IT Matters

Student Absences due to Quarantine/Isolation: Notification Process Improvement

The return to campus in Fall 2020 posed new challenges for students, staff and faculty alike. The need for students to quarantine and isolate created not only logistical tasks for the Division of Student Life, but also student absence reporting responsibilities in the Division of Academic Affairs.

With little time to plan a thorough absence notification process, Student Health and the Dean’s Offices collaborated this past Fall by sharing lists of students on quarantine/isolation three times a week. From these lists, the staff of the Dean’s Office manually looked up each student’s schedule and then wrote an email to each faculty member informing him/her/they of the student’s attendance status. The process was labor-intensive and time-consuming. End-of-term feedback from faculty indicated that the processing delay and the varying senders and content made it difficult to understand each student’s individual status.

In January, staff from Student Health, Student Life, Information Technology, and the Provost’s Office met to reimagine the absence notification process. Some goals of the new process, they agreed, were to 1. centralize the data so that it was accurate and timely, 2. improve the speed of the notification process, 3. utilize consistent notification text, and 4. designate one point of contact for the process.

As a result of their intradepartmental collaboration, the process was finalized just in time for the start of the Spring 2021 term. In sum, student data from Medicat, the software used by contract tracers to ascertain quarantine/isolation time periods, is deposited daily in a SharePoint site. An algorithm designed by IT de-duplicates the student records, leaving only new student records for processing. These student records are combined and merged into a new template with the output of the Argos report “GEN STUDENT SECTION” to collect schedule information for the new students in quarantine/isolation. This new data set is then automatically mail merged in Microsoft Outlook to send individual faculty notification emails from a new email account named “absencenotification@scranton.edu” that was created for the process. All told, the mostly automated process takes roughly 15 minutes a day, as compared to the hours dedicated to the tasks in the fall term.

Dr. Sufyan Mohammed, Professor, Department of Communication and Media, describes how this new process has helped him track students in quarantine/isolation: “I am very pleased with the new faculty notification process that informs faculty about students that are in quarantine or isolation. I receive the notifications faster than I did last semester and it is a great way of keeping track of students that may need some extra assistance. The timely notification also gives me time to plan any makeup exams or projects the students may have missed. I also teach students from all three colleges and I am glad the process is consistent across the University. Thank you for setting up such an efficient system in such a short time.”

Article by Julie Ferguson, Registrar, Office of the Registrar and Academic Services and Nicholas Truncale ’06, G’07, Director of Student Retention

Printing safely with UniPrint

The Weinberg Memorial Library continues to offer an academic research environment while adhering to the COVID-19 protocols. The library identified the printing areas as high traffic with the users congregating while waiting to release their print jobs and retrieve their printouts. Another reason the library needed to upgrade the printing process was to improve the printing process for users. There were intermittent issues happening more frequently that needed to have a permanent fix. The library researched software on the market and found our current pay-per-print software had an upgrade that provided the best solution. UniPrint is one of the many products by Pharos Systems and the version of software eliminates the need for a release or pay station and offers a new component for “touchless printing.”

The new version of UniPrint offers users the ability to access the Print Center from any PC, iMac, tablet, or mobile device if they are using the campus network. Mobile devices require use of an app obtained from the App Store or Google Play, while other devices connect directly using a browser. Users benefits from this upgrade include.

▪ Uploading their files directly to the print queue.
▪ Previewing files before printing.
▪ Viewing Royal Card funds in the Print Center.
▪ Sending the file to print without use of the release/pay station.
▪ A “touchless” option that uses a QR Code at the printer of choice to initiate printing.

The “touchless” option allows users to change printers on the fly if they approach the selected printer to find an issue or a bottleneck. In the current systems users had to resend their job to another printer. Users printing a document containing personal information can upload the file to the print center, then print out the document while being at the printer to retrieve their document.

At present, the library is conducting a pilot program where work study students are putting the new process and documentation to the test. The results have prompted a few changes to the documentation and found small glitches that have since been addressed. The feedback has been positive with comments showing excitement for new process to be rolled out. With a successful pilot, the library has targeted the Fall Semester to go live with the process.

