Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Several professionals from the OneIT community won Improving Our Workplace Awards (IOWA) in recognition of innovative projects that have a lasting positive impact on the institution. The recipients received their awards at a May event and were honored at reception in July.

Senior Software Developer Michael Alberhasky, who works in the Administrative Information Systems department in Information Technology Services (ITS), won an individual award for creating a HawkID password reset tool. A team award went to the Drupal Digital Signage Team, which through tremendous collaboration launched a cost-effective and user-friendly service for electronic billboards on campus.

The Drupal Digital Signage Team recipients were:

  • Mark Bennett, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences Web Services
  • Cale Bierman, ITS Enterprise Services
  • Lance Bolton, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences Technology Services
  • Romy Bolton, ITS Enterprise Services
  • Mark Fullenkamp, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences Web Services
  • Robert Irwin, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences Technology Services
  • Andrew Jenkins, Graduate College
  • Kelvin Lehrman, ITS Enterprise Services
  • Brandon Neil, ITS Enterprise Services
  • Isaac Podolefsky, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences Technology Services
  • Al Raymond, ITS Enterprise Infrastructure
  • Jessica Richardson, ITS Enterprise Services
  • Ben Speare, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences Web Services

Password Reset Tool Benefits End Users, Support Staff

At peak times of a semester, hundreds of people need HawkID passwords reset each day. To change passwords on their own, employees and students were previously encouraged to set up security questions in advance. But often answers weren’t provided or were forgotten. People had to take the extra step of calling the Help Desk, which also increased the volume of calls at the busiest times of year.

To address this challenge, Alberhasky developed a custom password-reset tool that uses information the university already has on file to verify the identity of the person, thereby eliminating the need to set up and remember security Q&As. If the person answers the questions correctly, a passcode sent to their cell phone can be used to reset their HawkID password. A further innovation was to extend the model to a voice call for individuals using land-line phones or other phones that don’t support text messaging.

Users have readily embraced the convenience of this new, DIY tool as an alternative to calling the Help Desk for password changes. This year the week before classes started—typically the most hectic time of year for the Help Desk—there were 500 fewer contacts for HawkID questions, despite record enrollment. The staff commented that it was the smoothest start of a school year they could remember.

New Digital Signage Service Saves Time and Money

Digital signs are used to convey key information in buildings all over campus—like bus arrival times, menus, emergency alerts, weather, news and events. A variety of tech solutions have been used to run the signs, but there was need for a service that was easy to use and free for units to adopt. A team of IT professionals teamed up to address these needs by developing a new Drupal Digital Signage Service.

The project was the epitome of collaboration. It originated in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, which had launched a Drupal signage service for its departments. CLAS and ITS teamed up and by sharing ideas and expertise, were able to create a new version of the service that can be used by the entire campus. Today over 30 colleges and divisions representing 70 units are using Drupal signage.

Because the signage service is based on Drupal, the Web content-management system used for most UI websites, it’s familiar to individuals managing the signs. Users are granted permission to access specific signs, and by utilizing templates and a drag-and-drop interface, they can display content or widgets in various regions of the screen. That content can also be easily shared with other units.

The new service saves money several in ways. Since Drupal is open-source software, there are no licensing fees. The team found that the signs can run on small, energy-efficient compute sticks that cost far less than PCs, can be maintained with existing device-management tools, and are easy to mount behind flat-screen TVs. Wireless connectivity eliminates the expense of data ports and cabling.

The team’s innovation is ongoing. They already added several new features—like the ability to display emergency alerts and YouTube videos on screens—and have running list of widgets to explore adding.