ITS Tech Summit: A Tommies Unplugged Recap

Chris Hornung '18

Happy New Year! I was at the UST Tech Summit in November and got the opportunity to see what St. Thomas has to offer to students, faculty, and staff for getting the most out of their devices. I’m personally super excited to see how well-designed technology can improve student’s lives! In this post, I would like to highlight current resources at St. Thomas along with what you may be able to look forward to in the future.

The Now

STELAR

STELAR stands for St. Thomas E-Learning And Research and can be found in the lower level of the O’Shaunessy-Frey Library. Just a little over a year old, STELAR’s goal is to integrate technology into the St. Thomas experience to improve learning, research, and innovation. I think Brittany Stojsavljevic’s Newsroom article from last fall explains STELAR especially well. “STELAR is intended to be a one-stop shop for faculty to learn how to better use current technology and to brainstorm how to integrate cutting-edge technology in both their classroom and research while maintaining the foundation and community of a St. Thomas education.” In other words, STELAR hopes to leverage technological trends to help faculty teach students in a way that will be most relevant to their future endeavors. Additionally, if you are looking for a change in scenery, it is a super cool place to study! You can learn more about STELAR at their webpage.

Zoom

Zoom is great if you ever need to collaborate with individuals by video. As a University of St. Thomas student, you don’t need to download Skype for business or any other video conferencing software. Simply download Zoom through the ITS webpage and log in with your St. Thomas credentials. Just like that you can set up meetings and send meeting to a group of fellow students and faculty members to discuss course material, collaborate, or put together an action plan by video or phone. Zoom even offers tools to be able to share your screen on your laptop or smartphone so you can work with others in real time! Plus, you can save the meetings to your computer or the cloud to come back to them later! 

Libraries

The libraries have TONS of resources to offer. Besides being my personal favorite place to study on campus, I like to use the library databases to find research articles. They have a wide selection of scholarly journals to peruse through CLIC search. I didn’t realize, however, that the libraries resources go far beyond journal databases. Did you know you can find and watch movies through library databases? I’m not just talking about academic films either! Honestly, if movies are your thing, you probably don’t even need Netflix, the library has that many to choose from! Check out Swank to see for yourself! Depending on your major, the library likely also has other relevant resources to fit your needs. Science major learning anatomy? Anatomy.TV allows you to interact with a 3-D model of the human body to identify any structure you can think of! Business administration major trying to figure out the market trends for a given industry? Check out the IBIS World Market Industry Research Database! Point is, if you do a little exploring, the libraries at St. Thomas have far more to offer than books, study spots, and great coffee. 

The future 

Brett Coup, the Associate Vice President of Academic Technology, gave a keynote presentation of Vision 2020: The Digital Transformation of St. Thomas. There are some big innovations on the horizon! First, ITS is working on developing wayfinding features on campus. From the way I understand it, this means St. Thomas will be able to offer students, faculty, and staff real-time information about locations on campus. For example, wayfinding might allow you to see how busy the AARC or The View is before you decide to head over there. If you see they are packed, you could rearrange your schedule to go at a different time. It would similar to Google Reviews:

Pretty nifty huh? ITS is also working on developing a couple of different artificial intelligence projects. One of the projects in the works is a “bot” that will give you feedback on your speeches. Without going into a whole lot of detail on how artificial intelligence works, the program will basically be able analyze an uploaded video of your speech and compare it to a database of speeches that have already been graded. The algorithm can then give you insights on things you could change to improve your speech before you give it to your class or submit it to your professor. Finally, ITS is hoping to make bounds in utilizing virtual reality to enhance classroom learning. One of the proposed projects is an ethical case study. Instead of just reading through a case study and discussing it in an ethics class, students would actually be put into a virtual reality situation which requires them to face an ethical dilemma! 

I think I mention it in every blog I write, but it doesn’t make it any less true. The goal of Tommies Unplugged is not to overtly criticize technology, but to highlight how students can get the most out of their devices to make for the best college experience possible. With the steps that ITS is taking to make St. Thomas a digitally integrated university, students should have ample resources to complete their work, prepare themselves for life after school, and explore their interests in technology and beyond.

For more information and tips on how to improve your relationship with technology visit the Tommies Unplugged webpage at stthomas.edu/wellness