Category Archives: HTML5

Good Look at our iGFU Mobile Portal

Our student News team wanted to do a story on our iGFU Mobile Portal. They tried to video record a demo off of an iPAD which was not going to work so iGFU author, Brian McLaughlin, made them a simple tutorial that we now use on our website. Checkout the tutorial if you have any interest in what a university mobile portal needs to be. Remember, our mobile portal is basically a skunk works project that leverages the flexibility and performance of HTML5 using Java and PHP to access useful data from general data feeds, Moodle and our PeopleSoft ERP.

The tutorial also highlights a couple of other useful tools. Brian made the video by using an App called AirServer that allows him to mirror an IOS device to his MacBook. He then records it with Quicktime and with a little editing on iMovie you get a very real view of a mobile app. Then we upload the video to our new ShareStream video distribution system which gives us total flexiblity to manage and distribute video (especially if we want to manage copyright). We are investigating if AirServer might offer a better path for iPad mirroring to projector in the classroom.

Year of the Mobile Portal

This year we realized that our mobile portal was ready for some real marketing. I guess up until now we were content to let our customers discover it and utilize it as they desired. What we came to realize was that way to many of our customers had never heard of our mobile portal. How could that be, isn’t IT and the services IT provides at the center of all that happens at a university??? Actually our mobile portal iGFU.georgefox.edu has received a lot of accolades mostly from Oracle Higher Education folks since we have done a great job in leveraging our PeopleSoft data for useful mobile services. So maybe it is better known outside of our university. Recently a couple of our iGFU developers were recognized by NWACC and given an Exemplary Practice Award.

This year we are actually promoting iGFU and usage stats this first week show us that most everyone may finally be using it. We have opted for some promotional gimmicks like allowing our food service provider or bookstore to offer deals that can only be redeemed on someone’s smart mobile device. This new IT Video promotes a number of services that IT provides including iGFU.The most common hits are for class schedule information right now but the administrative services especially for academics are receiving a lot of praise. The class roster service spawns options for a professor to communicate with their class, offer a survey, view photos of individuals or the entire class (on a Pad or Computer display), monitor Moodle Class Forums, show student’s major,  and academic advisor(s).

iGFU Faculty MyGFU Screen

iGFU Faculty MyGFU Screen

Information for a specific course provides all the normal course description, books required and the syllabus if available. Course schedules show you what you have today as well as for the rest of the week. Students can map their Moodle assignment schedules into their Google Calendar, and the list goes on. The real key here is that if a Professor asks for something we always seem to be able to deliver with limited complexity. The administrative side of iGFU has also grown with services. The live budget update service has generated the most praise but another useful feature allows our development officers to lookup their prospects complete with all of their notes. Zoom into the prospects house with the linked Google Earth and certain priorities can be considered.

The bottom line is that our mobile portal has redefined what efficient presentation of data should look like. The directory lookup feature is now a standard page open on most of our administrator’s desktops. A major advantage which makes the mobile portal much more effective is how we can easily use our role based access structure from PeopleSoft to customize what each user is presented. So that is enough bragging about iGFU.

Thanks to recognition from Oracle it is not uncommon to be contacted by another university asking about how we created iGFU. Why go with a web design vs. and app design? How were we able to approve features with typical university committees. How were we able to access so much data from our ERP?

Going with the web design is the obvious choice if you want rapid and flexible deployment and no hassle device deployment. If you design your data access efficiently then performance is not an issue. This more then justifies the loss of some native app features. But the real key to our success comes from the design and development strategy. The most important design strategy is whether we are create something that would be useful for someone walking from lunch to class. Also no committees deciding or designing features. My key developer happens to be my DBA, so in his words he is able to accomplish so much because he holds the keys to the kingdom. He would never let another programmer gain so much access to the database. I let my developers respond directly to feature requests. They crank out another feature and we decide within IT whether it is acceptable for release and then we get appropriate pilot feedback if it deals with access control. But mostly we quickly turn around requests and fine tune a feature based on real user feedback.

This all may sound to simplistic but that is the key to a successful mobile portal. Of course talented programmers with great development tools working from a clean ERP system designed for web clients makes the job a whole lot easier. But any university holds the data necessary to build an effective mobile portal, finding some development talent empowered by some creative freedom could also release these mobile services to your customers. If you do not have the resources to develop a mobile portal yourselves then you may want to consider a couple of commercial option focused on PeopleSoft: HighPoint or BASHmobile

HTML5 – Most Important Technology for 2012

The most important technology for higher education to watch in 2012 will be the utilization of HTML5. Not because HTML5 offers the most efficient way to handle multimedia, graphic layout or utilization of local resources. No, it is about the adoption of a Web presentation foundation that will stimulate mobile and e-book proliferation to usher in a new era of computing. For mobile it simplifies the playing field and for e-books it allows for the enhancements that have always been expected.

HTML5 has origins back to 2004 and is only now at W3C Candidate Recommendation. The significance of this selection is not specifically about HTML5, instead it is about how HTML5 is influencing the standardization of web development and e-book publishing. HTML5 along with CSS3 and Java have no proprietary agenda and they deliver what this new era of computing requires, access to and presentation of vast amounts of information. We are just now experiencing the explosion of digital content consumption devices. Support of mobile phones to pad type e-readers by IT in higher education is puzzling but will be less complicated thanks to the rallying around the HTML5 standard.

PC World agrees with the 2012 significance of HTML5

Another good article on importance of HTML5 but also on the effort it will take. HTML5 Will Replace Native Apps–But It Will Take Longer Than You Think

Demand rising for Linux System Administrators

I have been meaning to post about an observation I have made in recent months concerning the need for Linux System Administrators. This observation has come mostly in the form of my industry contacts asking if I can help them find Linux expertise especially relating to system administration. Now I still sense that my contacts do not feel they need to pay whatever it takes to acquire Linux help, maybe that is from the notion that Linux expertise could be found in poor college CS majors ready to give up on college and make some much needed cash. This does worry me for a few reasons. First there just aren’t enough poor students possessing Linux skills. Yes they are being snatched up as soon as they are ready to give up on college and yes there are opportunities that do pay them well. Second concern for me is that my employees with Linux resumes may want to jump ship. Valid fear but I fight that with quality of life, professional freedom and as much opportunity as higher education can muster up.

Out of curiosity I did some simple research. Indeed.com is a fairly large repository of IT job opportunities. On their site do a search for “Linux Administrator” or “Linux System Administrator” match that up against the “Microsoft” equivalent. The hits come out about 600 to 15 in favor of Linux. I confirmed this on a few other job search sites which may be enough evidence to get our Computer Science department to push a bit harder to steer our students in the Linux direction. So why the increased demand for Linux. What are the important applications requiring higher level Linux support. And it is not just the Web although Apache Web Servers do control the Web presence on the Internet. No, it is mobile computing which every entity with a Web presence is scrambling to get a handle on. It just so happens that mobile computing requires manipulation of traditional web delivery primarily driven by performance. Simple translates to fast and Linux is simple compared to Microsoft. Of course the main demand for Linux is to fullfil the need for maintaining Linux Operating Systems that many critical enterprise solutions depend upon. So this increase in Mobile computing is just the tipping point.

The world is shifting to the Web which is being accessed more and more by mobile devices and the Mobile modified Web runs best on Linux. Now the world’s content providers need Linux expertise for a competitive advantage. This is over simplified but it is a simple fact that can’t be overlooked.