Digital Community College Survey 2016-2017 Winner

Again, with the Top Ten!

I had a great email hit my inbox this week notifiying me that we were not only in the Top Ten for the Large College category (over 10,000 students) in the Digital Community College survey from the Center for Digital Education but that we had moved up a spot in the ranking from where we were last year. How about that!?!

Much like I did in last year’s survey, I was able to centrally report on the great work that we do here to provide digital tools to our students, faculty and staff to do their work and meet their personal goals.

In addition to the continued emphasis on improving bandwidth and online access to information and resources, I was also able to brag on:

  • Our mobile friendly options with the updates to myPellissippi and the changes in the style sheets on our Banner Self-Service modules.
  • Our beginning use of data dashboards (if you haven’t seen them at the Institutional Research site, you should go look)
  • The NEXT Classroom and its exploration of new technologies for teaching and learning
  • Our preparation for disaster recovery and cyber incident response
  • Our service-learning forms using Banner and workflow for efficiency and accuracy of information so it can be included on student transcripts and other reports.
  • And much more!

I am proud of the work that Information Services does on campus in conjunction with the rest of the college. And, I look forward to even more projects to report for 2017-2018 and expect we will remain in the Top Ten again!

If you would like to know more about the project or see the other winners, visit the Center for Digital Education’s site.

screenshot of employee page inside portal

Some New Looks

In case you haven’t logged into our portal lately, we have a new look for both the myPellissippi portal and for Banner Self-Service (SSB) pages. We worked to get them into place before registration starts for Fall 2017 next week. (What? Already?)

screenshot of employee page inside portal

The new portal look!

Screenshot of Banner Self-Service Student Account page

The new Banner Self-Service look!

The focus for both of these changes was to bring a more modern look to the platform , tie it visually to the look of our overall website and provide better responsive design for use on mobile devices.

At the start of every semester, I stand by the stairs in the ERC directing students to classrooms on those first few days of the term. The number of students who are using their phones for their schedule increases every time. And, trying to magnify and use the Banner screens on a phone really is no fun. Of course, the mobile app will also show your schedule and it can be helpful but I still see most students using myPellissippi and SSB for their schedule.

I hope this new look will make that task of seeing your schedule easier on mobile devices. But, it also looks like I also need to work to get the mobile app on more phones as well. Off to try to do that….

students using a computer

Are we are on the (right) ETRAC?

I have decided that the college should participate in the EDUCAUSE Technology Research in the Academic Communities (ETRAC) annual survey. Since I have been in this role, we have completed the EDUCAUSE Core Data Survey and it has provided some information and I hope that, after having participated in that for a few more years, it will become even more useful.

The ETRAC surveys are focused on faculty and students and their ownership and use of technology on campus. I am curious about it and I know Educational Technology Services (ETS) is also curious about it. My guess is that other departments, such as the library, will also find this data helpful. Here is the almanac from the 2016 undergraduate survey.

Naturally, the data regarding use of technology in the classroom are the most interesting to me. Some tidbits from the TECHNOLOGY AND STUDENT ENGAGEMENT section of the almanac.

Students are:

  • 46% Get more actively involved in courses that use technology
  • 28% Are more likely to skip classes when materials presented in class are available online
  • 31% Are more likely to skip classes when streamed or recorded lectures are available online

Students agree that technology has helped them:

  • Document classwork or projects(82%)
  • Ask instructors questions (79%)
  • Get feedback from instructors in a timely manner (75%)
  • Engage in the learning process (71%)
  • Work with other students on class projects (69%)
  • Participate in group activities (65%)
  • Discuss course topics with other students (62%)
  • Ask other students questions (61%)
  • Learn through games or interactive activities(41%)

Students agree that technology used in their courses has:

  • Contributed to the successful completion of courses(78%)
  • Enriched learning experiences(75%)
  • Helped them focus on learning activities or course materials(69%)
  • Built relevant skills that were useful outside courses(69%)
  • Helped them understand hard-to-grasp concepts or processes(67%)

Students reported that they become distracted during classes because they:

  • Text(39%)
  • Reade-mail(39%)
  • Use social media(37%)
  • Surf the web(35%)
  • Play games on a laptop or mobile device(18%)

You can find the faculty and student survey links inside our Brightspace/D2L platform. They are also being sent to the faculty and student listservs. The survey will be available until March 20, 2017.

I also am working with Institutional Research to create a staff survey to cover some of the same questions because I would like to have data across the board for the college. Stay tuned!
040214_UFV_00002 flickr photo by University of the Fraser Valley shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

sculpture arm reaching up into a gray cloud sky

What truly matters?

