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Tag: ucsb

Failure To Change

credit - piedmontwebdev

I suppose it’s so easy to get comfortable when we reach a certain level of success at personal and/or organizational level.  It is important to celebrate our accomplishments and all the things that got us to where we are, but there’s a danger in stagnating, being conservative.  But the world does not wait for anyone.  Specifically in student affairs, our world is changing quickly. Driven by our changing student demographics,  economic difficulties and technologies, the way our organizations operate must change, at least try to keep up, or we fail to serve our students.

I spend a lot of time following trends in how higher education and our students use technology, including social media and mobile computing.   This comes from the realization that if my organization (a student affairs IT shop) fails to realize the demands and wishes of our constituents, I would not be doing my job as a leader in my organization. Does that mean that we can and will always meet our constituents’ demands and wishes? Of course not. There are always more work to be done relative to our resources. It’s hard enough to provide day-to-day support and “keeping the lights on”,  tasks that while our users may not always see are critical. As difficult as it is to change our ways, to go beyond what we can support, the reality is that if we fail to look at what the customers demand of us, our organization is in danger of being replaced with other options. We no longer live in the world when our customers must go through IT for every single technology requests. Cheap or even free cloud based services are now viable solutions. Our customers use their mobile devices  to access the web and social networks.  As an IT organization, do we take the role of the department that is seen as obstructionist to a point where customers no longer want to work with us or one that is a willing partner to progress?

I feel considerably lucky that we have a person at the top of our organization, Vice Chancellor Dr. Young, who is a champion of change and a true student advocate. He is a visionary who will freely admit that while he may not always know how to get to where we need to get to, he does know when it’s time to change, to take a new direction.  An organization’s ability to be open and accepting to change is rooted in its culture and leaders like Dr. Young plays a huge influence on how the culture is shaped. As those working in our organizations, I also think we have personal responsibilities to be open to change. Failure to change has its consequences.


Mobile Web – Consider the Purpose, then Design

Indian students using mobile - flickr

credit - helpingmedia

Trying to keep up and learn new mobile web design principles and frameworks is getting harder to do. Since last year, I have been doing quite a bit of research on mobile web for my work and for personal curiosity. Yet, I know I still have a long way to fully understanding what and how to properly go about approaching mobile web development.  There are many articles discussing design and development principles like adaptive, responsive web design, progressive enhancements, mobile first, and server side vs. client side adaptations.  Frameworks to develop upon are introduced from time to time as well.  A framework I am very familiar with is the UCLA Mobile Web Framework (MWF)  used by multiple University of California campuses including UC Los Angeles, UC Berkeley, UC San Francisco and UC San Diego. New ideas will undoubtedly come out in the next few months.  Questions I have had to think about and discussed with colleagues include “Should we have one site that can be displayed several ways depending on the device?”,  “Should we have separate desktop and mobile websites?” or “Are we also developing native apps?” I have quite a list of resources if you’re interested. I have tried to read, learn and experiment including creating a prototype site but it’s been a dizzying experience.

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Why We Need to Redefine “Face to Face” Communication

Virtual Meeting with avatars

credit -

A story about a tech firm CEO banning the use of email for internal communication has been a topic of discussion around social media the last couple of days. Reported by multiple news agencies and websites, the title centers around the idea of “banning email” which is certainly a more sensational headline than the the fact that as the story notes,  “instant messaging and facebook-style interface” is replacing email for internal communications in the company.

This story reminds me of how in the last few years, some of the ways we, in our higher ed, communicate have changed. In addition to email and phones, instant messaging and video conferencing have become additional means to communicate in our daily work.  A few years ago, when we say face to face communication, that most likely meant two or more people looking at each other in the same physical room.

The concept of face to face communication is particularly relevant in student affairs and how we conduct our work.

I have heard some concerns about role of technology in how we interact with students and colleagues and how technology cannot/should not replace face to face interactions. However, our definition of face to face will probably have to change moving forward. Consider that some of our online students may never step onto our campus or that we will need to meet with students like international/out-of-state students before they even arrive on campus. With bigger bandwidth and the availability of wireless networking, face to face communication now carries a different meaning, to me anyways.

With Google+ Hangout, Skype via Facebook and other various free services available, the use of video conferencing for one-on-one and group communications will continue to become a bigger part of how we all communicate. Here are some examples I have seen video conferencing used on our campus:

  • My team of developers located on our campus use their webcams and Microsoft Communicator/Live Meeting to communicate daily with a couple of their colleagues who telecommute from different cities
  •  Our Admissions office staff use Adobe Connect to hold one-on-one and one-to-many virtual advising sessions with prospective students
  • A professor uses the same product to hold review sessions with his students
  • I had an informational interview using Skype and iphone with a graduate student from a different state
  • Students use TokBox to have multiple conversations
  • Video interviews of job applicants
  • A presentation on Identity Development Theories by a professor from San Diego State University to undergraduate students
  • Vendor presentations

A decade ago when the web became an important part of how we communicate with students,  along came  expectations of information/services available 24×7 and universities had to accommodate them. In these days of social media and more advanced technology, which include 2 way video communications, students will probably start expecting universities to use the tools and communicate they way they do in their personal lives.   In the future, what students define as face to face communication may be different than what we used to define it pre-social media days.

How do you see the way we communicate in our workplace  changing now and in the future?




Culture Behind the Codes

I was reviewing a code for a web site I created in 1997 which led me to think about what it was like at the time.  The website,  the campus-wide calendar of events (, was one of the very first campus-wide web application at UCSB.  In reviewing the code, it came to me that codes are artifacts in themselves, revealing not only how the application was developed as well as  developers’ environment and abilities. With further investigation,  codes do lead to some revelations about the politics, the technologies, the state of the organization  at that time as well. In a way, the code in itself has a culture behind it.

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Getting Involved on Campus – a Techie Perspective

As a technologist in student affairs who does not interact with students in my formal position, I envy my colleagues who deal with students everyday. I enjoy my interactions with students and staff discussing about student development, leadership and social issues and so I look for opportunities to be able to be involved with the student affairs community outside my formal technical role.

In my position as an IT administrator in a central department that serves all of student affairs, I get exposed to the business processes of all the departments when implementing or developing web applications and vendor systems. In the course of the projects, the discussions with directors/programmers revolve around business requirements, timelines, funding  and resources. On the other side with my technical colleagues, discussions revolve around  server/network infrastructures, security, development standards.  Unfortunately,  discussions about student afairs and student lives in general rarely get discussed. Throughout my career, I have identified opportunities around the campus to see where I could get involved as a non-techie.

Here are some activities I’ve participated in the last few years:

* Serve as organizational advisor for the Filipino-American interest organization and Latino fraternity
* Participate as staff representative for a student led fee committee (
* Serve as staff representative to student staff divisional meeting
* Review freshman applications for the Admissions department
* Serve as facilitator for summer transition program dedicated towards first generation students (
* Serve as member of student resource team (
* Serve as a mentor through a mentorship program
* Provide letter of recommendations and references for graduate schools/jobs
* Participant as a panelist for career development course

My involvement with the programs above are for two reasons: 1) I personally enjoy the experience and 2) I feel the experience provide me with reminders of why I do my job and provides me with a sense of purpose.

Based on your experience, what other opportunities can you recommend?

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