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OIT finds tech solutions for learning communities

Dec. 13, 2007
By Joyice Childs and Sean O'Malley

When Director of Learning Community Programs Wendy Merb-Brown worked on a pilot involving just two learning communities and 40 students in fall 1999, she handled applications and assignments manually, with students using paper forms and staff tracking placements by hand. By the time the learning communities grew to 57 and more than 1,000 students in fall 2006, she needed help. 

Photo by Rick Fatica"That's when we said, we've got to do something about this," Merb-Brown said. 

She had neither the staff nor the resources to handle thousands of applications, so she looked to the Office of Information Technology for help. 

"They just went with it," Merb-Brown said of OIT's application and information programmers Dave Hannum and Matt Cassady, who designed a computer application for the learning communities within three months. The application not only allows students to submit their forms online but also coordinates those students' interests with specific college and major requirements. In addition, the application lets University College staff create and manage online forms as needed, with no added overhead. 

The application was functional in time for use with this past fall's 115 learning community cohorts involving nearly 2,000 students.

Merb-Brown has high praise for the collaboration. "This application is tremendous," she said. "Dave comprehended the nuances of our learning communities and synthesized a process for us that had a huge impact on efficiency." 

Shelley Ruff, director of application and information solutions, said that efficiency translates into better service. "The less time Wendy's staff spends handling paperwork, the more time they can spend enhancing the learning communities' core academic mission."

OIT's Application and Information Systems group manages about 100 solutions for units across the universty. These range from universitywide applications such as the Office of the Registrar's online course offerings search to highly focused, single-task utilities such as the Office of the Vice President for Research's online radioactive materials inventory and the Office of Lifelong Learning's student satisfaction surveys.

Ruff expects demand for automated, online administrative processes to rise as more departments look for ways to improve efficiency. Individuals interested in exploring the possibility of an OIT collaboration can contact Mary Patacca at 740-593-1965 or patacca@ohio.edu or Sherri Crabtree at 740-593-1970 or tyree@ohio.edu.

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Published: Jul 20, 2006 3:50:00 PM
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