University Business - February 2010 - (Page 36)

P Entry-Level Tools 36 | February 2010 Meet Me Online By Ann McClure PEOPLE RARELY WORK IN ISOLATION. BUT IT’S NOT always easy to meet in person to work on a project. Connecting online can be done from almost anywhere. The collaboration possibilities run the gamut from passing a Word document back-andforth via e-mail to holding a multiparty videoconference. Read on to learn how a variety of online collaboration tools are helping college and university administrators execute projects more efficiently. Collaboration of any sort isn’t possible if team members can’t coordinate their schedules. This makes a shared calendar a simple but powerful tool to move projects along. When administrators at the University of Pennsylvania started looking for a more robust e-mail client, they settled on the Zimbra Collaboration Suite. “Being able to schedule in one central calendar is very important,” says Adam Preset, the university’s IT technical director. “E-mail integrated with calendaring, address book, notes, to-do lists, and document sharing is a powerhouse tool.” A desire for a single sign-on password and a strategic move toward open-source solutions were deciding factors in the university’s vendor choice. The system allows private and shared calendars, which makes scheduling meetings easier since everyone’s free time is visible. Pop-up appointment reminders help forgetful team members. Although Zimbra offers a hosted solution, Adam says the institution self-hosts “because we can control it better. We know it’s secure and in compliance with FERPA and HIPPA.” An e-mail migration to Google Apps for Education was also the introduction to online collaboration tools for Boise State University (Idaho). “The collaboration was a bonus,” says Brian Bolt, a systems engineer in the Office of Information Technology. People had to adapt to the new e-mail system since the old one went away, but there is no mandate to use the collaboration tools now available. Getting opinion leaders on campus to use the online documents is helping spread use, with plans to promote use after people become accustomed to the new mail system, Bolt says. A stopping point for some people has been the difference in the features, such as formatting, available in Microsoft Office but not in Google Docs. However, Bolt’s office has been using Google Spreadsheets to better track tasks and sees great value in the ability for multiple people to edit a document simultaneously. Sharing documents in advance has also changed meeting discussions because people have more information. “It changes the dynamic of when a document is finished,” he says, because people can share ideas and opinions while a report is being drafted, instead of having to wait for the final version when more input might not be needed. Project Management Options Collaboration can be much more than multiple people editing a single document. Keeping a work group aware of priorities and resources can be a compelling reason to implement a project management solution. “If you classify collaboration tools as being able to initiate a work flow and a central repository of information, then this qualifies as a collaboration tool,” says Bruce Bills, software engineering director at Brigham Young University-Idaho. While selecting a new student information system, campus leaders realized a better way to communicate was needed. More people had to be able to analyze data and communicate efficiently, and then there was a desire to distribute IT staff attention more evenly. These factors led them to select a project management

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of University Business - February 2010

University Business - February 2010
Editor’s Note
Behind the News
Internet Technology
Independent Outlook
Universities Go to School
Leveraging Technology to Increase Enrollment, Capacity, and Revenues
Meet Me Online
College Index
Company Index
Advisory Board
What’s New
End Note

University Business - February 2010