The fifth question in Dean James Ryan’s graduation speech last year at Harvard School of Education gets to the “heart of life”, as he says. The question is:

What truly matters?

His suggestion is to use this question as a replacement for a New Year’s resolution. I am a month behind on making resolutions but I am pretty sure that this question can be asked (and answered) just about at any moment on any given day.

Normally, I would take this question into the work of IT for the rest of my post. And, I could. There are always new tools to explore, new technology to use for all parts of our work and during each part of that exploration, you must ask about what matters. But, ultimately, when you work at a community college, I think the question becomes one that needs to be answered outside and beyond the role of technology in education.

And, I was reminded of the answer to this question in a different and much more visceral way earlier this week when I was fortunate enough to attend our annual legislative update breakfast. This event, hosted by our college president, gathers state and local political representatives and allows us to share what we are doing, what is happening on campus, what our challenges are, and what our dreams are to keep on improving. This year, we also had a student speak.

She. Was. Amazing.

Her story wasn’t necessarily a unique one. It is similar to the story I know many of our students have but she told it so very well. There were more than a few tears in folks eyes at the end of her speech. And, it was a great reminder to me of “what truly matters.”

We are all here for a common goal: to help our students succeed. If part of that path to success is helped by providing an open computer lab and internet access or someone to answer a question about PowerPoint or to give a faculty member the tools and support to create rich instructional materials, by supporting a guest speaker or simply to create reports used by a financial aid officer to understand a student’s need, then all of us have work that speaks to what truly matters here on campus. I am proud of that and of the people in Information Services.

So, the five questions will remain on the sticky note by my desk:

  • Wait, What? will help me pause and understand
  • I wonder? will help me dream of ways to solve problems
  • Can we at least? will help me get unstuck or take on larger issues with smaller steps
  • How can I help? will help me focus on the service I can provide to those I work with and the students, faculty and staff I support
  • What truly matters? will always bring me back to why we come to campus each day and keep on plugging on semester after semester.

Now, to get back to working on what truly matters around here.


“_Favourite” by lazy artist is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

Data Privacy Day: January 28, 2017

Hard to believe it has been a year since I first wrote about Data Privacy Day!

And, with the continuing cycle of hacks (and repeated hacks – Yahoo, for example) we must continually learn and understand what we need to do to keep our data private, both here and at home.

  • Know what you are sharing. Check the privacy settings on all of your social media accounts; some even include a wizard to walk you through the settings. Always be cautious about what you post publicly.
  • Guard your date of birth and telephone number. These are key pieces of information used for verification, and you should not share them publicly. If an online service or site asks you to share this critical information, consider whether it is important enough to warrant it.
  • Keep your work and personal presences separate.  This also helps you ensure uninterrupted access to your private e-mail and other services if you switch employers. The Mobile Fellows podcast had an interesting conversation about this very topic.
  • There are no true secrets online. Use the postcard or billboard test: Would you be comfortable with everyone reading a message or post? If not, don’t share it.
Silhouette of a person helping another walk on a cliff with a sunset behind them.

How can I help?

Happy New Year!

And, with the start of 2017, I wanted to continue exploring these important questions in life – within the lens of working in Information Services here. This question is a biggie for us:

How Can I Help?

I have said repeatedly that our division ends with the word “services” for a reason. We are here to provide a service and to provide service to others. Our service is most obviously seen as the network (wired and wireless) that is provided as well as the servers (hmmm, servers provide a service!) and other equipment within IT. Folks in this division also serve students, faculty and staff through support and training: from the Helpdesk to Open Lab assistants to ETS workshops to APS programmers creating new Banner pages to functional techs writing reports to the person keeping the microphone level right during an event in the CPAC.  Everyone in Information Services is here to serve..and that often starts with asking that question: how can I help you?

And, personally, I have been posing that question of many folks over my 17 years here at the college. I have been very fortunate to have been able to help people create web classes, record audio files, develop a simulation for political science, get someone logged into their online class for the first time, and the list goes on. I think you have to want to help if you get into the IT world – unless you are a black hat hacker, I guess.

I try to enter meetings and other conversations with people all over campus with that attitude. If I hear of a problem, I tend to start wondering how we can help.

  • Can we make a process automated to save time?
  • Is there a software that does a job easier or better?
  • Would training or a workshop or a simple “how-to” guide make a task easier?
  • How can we provide ways for folks to find the help they need more quickly and when they need it?

