|Information Technology Services Department Supports Students' Social Media Activity
August 20, 2009
Contact: John Syme
In the rapidly changing face of online communications, Davidson’s Information Technology Services (ITS) is staying nimble to meet students where they are: on Facebook and Twitter, to name two recent initiatives. ITS introduced accounts on both social-networking sites this summer. These webpages serve as direct discussion forums for Davidson students and ITS staff.
|ITS is giving students 1 gig jump drives
“It’s students talking to students in their own language,” said Shauna’h Fuegen, Student Computing Services Coordinator.
Recent estimates put the number of registered Facebook users over 250 million, and roughly half of those log on daily. An informal survey of the last two classes of first-year Davidson students showed that virtually 100 percent of Davidson students have Facebook accounts.
Another “Eureka!” moment for meeting students where they are was the result of a brainstorming session this summer, when Aaron Couch ’09 implemented the idea of a Davidson-branded flash drive to be issued to all incoming students. On it, a simplified handful of hyperlinked documents detailing ITS information and web pages replaces the voluminous paper “how to” stack of handouts of previous Orientations.
“When you’re an incoming freshman, you are overwhelmed with information, and you typically don’t read something like that, and it gets lost in the pile,” said Couch, a psychology major who now is pursuing a master’s in information technology management at Carnegie Mellon’s campus in Adelaide, Australia.
As an added bonus, the flash drive contains a full 1 gigabyte of storage, a useful item to keep handy for a student’s entire Davidson career.
E-mailing or calling the ResNet student help desk will always be an option, sometimes the preferred one, particularly for individualized configuration of machines and services. Last academic year, more than 10,000 cases were opened by ITS professional and student staff members to support faculty, staff and students. In the meantime, the Facebook and Twitter accounts provide the possibility of students sharing information that ITS doesn’t track, for instance the best cell phone coverage on campus.
Whether the Facebook and Twitter accounts will substantially change the number of tracked cases coming through Help Desk remains to be seen. If it does, ITS stands ready to monitor trends with whatever data is available, in whatever form. “The pace of change demands more ability to be flexible, dynamic, and present,” said Mur Muchane, Executive Director of Information Technology. “We’re going to meet you where you are.”
Muchane also pointed out that the cyber forums on Facebook and Twitter are really extensions of Davidson’s objective of fostering lifelong learning. “It’s about encouraging and supporting students to seek out knowledge and information for themselves. The ability to find, organize, understand, evaluate and create information is essential to preparing Davidson students in becoming digitally literate,” he said.
A favorite feature of Will James ’11, who worked in ITS this summer, is the OpenSeats functionality on the ITS website. OpenSeats details where the available lab computers are across campus, in real time. (James tracks it on his iPod Touch).
In addition to 216 computers spread out among 42 classrooms and nine public computer labs, the largest public lab includes the new Think Tank group study room, which links four workstations with TeamSpot collaborative software, for seamless data-sharing between the computers as well as to a projection screen. Next to the Think Tank is the Digital Den, also a new space that uses the same basic idea and software to link personal laptops. ITS is working closely with the President of the Class of 2010, Laura Souza, to explore how student study spaces throughout campus can be enhanced with technology.
A few other ITS facts:
• PawPrint, an environmental print management initiative introduced last year, is available on 7 printers in 4 locations. This number will soon rise to 13 printers in 9 locations. Last year PawPrint reduced paper use by at least 36,000 pages, or 8% of all printing. Printing to network printers from personal laptops is available this academic year.
• Wireless networking is supported in all residence halls and public buildings on campus. Security is provided by 802.1x authentication.
• ITS’s newest initiative, a transition to the Bradford Campus Manager network access control, began in early August. Bradford will improve overall network security and simplify the login process.
• As of Aug. 12 Davidson’s ITS department had 254 Facebook fans and 80 Twitter followers. Muchane and Fuegen expect those numbers to grow substantially during the fall semester.
So, are Facebook and Twitter the status quo, or is there some next big thing in social networking communications coming down the line?
“There will always be the next big thing,” said Muchane. Davidson ITS will be ready.
Davidson is a highly selective independent liberal arts college for 1,800 students located 20 minutes north of Charlotte in Davidson, N.C. Since its establishment in 1837 by Presbyterians, the college has graduated 23 Rhodes Scholars and is consistently regarded as one of the top liberal arts colleges in the country. Through The Davidson Trust, the college became the first liberal arts institution in the nation to replace loans with grants in all financial aid packages, giving all students the opportunity to graduate debt-free. Davidson competes in NCAA athletics at the Division I level, and a longstanding Honor Code is central to student life at the college.