Article by Mary Kovalcin, Library Systems Coordinator at the Weinberg Memorial Library

Rank and Tenure Review Moves Online

The Provost’s Office has the important task of managing the Rank and Tenure and Annual Evaluation of faculty processes at the University. This process includes multiple layers of review; faculty are evaluated in the areas of teaching, scholarship and service by department members, Deans and, in the case of Rank and Tenure, the Board of Rank and Tenure. This year, the office was faced with the challenge of transforming the mainly paper-based process into a paperless undertaking. Furthermore, the office was tasked with facilitating discussions, deliberations and votes in the most confidential and private manner as possible.

The first step in the process transformation was to create an area for faculty to share their dossiers and work products with departmental colleagues. Infrastructure and Security Services, IT, created an individual SharePoint folder for each full-time faculty. The folder was earmarked with permissions and privileges to allow fellow department members and Deans to review the work of the faculty and write an evaluation. These permissions/privileges were added and removed to each faculty member’s folder based on the timing of each step in the evaluation process.

After written assessments were complete, departmental meetings were held on Zoom. A secret vote was conducted in the areas of teaching, scholarship and service. Microsoft Form templates were created and distributed to allow the vote to occur. These templates assured that only the department chair would see the results of the vote. In the last step of the process, the department chair used the information from the assessments and vote in his/her final evaluation.

All told, there were 369 evaluations done by faculty, department chairs and deans. Over 400 Microsoft Form templates were used to collect over 500 votes. 200-300 files were uploaded, shared and managed in the process.
The success of the online, paperless process can be attributed to the innovations introduced by Sharepoint, Zoom and Forms. The use of these technologies in upcoming academic years will definitely continue to be explored.

Article by Richard Walsh, Assistant Provost of Operations and Data Analytics Officer

Graduation Audits for Graduate Students Move Online!

The timing of the Spring 2020 pandemic couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Office of the Registrar and Academic Services (ORAS). Registration, grading and commencement season were in full swing. The shift to remote work required some swift thinking and quick conversions from previously paper-based processes to immediate electronic solutions in order to keep to hard deadlines.

One time-sensitive, critical procedure that needed focused attention was the review and approval of graduate student audits for degree. The audits, which were typically printed and sent to Program Directors via inter-office at the end of March and due back at the end of April, could no longer be shared in that manner.

Never one to shy away from new ideas or hard work, Traci Vennie, Senior Records and Graduation Analyst, immediately conceived of a process to convert stacks of paperwork and signature forms to an online format. With the help of IT, Traci collaborated with the Dean’s Offices to shift all student records and approval forms to SharePoint. Each college and program had their own folder of student audit information as well as a summary tracking document in an Excel format. The review status, approval queue and student record were now transparent to all users at all times; in fact, the audit for degree process allowed approximately forty (40) users to actively make updates, issue approvals, and sign off on over 300 graduation clearances in real time.

The impact of this change has been significant across all areas. Adam Szydlowski, Advisor, KSOM reflects: “Keeping up with a paper trail always proved difficult when we had so many applications spread out across campus. SharePoint allows for the applications to be kept securely in one location which keeps the need for tracking to a minimum.” In addition to the efficacies, we have realized with the ease of tracking, communication has improved from the change. Many new ideas have come to the surface, and once an idea is shared, it is fast and simple to implement changes that benefit everyone involved. Dr. Victoria Castellanos, Associate Dean, PCPS sums it up for all: “I love the efficiencies we have gained by using SharePoint!”

While there may have been an initial learning curve, the new process has been an asset to all stakeholders. Users have saved an insurmountable amount of time and resources by utilizing the electronic SharePoint platform. Traci, Adam, Vicki and others hope to keep this degree audit system in place even after campus returns to fully in-person status, and they encourage other offices to think of creative ways to use SharePoint to accomplish shared work projects.

Article by Julie Ferguson, Registrar, Office of the Registrar and Academic Services

Student Attendance and Early Alert Application

The Office of Student Retention and Completion, in collaboration with the Offices of the Registrar, Information Technology, and the Deans, recently launched a pilot “Student Attendance and Early Alert Application” for the Spring 2021 semester. The pilot program is designed for the early detection of students exhibiting signs of academic distress. Research on student retention supports early identification/intervention programs as high impact activities that positively affect student success. To this end, the custom app, designed by Will Geiger, IT, serves to facilitate communication between faculty, staff, and academic advisors.

The pilot comprises representation from all colleges and a cross-section of academic departments.  Thirty-five faculty participants from the departments of Accounting, English and Theatre, Health Administration and Human Resources, and Physics and Engineering, agreed to participate in their roles as course instructors. A total of 1,113 students, including graduate and undergraduate, are included in pilot outreach activities.  Since early alerts are directed to students’ academic advisors, there are many College of Arts and Sciences faculty advisors in addition to PCPS and KSOM professional academic advisors who are participating in the pilot.

