Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Power to the user!

As demand for the use of technology at SPH continues to grow, we're finding it increasingly difficult to meet 100% of that demand. This is why we're making a deliberate effort to put powerful yet easy to use tools in the hands of our customers - you - so that you do not have to be dependent on the availability of SPH staff.
Examples include: high-definition videoconferencing systems, which are almost as easy to use as a telephone; a lecture capture system (Camtasia Relay) that requires pressing an on-screen button at the beginning and end of a recording, with all the rest happening auto-magically in the background; small, digital, HD cameras (Flipcam-style), available for checkout, as a response to the growing number of requests for recording meetings, interviews, class presentations, etc. We hope to continue and expand that trend by adding new tools as they become available.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

SPOCs - the next big thing?

While the MOOC hoopla has yet to abate, a new term has been coined: Small Private Online Courses, or SPOCs. Well, if that is the "next big thing", I have fantastic news for you: SPH has been far ahead in implementing and perfecting SPOCs - we've been doing this for years. While our online courses are not always small (some reaching 40 students), they are tiny compared to the tens of thousands of students some of the MOOCs are attracting. However, they offer students much more attention from faculty and GSIs (with some students reporting getting more individualized attention in online courses than in residential ones), they generate tuition for the School, and they are for credit. Perhaps it is time for us to toot our horn a bit and tell the rest of the world that they are just catching up to us? :-)

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Better way to videoconference

SPH is part of a pilot trying out a very innovative service called BlueJeans. This service lives in the "cloud" so no investment in hardware or software is required - only paying the subscription fee. It is very simple to use and allows connecting multiple parties in a videoconferencing session, regardless (well, almost) of the devices they are using. One party in the session may be using a room-based videoconferencing system (e.g. Lifesize, Tandberg, Polycom), while others may be connecting via Skype, Google Talk, from phones, or simply via a web browser. Up to 20 connections can be accommodated that way, although BlueJeans uses the public Internet, so audio and video quality will deteriorate, the more connections there are.
It is very simple to use, requiring that a session be setup by the administrator, and participants will receive easy-to-use instructions on connecting to the session. There is no cost associated with this.
The trial period will end on April 30, after which we hope we will become party to the campus-wide license of this very useful service.
If you are interested in trying it out, contact wlodek@umich.edu or sph.informatics@umich.edu