Innovation Happens When CIO, Faculty Collaborate

Susan Nunziata, Director of Editorial | 12/19/2012 | 17 comments

Susan Nunziata
When a higher education CIO takes time to collaborate with faculty and administrators, the resulting innovations can have far-reaching effects.

Such is the case at Clemson University. The creation of a Social Media Listening Center (SMLC) was a direct result of the school's CIO collaborating with faculty, according to Jason Thatcher, an associate professor of management, who serves as the center's academic lead.

"Typically, my colleagues looked at IT as wallpaper," Thatcher told us during Dell World 2012 this month in Austin, Texas. "Now, the academic parts of the university are collaborating with the CIO.

In a February press release, Clemson explained what the SMLC does:

The center enables students to monitor thousands of online conversations about organizations, brands, products and services on a global scale in real time. This allows for sophisticated review, routing and response to social media posts and content.

Clemson CIO Jim Bottum said in the release that he learned about a social media listening center during a visit to Dell's headquarters in 2011. He proposed a partnership that would involve student engagement, faculty research, and an environment to test the value of the center in helping an IT organization move into a proactive service position.

"When I returned to campus and talked to faculty, students and staff about the Social Media Listening Center, I sensed a very high level of interest and excitement -- more so about this project than any other technology we've undertaken at Clemson," Bottum said. "They were from a wide range of disciplines, too, including business, communication studies, psychology, marketing, computing and others. The center is inherently interdisciplinary and focuses on an area where all students and a growing segment of our population lives: social media."

According to Clemson, the SMLC has six large display screens that faculty and students monitor, making it similar to a small network operations center. Salesforce Radian6 provides the platform to listen, discover, measure, and engage in conversations across the Web by capturing more than 150 million sources of social media conversations, including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, and blogs. The Radian6 summary dashboard provides a graphic display of social media content to convey sentiment, share of voice, trend information, geolocation data, and more.

Thatcher said the SMLC is just one example of how Bottum, who joined the school about five years ago, has bridged the divide between faculty and IT. The first step was addressing a decentralized IT organization that was siloed in different university departments. Bottum centralized the IT organization under a more cogent management structure, and the benefits were immediately felt on campus, Thatcher said. For example, IT built its infrastructure on a condo-style model that's shared across departments. If there's spare processing power, any department can utilize it. "When you learn to share resources, it's a very different approach."

Persistent workaday problems were also addressed. The frequent email outages ceased, and network limitations were resolved. Most importantly, Bottum "gets that teaching matters."

As a result, the entire IT organization "now understands the faculty's needs better," Thatcher said. "They truly understand that when email goes down, it's not just an inconvenience. It disrupts important research projects. The CIO believes in customer service. It's now much easier for me to reach out and touch IT."

The greatest benefit to date has come via the SMLC, which has attracted corporate CIOs from around the country to tour the facility and consider ways to engage the university in using the tools for brand research. "We've had 41 companies come through for tours so far," Thatcher said.

The university's technology advances have also attracted top-notch faculty to work at Clemson, he said. "I've had faculty who say they come to work here because of our computing environment."

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Syerita Turner   Innovation Happens When CIO, Faculty Collaborate   1/2/2013 11:13:33 AM
Re: Many good ideas come from collaboration
I agree that learning the best practices surrounding a concept will prove to be helpful in using it to its maximum benefit in the future.
MDMConsult   Innovation Happens When CIO, Faculty Collaborate   1/1/2013 2:27:22 AM
Re: Innovation Happens When CIO, Faculty Collaborate
Yes, Collaboration should be confronted with good communication. Confidence and independence should be instilled. Everyone makes mistakes in the learning process but the ability to confront, make the right decisions, talking it through will benefit in the long term.
michaelsumastre   Innovation Happens When CIO, Faculty Collaborate   1/1/2013 1:18:30 AM
Re: Many good ideas come from collaboration
@Syerita:

 

Also, I can already foresee that the program teaches everyone, especially the kids, how to be more responsible in social media and networking websites. For one, they know that someone is monitoring them. Second, they themselves become involved in the gathering and collaboration of data, so they know how information from social media can be both positive and not, depending on what's being said, how it's shared, and how it's being interpreted. Third, they will realize that social media is powerful and can be useful for positive reasons. They can actually do their share in making their campus life way better by using such tools.
michaelsumastre   Innovation Happens When CIO, Faculty Collaborate   1/1/2013 1:15:18 AM
Re: How are the online conversations screened??
@rdv:

 

I'd like to think that monitoring or management happens on a daily basis and that there are not a lot of students in the school compared to other academes within the area. If not, not all students regular tweet or go online to use social media or social network. Also, based on what Sara said, they monitor only those that are very specific to Clemson. So anything generic is not aggregated or stored. Of course, there a good number of students to handle the data, so the workload may be bearable. 
michaelsumastre   Innovation Happens When CIO, Faculty Collaborate   1/1/2013 1:12:22 AM
Re: student engagement
That's great, Sara! I know that these adults can already very well take care of their own, but it would make them as well as their parents feel more comfortable when they know they are accepted into the community. This hopefully then reduces the effects of bullying, which is basically happenings across all levels. But isn't that a bit intrusive? I hope the students wouldn't think the way. It's truly a nice sweet gesture at their end, after all. 
michaelsumastre   Innovation Happens When CIO, Faculty Collaborate   1/1/2013 1:06:28 AM
Innovation Happens When CIO, Faculty Collaborate
If only all types of organizations, not just businesses, are going to do this or collaborate, then the entire world will surely be a much better place. It's very interesting to note that one of such initiatives should come from the academe, which isn't IT centric in the first place. The collaboration allows all parties to learn from one another and that for me is such a rewarding experience. I wouldn't be surprised at all if many students and professors would want to join the program just to get additional learning. 
Syerita Turner   Innovation Happens When CIO, Faculty Collaborate   12/26/2012 1:26:28 PM
Re: Many good ideas come from collaboration
Interesting and good to see that the school is taking an approach to more intergration of technology to assist students with the communication between professor and student. More students will be amped to participate in discussion boards and group discussions using technology than in person situations. I applaud this and hope other schools are looking to follow along in their approach to learning.
sohaibmasood   Innovation Happens When CIO, Faculty Collaborate   12/23/2012 8:36:18 AM
Re: Many good ideas come from collaboration
Salik, students spend a lot of time these days on social media. If it provides them an opportunity to learn as well as interact at the same time, I think it will only help them groom. 
sohaibmasood   Innovation Happens When CIO, Faculty Collaborate   12/23/2012 8:35:03 AM
Re: student engagement
MDMConsult, I would just like to add another point to your very well written comment. 

Social media also provides positive reinforcement. Other students in other parts of the world will also have a model to relate to and hence if a similar thing is initiated there they would readily respond to it. 
MDMConsult   Innovation Happens When CIO, Faculty Collaborate   12/21/2012 7:49:53 AM
Re: student engagement
It is great. And for students social media messages such as these will make them feel at ease and comfortable during the process. Social Media encourages positive engagement, contribute thoughts, learn online and stay further connected with their school. Transitions like these are milestones for students. Having the school support the process through social is excellent.
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