Students – download Office 365 free!

 

Recently Microsoft announced the Student Advantage Program which provides a free copy of Office 365 Pro for students.

This includes the full version of Office (Word, PowerPoint, Excel, OneNote, Outlook, and more) which can be installed on up to five PCs and Macs, and includes Office for iPad and other mobile devices.Student Adv. logo

If you already use the free portion of Office for iPad for reading, viewing and presenting, once you have a valid Office 365 ProPlus license, you can also create and edit Office documents on your iPad with Word, Excel and Powerpoint.

You can download the software here using your U of L username and password. For step-by-step instructions, visit our site.

For more information, contact the IT Solutions Centre at (403) 329-2490 or help@uleth.ca.

Aiming for one of the best-served networks in Alberta

 

Summer months at the U of L provide the best opportunity for Information Technology Services (ITS) to delve into projects that improve efficiency.

A major network upgrade has been launched by the Infrastructure Maintenance and Support team and is expected to be completed over a three-year span. “We’re upgrading the University’s core network from 1 gigabytes (GB) per second, to 10 GBs per second – which means network speed between buildings will be 10 times faster,” says Manager Terry Kirkvold.Network upgrade

Researchers may receive the biggest value from the upgrade because, as the project unfolds, desktop network speeds will be 1 GB per second, he adds.

Piggybacking on the network upgrade, IT Services is enhancing classroom wireless by adding access points. “It’s not news that we’ve experienced a dramatic increase in wireless traffic on campus over the last three years, and it’s not just smart phones and laptops that need capacity. We have a lot of equipment now that requires wireless including vending machines and classrooms, for example. The faster network enables us to provide a greater capacity for this.”

One of the biggest users of network bandwidth is video streaming, such as YouTube and Netflix. These services are becoming a critical tool for teaching and learning, says Kirkvold. The upgrade will boost bandwidth capacity and provide greater access to web resources.

As the project matures, the campus can expect more communication around improvements. “By the time we’ve completed the entire upgrade, the U of L will have one of the best-served networks in Alberta.”

Other benefits of the upgrade:

  • Faster response times for core services such as email and internet
  • Increased capacity in wireless network, providing better coverage in classrooms and student spaces
  • Enhanced technology, network upgraded to provide sustainable growth opportunities (next 5-10 years) as the needs of the University of Lethbridge change and grow
  • Enhanced security: new network design provides a more secure infrastructure in which to model data security practices

Questions can be directed to the Solutions Centre at help@uleth.ca or (403) 329-2490.

Wi-Fi – oxygen for students

 

During the next four weeks, IT Services’ communications technology staff will be busy working on a major $20,000 wireless upgrade to Kainai and Piikani residence buildings which will effectively double the current capacity, says Terry Kirkvold, Manager of Infrastructure Maintenance and Support.

“Each building will have 14 new access points – four per floor. These buildings will be on par with the coverage provided at the newer residence buildings,” says Kirkvold. “Students will see a dramatic increase in the coverage. This wireless upgrade demonstrates our Destination 2020 commitment to continuously improve the student experience at the University of Lethbridge.Maslow's Wifi

Upgrades to the Tsuu T’ina and Siksika townhouses are scheduled in the coming months and all buildings are expected to have increased Wi-Fi coverage by the end of the academic year.

“We’re anxious to provide what they need and I think they’ll be very happy with the improvement,” Kirkvold adds. “As one student eloquently put it: ‘Wi-Fi is our oxygen.’”

For more information, please contact the Solutions Centre at (403) 329-2490 or help@uleth.ca

It’s ‘upgrade’ season for campus classrooms

 

A number of classrooms are getting a technology facelift this summer. Planning replacements for aging equipment and introducing new technologies begins years in advance so that not everything has to be replaced or added at the same time.

“Every year we map out requirements for maintenance checks, replacements and repairs for the coming academic year, as well as for the following year,” says Terry Kirkvold, Infrastructure Maintenance and Support Manager. “We budget what we need to spend, but there’sclassroom generally the odd situation when equipment gives up unexpectedly. Consequently we need to adjust our schedule so that the most critical work is completed.”

Teaching spaces take priority with feedback from the year and report incidents factored in wherever possible to develop the annual plan. LCD display monitors, projectors and Crestron control systems in classrooms and those rooms targeted for a complete refresh are all scheduled into the annual work.

“PE250 has been a challenge to properly introduce audio–mainly because of its shape. We’ve hired a local consultant to introduce an audio system that will compensate for the room’s geometry, Kirkvold adds. “The team is busy working on many other upgrades in classrooms around campus – not the least of which is Wi-Fi.”

