USC Upstate News

Skul And Jennings Selected As Finalists For InnoVision Awards Program

10- 27- 2009

Spartanburg, S.C. - University of South Carolina Upstate’s initiative to apply technological innovation around campus may lead to it being recognized by the InnoVision Awards Program, which focuses exclusively on celebrating achievements in innovation and technological excellence in the South Carolina Upstate 10 county region. Projects entered by Jeanne Skul, vice chancellor for information and services, and Cindy Jennings, director of instructional technology, have been selected as finalists. Award winners will be announced at a banquet on November 4 at the Carolina First Expo Center in Greenville.

Jeanne SkulSkul entered “Spartans Green Sky” in the Technology Application Award category.  “Spartans Green Sky,” a local cloud computing initiative, refers to large amounts of information and processing resources that are accessible from a local area network or wide area network, using a personal computer, cell phone or other device.

USC Upstate is using the virtual desktop services component of this initiative to reduce the number of computers in student labs that need to be upgraded and replaced annually. In the traditional student lab environment computers were on a four-year replacement cycle, with images updated annually, a process which frustrated faculty because it was difficult to add additional application software during the school year. With the new virtual desktop model, software can be tested on a virtual test server and then moved to a production server so that all computers in the lab are updated automatically upon start-up. This saves Client Services’ minimal staff an enormous amount of time and also allows them to upgrade patches and add new software in a timely manner. Another component of this project is virtualization. This software allows students to run departmental applications on their personal computers, no matter what platform or operating system they have. Instead of going to computer labs to work on specialized software, students will have the ability to work from their dorm rooms or homes via the Internet.

“This project capitalized on our efforts toward sustainability; old desktop PC’s are replaced with more energy efficient thin clients realizing a 70 percent reduction in power consumption, less heat emission and initial hardware purchase costs reduced 50 percent,” said Skul. “‘Spartan Green Sky’ will have long term benefits for teaching and learning at USC Upstate. Virtualization will allow students to work anytime, anywhere on their own computers, smart phones or other devices making better use of their assets and those of the University.”

Cindy JenningsJennings entered "The First 100 Days Project" in the Innovation in Education category. Students in "The First 100 Days Project" use digital cameras or camera phones to capture daily photographs for the first 100 days of their first semester at USC Upstate. Digital stories are then made using Microsoft Photostory 3. Instructors and students are provided with initial hands-on training with the software in a lab-setting and continuing support via a project wiki. To allow for semester-long conversation and sharing, they are provided access to additional resources like public domain copyright free or Creative Commons licensed music. The Department of Instructional Technology staff members provide additional support and consultation, as needed for this project.

“The primary purpose of the project is to provide a vehicle for engaging students through and with the technology to tell their first semester stories,” said Jennings. “The true promise of this project rests not in the technology itself, but in the way in which the technology will be utilized to encourage student reflection and engagement. It is anticipated that they will derive meaning from their experiences of connection and community building through the acts of taking and collecting the digital photographs and creating personal stories of their experiences. At the same time as students tell their own stories, additional critical skills for academic success will be developed.”

The InnoVision Awards program has been an early innovator in the South Carolina Upstate's drive to become a leader in the state's new economy. The objectives of the InnoVision Awards program include: to honor and highlight organizations and individuals that develop or apply technological innovation; to advance technical collaboration and innovation among organizations and individuals; and to honor and encourage participants and programs that engage youth in the areas of science, math, and technological innovation. To learn more, visit www.innovisionawards.org.