The “Student Attendance and Early Alert Application” is intended to have the following student outcomes:

  • Increase student class attendance and participation.
  • Improve student engagement with professors and academic advisors.
  • Prompt students to share responsibility for their academic success by maximizing use of campus resources.

Dr. Teresa Grettano, Director of the First Year Writing Program, was one of the first faculty members to sign on to the pilot program: “Writing instructors usually encounter students in the vulnerability of their first year, and because of our pedagogical practices and assignment types, students are more likely to express or demonstrate struggles. Students need support and instruction in their transition from high school to college, but many are afraid to ask for it or don’t know that it even exists. The program lets students know there are people across campus interested in their well-being – academic, emotional, financial, spiritual, and otherwise. It is cura personalis in action.”

Dr. Dan West, Chairman and Professor in the Department of Health Administration and Human Resources, is enthusiastic about this new system as it will not only help his students, but also assist with program accreditation efforts. “The accrediting and credentialing organizations in Health Administration and Human Resources stress the importance of academic advising in overall retention efforts by undergraduate and graduate programs. Early detection of student concerns is vitally important for faculty advisors in helping students successfully navigate their academic studies and achieve positive outcomes,” states West. “Our participation in this pilot helps us to meet our criteria for accreditation and gives us information to demonstrate how we help our students.” 

Finally, Dr. Harry Dammer, Associate Dean, College of Arts and Sciences, is also an integral partner in the endeavor. Of the initiative, he writes “The CAS Dean’s office is grateful for the faculty who have volunteered for this new initiative and also excited about the work Nick Truncale and Julie Ferguson (Registrar) are doing to improve retention. This issue is of utmost importance in our current financial and enrollment situation.”

If you have any questions about the system, please reach out to Nicholas Truncale, Director of Student Retention and Completion nicholas.truncale@scranton.edu.

New Microsoft Tools: Bookings and Teams

Microsoft Teams and Microsoft Bookings apps have been added to your Office 365 applications.

Microsoft Bookings is a scheduling tool that is part of the Microsoft Office 365 family of products. An easy to use website allows end-users to utilize the tool to view calendars and schedule appointments with a department or organization for specific services. Benefits includes the integration with Outlook calendars, automated notification emails to reduce no-shows.

How do I start using Bookings?

Bookings is available for all students and most faculty/staff. Any faculty/staff who need a license can request one by entering a ticket in Royal IT Support. Select the Report an Issue category.

To get started, go to https://outlook.office.com/bookings/homepage

Bookings resources from Microsoft: 

Microsoft Teams is a workspace for real-time collaboration and communication, meetings, file and app sharing, and more.

How do I start using Teams? 

Any actively enrolled student or currently employed staff or faculty member can access Teams for basic collaboration including individual chat and video conferencing. Teams can be accessed via the web application at http://teams.scranton.edu or by downloading the Teams client for your desktop, iOS, or Android. Then, sign in with your University email and password.

Microsoft Teams can be used to collaborate simply by going to the Chat tab to directly communicate with an individual or group of people. Through the app, you can also attend Teams meetings.

Although you cannot create a departmental team within the Teams application, we are currently piloting the departmental Teams group feature in several administrative departments on campus.

Teams resources from Microsoft: 

Microsoft 365 Training is a free, interactive, hands-on training platform that helps people develop technical skills related to widely used Microsoft products and services including Outlook, OneDrive, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and SharePoint.

The website has various training resources, including step-by-step instruction, cheat sheets, templates and video trainings.

Microsoft Office 365 License Update Causes Email Forwarding Issues

Information Technology updated the University’s Microsoft Office 365 licensing on Thursday, January 28. If you had previously forwarded your mail to another address, this update may have inadvertently removed your forwarding settings. For mailboxes that were affected, mail that was sent to them would be stored in the Scranton mailbox and can be accessed there (log into my.scranton and select Outlook in the waffle menu in the top right corner).

Instructions to reconfigure your forwarding settings from Outlook to another email address:

  1. Go to outlook.scranton.edu and log in.
  2. Select the Settings gear icon in Outlook on the web toolbar (top right corner).
  3. Select View all Outlook settings.
  4. In the Settings dialog box, select Mail > Forwarding.
  5. Select the Enable forwarding check box.
  6. Enter the email address that will receive the forwarded email messages.
  7. Click Save.