For more information, please contact the Solutions Centre at (403) 329-2490 or help@uleth.ca

 

Wrapping up Google Apps

Welcome to Google Apps! Through May and June, more than 26,000 email accounts were migrated to Google Apps for Education.

“We had some minor delays with the migration, but all in all, it’s been a successful project,” says Chris Roberts, Information Technology Services (ITS)Project Manager. He adds that some administrative work, and a few loose ends still need to be tied up.

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Roberts says most people, students and alumni, had no difficulty changing over to Google Mail. “From a user perspective, it went very well. The vast majority are quite happy with the new service.”

From an implementation perspective, the project was a success. “We met our deadlines—in fact, even with the delays, we finished the migrations ahead of the June 30th deadline.”

If you would like to learn more about our new Google Apps service, please visit our “Welcome To Google Apps” site.

Questions? Contact the Solutions Centre at (403) 329-2490 or at help@uleth.ca.

Mobile app developed for Portal – first for U of L

 

The U of L will soon be launching itself into the mobile age thanks to a mobile application version of the Student Portal coming later this summer. Students will soon be able to download the app from the iTunes App Store and Google Play for iOS and androids respectively. Jamie Chinn, IT Services Applications Development Manager, says an email went out to all summer students the week of June 23 to make them aware and to solicit feedback for future versions.Mobile App

“We are very aware of how much students use their mobile devices, and we thought providing a mobile app version of the Student Portal would be a good place to start. While the portal performs quite well on a mobile phone browser, this app will make it even easier to navigate from feature to feature on a smaller device like a smartphone,” says Chinn.

The team is busy polishing the prototype with the University’s brand, colors and images, and testing the app for functionality. Following that will be getting it into the App stores. “It takes about a week to get an app approved by Google Play and three weeks to get approval from Apple.”

Chinn says the first version of the app will include much of the same functionality in the portal, and as new features are added to the latter, they will likely be added into the app as well. Mobile app-specific features such as push notifications when final grades are entered are being investigated for a future release.

Students can provide feedback on the App by visiting the Portal site: https://portal.uleth.ca/ , and either submitting a vote in the features poll, or by clicking on the blue Feedback tab on the right side of the page to submit ideas not found in the poll. With each suggestion or vote, students’ names are entered into a weekly draw for a $100 gift card until the end of August.

The Development team expects to have the app available mid-to-late August, which will coincide with the full launch of the student portal.

For more information, contact the Solutions Centre at (403) 329-2490 or help@uleth.ca.

Revitalized Notice Board to launch July 28

 

The University’s new Notice Board represents the culmination of months of hard work by the Web team, along with hours of user input and testing. Michael Warf, ITS Web Manager, says the team is excited to be launching the revitalized site. It has a number of useful and innovative tools that will make finding information easier and visually appealing, he adds.

“The current Notice Board is written in an old programming language and we no longer have the resources to support it. In technology terms, it’s a dinosaur. Last year the team was commissioned by University Advancement to produce a more modern tool.”new-notice-board

The team first reviewed the usage analytics on the old Notice Board which generate a visual representation of the mouse clicks on the site. “It revealed that it was used primarily as a bookmarking tool,” says Warf. “People clicked on buttons and icons to get to other pages like The Bridge, the online directory, employment opportunities and items that appeared on the image carousel. There were no deep dives into much of the content.” However, the team did discover that the site is the fifth-most-visited property on the University’s website, averaging approximately 1,500 visitors per day.

The next step was User Experience (UX) testing with a wide representation of faculty, staff and students. “We developed sketches which allowed us to get feedback and make quick and low-cost revisions with relative ease. That worked really well,” says Warf.

Among the elements in the prototype are the ability to filter content through keyword searches for date, subject and location. The UX results were not surprising to the Web team. “People really liked the ability to filter and search, the layout of the site, the ability to edit and manage posts, and that the content is all on one page. We also confirmed our suspicion that students had either not heard of the Notice Board, or had no use for it.”

Information sessions were conducted in June, and training workshops are scheduled for July 10 in University Hall, room E640. The workshops are limited to one hour at 9 a.m., 11 a.m., and 2 p.m. Faculty and staff are encouraged to attend for a more hands-on approach and will be prepared to enter notices in the new Notice Board after launch. Those who are unable to attend can contact help@uleth.ca to set up departmental training workshops.

Participants are encouraged to RSVP via survey (https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/QF92BMX) for the workshops to ensure availability of computers.

The launch date of the new and improved version is scheduled for July 28, 2014.