It is a continual process and one I don’t see ending anytime soon. I hope everyone knows that I am always ready to hear ideas of how we can help. I am creating a suggestion box on this site. If you have an idea, you can always drop it in the suggestion box. Or drop me an email, call, Skype message or stop by!

Let me know how I can help.

A Helping Hand flickr photo by Damian Gadal shared under a Creative Commons ( BY ) license

backpack loaded with camera equipment

Don’t Just Phone Home: Share Your Trip

I was pleased to be able to present at the 10th annual conference for International Education sponsored by the Tennessee Consortium for International Studies and held on our campus in November. My session was entitled “Don’t Just Phone Home: Share Your Trip” where I was able to share my experiences with traveling internationally with the Variations ensemble, our select choir here at Pellissippi State. I have blogged about this travel workflow before and the presentation was an expanded version of that blog post. (check out this post for most of what I talked about)

In a nutshell, I recommended that you should select two things:

  • A publishing platform (I use WordPress but there are other options, for sure)
  • A media platform (I tend to use Vimeo and Flickr but, again, PLENTY of options)

You need both platforms because these are two different functions and need specialized options. However, the publishing platform will ultimately be the place you sent people and then the media you create will be shared via that site.

However, I have been seeing some new tools emerge that tend to merge this a little bit. Two new options that I tried and explored in the session included these somewhat new tools:

  • Sway (from Microsoft Office 365) and
  • Spark (from Adobe)

Both are positioned for easy creation of rich media timelines, storytelling and other communication. However, I still feel that for video, you will always be better served by a dedicated video platform.

I am looking forward to working with them more. My main concern is that they rely on a decent online connection to work and my experience with overseas travel has taught me that you cannot always depend on a good connection. So, with that caveat. Here is my presentation in the Sway format. Below that is a reworking of an early blog post into the Spark format. See what you think!!

(NOTE: If these don’t embed properly – here are direct links to those presentations as well: Sway Presentation and Spark Demo)

Hortobagy National Park

If you want to see some examples of my travel blogs, here are a few:

icons of popular social media sites

Protecting Your Online Identity

As we head off for our holiday break, I know we will all be taking lots of pictures and making lots of memories with family and friends. Who doesn’t want to share those good times via social media like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter?

However, be sure you understand how to present yourself on social networking sites and how to safeguard your information. It is so easy to consider something temporary or fleeting as it moves down the flow of other posts and pictures being shared. But, it will most likely remain on the Internet forever. As a result, keep these dos and don’ts in mind when sharing online.


  • Ask questions about who can access the information you are posting online, who controls and owns the information, and what is shared with third party.
  • Understand the default privacy settings on the social networking sites you use and how to change them to match your comfort level.  It is important to review the privacy settings for each social site you use regularly. Things change!
  • Keep your personal information private. Decide whether it’s necessary to share sensitive information such as your birthday, mailing address, phone number, e-mail, mother’s maiden name, sexual orientation, or Social Security number.
  • Be cautious about accepting requests to connect online. Connect only to people you trust who will not misuse the information you post.
  • Check the location settings on photos and videos you post to social networking sites.
  • Avoid joining online groups where you don’t know all the members or what they stand for.
  • Use passphrases to protect your social media accounts. A passphrase is a set of words that create a phrase that is 20 to 30 characters long.


  • Don’t share too much information that could be used to complete a profile about you. For example, share your birthday, but not the year you were born. Or share your hometown, but not the address where you live.
  • Don’t share any information that is being used for verification purposes such as your mother’s maiden name, the name of your first pet, or the street where first lived. Consider making up alternate answers to those questions that only you would know.
  • Don’t post when you are traveling or going out of town on vacation. It’s an open invitation letting criminals know that you are in a different location and that your home is vacant.
  • Don’t post photos of inappropriate or illegal activities.
  • Don’t click on attachments or links without checking the source.
  • Don’t “check in” to every place you visit. That information could be used to identify you in a vulnerable location.
  • Don’t use weak passwords, and never share your passwords!

We never want this to happen:


+ Some content provided by the EDUCAUSE Security Matters project



Couldn’t we at least…?

While my opinion may change on certain days, I think this question from the series of questions presented by Dean James Ryan at his Harvard commencement talk might be my favorite:

Couldn’t we at least…?

This question allows you to keep moving. To get past some kind of barrier, whether it be a disagreement, a technical incompatibility,or an overwhelming list of requirements, goals, or other obligations. Asking and then answering this question allows you to make even just a baby step in a direction. It might not even be the right direction initially but it is something besides standing still or remaining stuck.

