...


Thursday, January 24, 2008

Making the Grade

grades.jpgThanks to much hard work and many late nights, the launch in December of the new Faculty Center, ASU’s new online roster and grading application, worked well in posting Fall 2007 grades!

The Faculty Center replaced RosterGrades, a system that wasn’t compatible with ASU’s recent PeopleSoft implementation. While the rollout wasn't without challenges, especially for professors with the largest classes, we successfully replaced the old with the new.

Tremendous efforts went into getting the Faculty Center ready on time, and I’d like to acknowledge some of the people most responsible, especially Jill Bailey and Jennifer Glawson. Leah Lommel directed and managed the project while Jill and Jennifer helped interface with developers and test the new system. Through Jill and Jennifer’s efforts, the Faculty Center was customized to fit both ASU’s business and faculty needs.

Another shoutout goes to the team of Roster Contacts—all the departmental personnel throughout the University who assist their department faculty with grade administration. These folks were instrumental in entering grades and helping their departments transition to the new system. Thanks also go to Kathy Tibbetts and Carrie Bauer, who worked hard to correct errors within the system, ensuring that instructors could successfully access their classes. Our master trainer, Sensei Paul Stoll, worked with the development and implementation teams to create and deliver training materials, including online courses in Blackboard, training guides, and a Faculty Center news blog. Step-by-step instructions were also posted directly onto the webpage where faculty members entered grades for easy reference, and Paul, Jennifer, and Jill delivered in-person presentations with question and answer sessions across each of ASU’s four campuses over two different training rounds. In addition, the Registrar’s Office helped answer faculty questions, phone calls, and emails.

Because of the efforts of these dedicated employees (as well as many others not mentioned here by name) a greater percentage of grades were entered on time this semester using the new Faculty Center than in past semesters with the old system. Most instructors have reported the Faculty Center easy to use and are satisfied with its new features, including the weekly calendar view of their class schedule and the ability to import grades directly from an Excel spreadsheet or to post students’ grades immediately. The Notify feature allows faculty to directly email one, some, or all of the students enrolled in a course.

We're not finished by a long shot. Plans are in the works to improve performance and increase the integration between the Faculty Center and ASU's learning management systems, Blackboard and Sakai.

Again, I’d like to thank everyone involved. Please don’t hesitate to send me your comments and feedback.


Sunday, January 06, 2008

Check Out Our New Catalog


If you haven’t already, you might want to check out ASU’s new online course catalog. The catalog is an early step toward making the many opportunities at ASU more accessible. Its obviously Amazon inspired, our attempt to make as much information about a course as possible so students can more make informed decisions.

Several months ago UTO programmer Matt Rapp set out on a mission to update ASU’s catalog. He started with a web-based mockup of the site, which he patterned after an Amazon product page for others to review. Based on Matt’s novel designs, development of a new Schedule of Classes and Course Catalog began this past fall under the guidance of Project Manager Barb Sowden and the expertise of both Matt and an outside consultant, Jim Conner.

Administrative and student feedback following the November launch of the new Schedule of Classes and Course Catalog has been extremely positive.

I loved it, it showed all of the information I could possibly need such as seats available, course credits, times, etc. The search function made it really easy for me to look up my graduate classes that I plan on taking this upcoming semester.

Excellent! It’s a great improvement over the old system. The search is simpler and yet more intuitive, and the results are much more readable.

Thank you so much for putting this together. As an academic advisor, this helps because the students want to know course descriptions and times and awareness areas.

I love this new website! It is so much better than the other way of looking for classes….I like the fact that I can see all the classes that fit my description in one page without having to scroll down like the other websites for searching for classes. I like how all the information for that class is listed on one page. I like the colors since they really help me differentiate between the classes and different information. I truly love it!

The new system accesses PeopleSoft Student Administration data directly in real-time and allows students to compare classes to one another by displaying this information in an easy-to-read grid. Each header column on a student’s results page is a link for sorting information, so students can quickly group their results by weekday, times, location, etc. Clicking on an instructor’s name will link the student directly to the instructor’s ASU Directory profile. The student can read their instructor’s bio, see their instructor’s photo, and find out what other courses their instructor is teaching. Similarly, clicking on class location links the student to ASU Google Maps, making it simple to see where a class is being held on campus.

Obviously, we’re just beginning. For starters, the new system has space for a course description much longer and more informative than the 2 sentences the old system allowed. There’s room for links to other online material, reviews, in short any information that would help a student make a better choice about what to take next term. The new catalog gives us the ideal platform to make these kinds of changes.

Check it out if you haven’t already. Matt or Barb or I would be glad to hear from you with suggestions for improvement or other feedback.