When it comes to improving university technologies, it seems almost everyone's got an idea. Expand wireless capacity. Get more software and site licenses. Beef up classroom technologies. The list of wants and needs is long and presents information technology staff with a challenge -- how to gauge university support for all those ideas.
It would be nice to know, for example, if a proposed software program would be useful to a few or many. Or if other units on campus are interested enough in a new site license to kick in some support.
ITS staff are counting on a new website -- Techstarter -- to help them answer some of these questions.
"It's a crowdsourcing site," said ITS director of academic technologies Jim Twetten. "We're using the crowd -- in this case, ISU faculty, staff and students -- to help us determine which technology ideas have strong backing and support from the university community."
The site works like this. A faculty or staff member or student signs into the site and submits an idea for new technologies. The suggestion can be specific (let's buy software X) or more general (please find a streaming video server that works with Blackboard Learn).
"Unlike a formal proposal process, Techstarter is intended to have a low barrier for input," Twetten said. "You don't necessarily need to know the cost of a techology or have the logistics figured out prior to entering an idea."
Once a Techstarter idea is online, others in the university community analyze or champion the idea by:
- "Liking" it
- Adding a comment
- Volunteering time, resources or funding to the proposal
- Forwarding it to others
ITS staff who analyze and select technologies will keep a close eye on Techstarter, Twetten said.
"We'll use the site to get a sense of the level of need for a technology or a solution," he said. "We won't necessarily pluck out all the ideas with the most 'likes.' There's more to this than just popularity. There are costs, university priorities, and sometimes legal or policy things to consider. But Techstarter will give us a good place to start."
Twetten encouraged faculty, staff and students to drop by the site frequently to offer ideas for technology or comment on others' proposals.
"This is a fast, easy way to be part of the technology-selection process, " Twetten said. "The more people we hear from, the better we'll be in matching new technologies to this university's needs. "