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Keeping tabs on UI ITCs

BY EMILY BUSSE | DECEMBER 07, 2009 7:30 AM

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This winter, UI students won’t have to trek through the frigid weather to the nearest computer lab only to find it full. Their cell phones will be able to help them avoid that.

UI Information Technology Services officials launched its overhauled website and mobile application just over a month ago with an popular new feature: computer lab availability.

With an interactive Google map showing all computer labs on campus, the new feature tells students exactly where the closest lab is, how many computers are open, and whether the computers run on Windows or Mac.

“We’re trying to make it known that there are actually dozens of computer labs across campus,” said Ryan Lenger, learning spaces technology staff manager.

In its first month, the new feature has received nearly 300,000 page views and accounts for 60 percent of the traffic on the ITS website, Lenger said.

The idea started in late spring when it became obvious the 5-year-old ITS website needed to change, Lenger said. ITS staff hired the IMU marketing and design group to get student feedback, which found computer lab hours, location, and computer availability were most important.

Though Lenger said hiring the group cost roughly $200, ITS members completed the actual creation of the site internally.

Uttam Gurung, an application developer at the UI who was one of the web-service designers, said his part in the process took almost four months but was worth the work.

“Everybody who works in the ITC department wants to make student life better,” he said. “That’s what we’re there for, so I enjoyed it.”

In addition to the Google map, the site includes a search feature for the nearest lab and uses a “stoplight” system of colors to show how full it is.

The mobile application version of the feature is condensed — lacking a map, though it still shows the number of open computers in plain text. Being able to check computer lab availability on phones will help students avoid the possibility of a lab filling up after they check it on the site at home, Lenger said.

UI junior Rachel Elijah said she uses the computer lab at Phillips Hall to print off work three or four times a week and often has to wait two minutes or longer until someone gets off a computer.

Though she said waiting is usually “no big deal,” Elijah said she sometimes gets to the lab with only a couple minutes to spare before class, so the ITS feature could avoid that.

“Then if you’re busy, you don’t have to wait,” Elijah said.

Lisa McDaniels, a librarian at the UI for five and a half years, said the Main Library computer lab has been extremely full this fall. The new site is perfect for avoiding the dreaded time-wasting journey to a full lab, she said.

“I think it’s awesome,” she said. “Because it’s all about saving time.”


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