Managing the U of L’s Buildings through technology

 

The University operates many complex systems on campus which are responsible for managing life safety, internal environments, room scheduling and many others. When any major system needs an upgrade, it can create a cascade effect on other services, and is no small undertaking. Last year, the Building Management System, or BMS, was scheduled for an overhaul.

At any given time, Facilities monitors roughly 35,000 measurements throughout the campus ranging from thermostats, baffles and ventilation equipment, numerous lights and fans, to the University’s boiler plant and its associated pressure and temperature equipment. In addition, approximately 85 rooms on campus are accessed through card swipes by students, faculty and staff. All are controlled by the BMS.BMS HVAC image

Information Technology Services (ITS) was brought in to assist with the software upgrade, and to provide consultation around possible improvements. Wim Chalmet, ITS Application Support Analyst, says the HVAC, or heating, ventilation and air conditioning, was tackled first.

“A big concern Utilities had was a lack of redundancy. Since utility operators are able to manage and monitor the environment on campus from their computers, if a server went down, the software providing status updates on the systems would quit reporting,” says Chalmet. “Operators would be blind to how everything was functioning and consequently would have to physically patrol to monitor the most critical points. During cold snaps in the winter pipes can freeze within hours so staff would have to be on call at all times day and night.”

In addition to consultation, ITS upgraded all affected desktop machines and was able to repurpose two additional servers for the BMS. “This provides failover protection so that if one server goes down, another takes over and continues to provide status updates to operators.”

The Card Access system for the campus was another component of the BMS upgrade. “We have a number of classrooms that can be accessed by card swipe,” says Chalmet. “If a student registers in a course that is scheduled into one of those rooms, they get card access automatically.”

Chalmet adds that in order for this to occur, a custom designed interface is needed which permits the BMS system to automatically talk to our databases, such as Banner in this instance. “ITS has done an analysis of the entire structure to determine exactly how this interface currently works and recommended significant improvements to integrate the tool with the new software of the BMS environment.” Completion of the project is expected before September.

 

No Call Waiting for this upgrade

Combined efforts on the part of Advancement, a vendor and three units within Information Technology Services (ITS), compressed four months of work into three, fast tracked the project timeline by starting eight months sooner than anticipated, and enabled the University’s Call Centre to launch its alumni calling campaign on time.

The Call Centre’s software required an upgrade at a time when hiring a manager was underway, and when the software required a critical upgrade. To add further challenges to the project, Advancement’s Call Centre, which operates out of the Penny Building, already had to cancel its fall donor campaign due to construction within the facility. Missing out on the winter semester’s donor campaign as well would have significantly hurt the University’s fund raising efforts.

“We were advised that the former vendor of the software had been bought out by a new company. Consequently the old product needed to be migrated over to a new software, called CampusCall,” says Wim Chalmet, ITS Application Support Analyst. “Advancement approached us in October to ask if we could fast-track the project in order to run the next campaign in mid-January. That meant our usual timeline of May to September would be pushed up by eight months, and shortened our work schedule into three months instead of four. After consultation with all stakeholders, we felt it could be done.”

Staff from Advancement, Desktop Support, Applications, Systems, Telecom, and Finance were all involved in the effort, along with great support from the new application vendor, RuffaloCODY.

“The IT team was very supportive during the transition to a new software program in the Call Centre” says Kathy MacFarlane, Manager of Development Programs. “Wim Chalmet led us through the process smoothly and was always accessible. Most importantly, we finished on time for the next calling session.”

For more information, please contact Wim Chalmet at 403-380-1837, or at wim.chalmet@uleth.ca.

Going Google going great

As announced in March, (see: Student Email Moving Into The 21st Century) student email accounts have been migrated to Google Apps for Education. In order to ensure the migration goes smoothly a batch of early adopters, students who willingly participated as a test group, successfully had their email migrated to Google mail this month.

“The migration went very well,” says Chris Roberts, ITS Project Manager. “We received a lot of good feedback from users. They said they like the features, simplicity, layout and large storage space available in Google Apps.”

All students are now on the service and the project team will be turning their attention to migrating the 13,000 alumni accounts later this month. Students can also access their Google Apps email and calendar through the new Student Portal.

“We don’t anticipate any problems, but we have a number of resources available to users to assist if there are any issues. Everyone will receive detailed instructions via email before their accounts are moved,” says Roberts.

Major considerations include:

  • Users will need to change their passwords to ensure all features are enabled in Google Apps.
  • Users who currently forward their University email account to another email service (Yahoo, Hotmail, etc.) will need to set up new forwarding rules in Google Apps.

If you have any questions about this project, please contact the project team at student.email@uleth.ca. If you are a student or alumnus and have questions about the Google Apps service, please visit our Welcome to Google site or contact help@uleth.ca.