From my perspective at school, I ask it a lot when trying to solve a problem. The task force created by Dr. Wise to look at retention and completion asked it as well when the early alert project was developed. There were lots of presentations about lots of technological solutions that would require much more time to install, configure and plan. There are also the budgetary aspect. By asking, “couldn’t we at least…?”, the group was able to design and APS along with Student Affairs was able to develop the early alert survey we have currently. This at least gave the college a way to start helping students who might benefit from intervention from a student success coordinator or a referral to a tutor.

As we worked towards the upgrade of the Luminis software that runs our myPellissippi portal, I heard myself asking in several portal content/design meetings the same question. We couldn’t implement every idea we had to make our portal everything we wanted it to be on day one. But, we were able to ask the “at least” question and determine the priorities and make the baby steps towards our shared vision of this tool that is central to all folks on campus.

Often with technology, any particular solution might not be 100% possible or there might be a difference of opinion about how to configure it, deploy it, train on it, etc but we can usually find the “at least” part. I hope that when you are faced with a large project, event, problem or disagreement, this question will bubble to the surface and help keep you moving in a positive direction as you need.

Image credit: Wikimedia
Public Domain image: “Self-Operating Napkin”
Originally published in Collier’s, September 26 1931

ID Theft

Identity Theft – It CAN happen

As we held our Print-a-palooza event earlier this month to get a jumpstart on providing new ID cards to employees, I was thinking about what happens if you lose your ID card. Yes, you have to go get a new one and that is a pain because you have to go to the Helpdesk and bring some identification and so on. Not the best way to spend your time. But, what happens if someone finds that ID card? Can they do much with it? Maybe not now, but we are adding new features to the new cards including magnetic stripes and (on some cards) proximity chips for opening doors at Strawberry Plains and Magnolia Avenue campuses. I fully expect that there will be more and more uses beyond the traditional checkout library materials and charge food at the cafeteria in the coming years. So, that card becomes more valuable. Just like our own identity – years ago this wasn’t a problem. However, we have more and more information online and, thus, our ID is also also more and more valuable.

The threat of identity theft (ID theft) is real, and it can take long time to recover once you become a victim. Recent statistics show that each year approximately 15 million U.S. residents have their identities used fraudulently. In addition, nearly 100 million Americans have their personal information placed at risk of theft each year when records in databases are lost, stolen, or accessed by unauthorized individuals. EDUCAUSE research shows that 21% of respondents to the annual ECAR student study have had an online account hacked, and 14% have had a computer, tablet, or smartphone stolen. Here are some tips to help prevent ID theft:

  • Read your monthly statements carefully. Review bank, credit card, and pay statements, as well as other important personal accounts (e.g., health care, social security). If a statement has mistakes, charges you don’t recognize, or doesn’t arrive when expected, contact the business.
  • Shred outdated documents. Make sure you shred any documents that show sensitive financial or medical information before you throw them away.
  • Be careful when sharing personal info. Avoid responding to pop-up ads, e-mails, texts, or phone messages that ask for personal information such as your Social Security number, password, or account number. Legitimate companies don’t ask for information in this way.
  • Protect your online accounts. Create strong passwords or passphrases that are at least eight characters long and include a mix of letters, numbers, and special characters. Don’t use the same password or passphrase for multiple accounts.
  • Limit use of public Wi-Fi. If you must use a public wireless network, make sure it is fully encrypted before sending sensitive information. Use HTTPS (for websites) and SSL (for applications like e-mail) whenever possible, and use a VPN (virtual private network) if you have access to one. Save your most sensitive browsing and work for when you are in a place where you know the Wi-Fi is secure.
  • Use secure devices. Whenever possible, encrypt your hard drive, make sure operating system and application software and plug-ins are up-to-date, and install antivirus software (and keep it current).
  • Keep personal information private. Limit what you share on social media. For instance, don’t share your vacation pictures publicly until you return home (so thieves don’t target your empty home).
  • Review your credit report every year. You can request a free annual credit report.

If you’ve been a victim of ID theft:

  • Create an Identity Theft Report by filing a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission online (or call 1-877-438-4338).
  • Use the Identity Theft Report to file a police report. Make sure you keep a copy of the police report in a safe place.
  • Flag your credit reports by contacting the fraud departments of any one of the three major credit bureaus: Equifax (800-525-6285); TransUnion (800-680-7289); or Experian (888-397-3742).


Some content provided by EDUCAUSE Campus Security Awareness Campaign 2016

flickr photo shared by cafecredit under a Creative Commons ( BY ) license[/caption]