Mobile Ordering Implementation

During the Fall 2020 semester, the University IT staff partnered with Aramark to implement Transact’s Mobile Ordering application here at the University of Scranton.  Mobile Ordering allows faculty, staff and students a convenient, safe way to order, pay for and pickup meals and drinks from many of our University dining locations.  The DeNaples Center Retail dining, Chick-Fil-A, Zoca, Which Wich, Grille Works and the Pizza & Pasta station were among the first locations to be made available in the Mobile Ordering app.  For the Spring 2021 semester, we have added Einstein Bros. Bagels and Mulberry Food Court as new locations available for ordering.  Using the app allows you to monitor real-time order status and updates, schedule an order for any time that day, and provides multiple payment options, including Meal Plans. 

Initially purchased and installed to address COVID-related concerns about congregation in dining areas, Mobile Ordering is about more than just providing new technology to our community.  It is an opportunity to provide outstanding service to our school community and help to ensure a safe environment for the entire campus. 

Getting started: 

  1. Download the Transact Mobile Ordering app to your mobile device from the App Store or Google Play. 
  2. Select our campus:  University of Scranton Dining 
  3. Click “Log In With Royal ID” 
  4. Sign in with your University credentials 

How to Order: 

  1. Select a dining location 
  2. Select items from the menu and pay through the app 
  3. Pick up your order from the designated dining location 
  4. Enjoy your delicious meal from our Dining Services team! 

Windows 10 Feature Update

A Microsoft employee once (in)famously said that Windows 10 would be the last version of Windows. That doesn’t mean there won’t be a Windows 11 or 12, it just means that upgrading won’t be as much of an ordeal as the hop from Windows 7 to Windows 10 (or previous hops from Windows XP to Windows 7; Windows 95 to Windows XP). Well maybe, but not yet.

For the past eleven years or so your on-campus, pre-COVID computer received updates in two ways. Monthly Windows security updates installed in the background once a month and you could restart at your convenience to finish. There was also everyone’s favorite blue (then) and orange (now) KBOX of annoyance that would pop up for third-party application updates as soon as possible after they were released. You had the choice of ignoring it or interrupting your work and installing the updates.

Due to popular demand, KBOX updates were at first consolidated and only appeared once a month. They were then moved to the early morning hours (Security While You Sleep) for those computers that were compatible with the power management requirements and the interruptions went away.

There may not be a Windows 11 or 12 because Microsoft is releasing enhancements twice a year for Windows 10 as what it calls Feature Updates. Security updates, now known as Quality Updates, continue to be once a month. Addressing deficiencies and adding new features no longer depends on Service Packs and new versions of Windows released years apart.

But security as implemented in Windows has to be disruptive and for too many years we in IT looked the other way and indulged everyone in avoiding the pain. Now we are finding that third-party software vendors are requiring newer releases of Windows 10 as the baseline for their own updates. So we must move on.

Existing computers will be updated to a current stable version of Windows. We will lag one version (roughly six months) so others can find the problems with new releases. This will be an intensive effort working within each department and with special handling for each computer as we will be leaping ahead three to five years.

We will start building replacement computers with this stable version and then continue moving forward. But once we catch up, continuing with the Feature Updates and the inherent disruptions will have to be normal operating procedure and we will have to work out a process to keep moving forward while minimizing, but not eliminating, disruptions.

Cylance Endpoint Detection Rollout Update

The University of Scranton’s Division of IT is currently deploying Cylance Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) to all University laptops and desktops. As of this writing, Cylance EDR has been deployed to 417 Windows and 23 Mac endpoints. Over 21 million files have been scanned and 61 files have been quarantined as threats. In addition, over 500 alerts have been generated regarding suspect endpoint behavior, with the majority being low severity.

Deployment to Staff endpoints began in January and will continue over the next several months. Installation of Faculty endpoints will begin after the end of the spring semester.

Cylance EDR is an AI-driven platform that strengthens, automates and streamlines overall endpoint security. Cylance’s EDR capabilities allow us to protect assets from modern cyber and malware attacks. It detects and mitigates highly advanced security threats as they emerge in real-time.

If you have any questions, please contact the Technology Support Center at 570-941-4357 or techsupport@scranton.edu

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