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Sharing a New Way to Collaborate and Communicate

Wayne State University has developed a social networking platform, Academia, for users to better collaborate and communicate. It is designed from the ground up to work on any mobile device.


Academia operates through “streams” which act like Facebook walls or Twitter hashtags. These streams can be created and followed by anyone, according to their permission levels. As an example, users could create a stream for a specific club and invite people to subscribe to it. Due to its successful launch, Wayne State is looking to expand Academia to other campuses.

Over the summer of 2015, Wayne State transitioned over from the old portal Academia. As they expected, there were growing pains, however there was great user acceptance and good performance. They initially created a feedback stream where users could post any problems they ran into, and had to a team to fix and respond to those users’ problems.

The director of academic and core applications, Rob Thompson, mentioned that the platform showed its significant impact when it was used for new student orientation. It allowed students who haven’t even started classes yet to connect with each other and share their interests or thoughts.

The Merit Network plans on expanding this across many other campuses. Some universities they have visited have already shown their interested in the platform.

For more info, visit the article here.

Even Better Wi-Fi: University of Washington Leads Again


Researchers at the Seattle campus have found a way to make a Wi-fi transmitter that uses 10,000 times less power than traditional Wi-Fi systems and 1,000 times less than existing low-power wireless technologies. It can be used by existing devices out of the box, with little to no need for extra setup per device. This technology has been attempted in the past, but limitations usually involved a dramatic drop in signal quality over a short distance or expensive, custom hardware that did not work with existing devices.

This technology, tentatively called “passive Wi-Fi,” is made possible by separating the digital elements of the transmitter (handling such tasks as encoding and encryption) and the analog (which includes the actual antenna that transmits data). This implementation creates a network that is perfectly suited for the Internet of Things.

As anyone who uses UW Bothell’s Wi-Fi knows, our internet connection is excellent and our network is extremely well-maintained. However, when infrastructure replacements or upgrades are considered in the future, admins would do well to look at the technology that the UW has pioneered for further reducing our energy usage.

For more information, see the Campus Technology blog post here.

Schoolwear: Wearable Computer Devices on the Rise


Market Research firm Gartner estimates a nearly 20% growth in wearable devices- such as smartwatches and other tools- over the next year. These devices augment information and notifications from smartphones, and are largely designed to make smartphones less intrusive by reducing the need to access them for minor notifications. At the same time, they provide a wide range of applications for students looking to integrate new study tools. They can easily be used to provide at-a-glance information about classes- Android Wear already boasts Canvas integration, for example. They also work to help students stay safe and healthy too- both smartwatches and fitness trackers like Fitbit devices include heart rate monitors and step-tracking ability, which helps remind students to stay active.

On the other hand, the emergence of wearables also poses new avenues for potential cheaters and other issues. Their small and inconspicuous nature makes them ideal for note-smuggling or other nefarious activities. The nature of wearables is wide and quickly-changing, so schools will need to ensure they stay on top of the curve to make sure wearables are a net positive for students’ education. One way or another, wearables are here to stay—and we’re just along for the ride.

For more information on this topic click here.

Students Spending Money on Online Tutoring


One of the biggest parts about going to college is balancing studying, going to class, working, personal health, and possibly a social life. This in turn makes online tutoring and study guides much more enticing compared to on-campus tutoring centers. Students are spending money on online tutoring in order to spend less time studying but get the best possible grade they can.

Schools such as Pennsylvania State University has taken notice to this growing trend. To the point that their own student government voted to “beef up” its own free tutoring options. They hope to sway students from spending money for online tutoring and take advantage of the tutoring centers that are already allocated on their campus.

Most tutoring centers, such as the University of Washington Bothell, is run by students that have already taken a course and gotten an adequate grade. Although our campus heavily advertises these resources, most campuses have tutoring centers that tend to be small and hidden.

At Penn State, the two hottest companies, LionTutors and PSUKnowHow, offer group tutoring sessions for the more popular campus courses. Which most would describe as live-active versions of CliffsNotes for the classes.

These companies are capitalizing on just reusing information that they’ve gathered from these popular classes and are enticing students to pay their way through school.

Students that use these services tend to be those that might have had to miss class or don’t completely understand the material in class. That being said, more schools need to invest more into their free tutoring centers as companies are now capitalizing on the pressure that students feel to academically succeed.

For more information on this topic click here.

Cybersecurity Update: Phishing Becoming More Frequent, Effective


As other forms of online security grow stronger, online criminals are looking more and more towards the end user as an attack vector as well as a victim. Phishing attacks, which trick the user into voluntarily giving up their personal information to a source that they think they can trust, are increasing dramatically. At the same time, these attacks are becoming more sophisticated in their ability to confuse their victims and earn their trust. For example, phishing attacks frequently take the form of fraudulent emails that tell users that their account has been compromised and that they need to reset their passwords. They then direct users to a fake website that resembles the one they expect to see and ask users to enter their credentials. Once the victim enters their username and password, attackers are free to use those to impersonate the victim. Attackers are quickly learning to trick their victims by including the victim’s name in the subject of the email, among other things. Other forms of phishing attacks could include email attachments that, when downloaded, can infect the victim’s computer.

UW has an excellent system for telling students about ongoing security issues, including emails being sent to the entire system when attacks are being reported against UW students. However, the best way to fight phishing attacks is learning the ability to tell the difference between a trustworthy and untrustworthy email. Paying close attention to spelling and grammar in a given email and looking for consistency in information given can be an effective tool to keep oneself from being tricked.

For more information on this topic click here.