The University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, is a public research university in Minneapolis and Saint Paul, Minnesota that caters to almost 70,000 students.
Given the sheer number of people studying at the university, as well as professors and other admin staff, its web platform needed to be strong enough to accommodate all these people plus independent sites for its five separate campuses.
And so it made sure it did. Drupal, the standard platform used by all campuses, departments, students and organisations affiliated with the university, has created harmony across the entire university and is cohesively supporting the digital initiatives led by various departments as well as all secure interactions between users.
A centralised platform, Drupal is user-friendly, maintained by one central web team, and much easier to maintain than the university’s former central platform, Oracle Universal Content Management system.
The first UMN Drupal site went live in August 2014, and by mid-2015, more than 140 university Drupal sites had gone live, with more than 200 others in development.
The merits of the platform aside, the technology resources available on the platform are invaluable. Here are some ways they can be used while on campus:
- Develop your own website
Be it for a university group, an academic project, a social initiative, or for a specific subject, the University of Minnesota funds a local instance of Drupal Enterprise and Drupal Lite at no charge to UMN faculty, staff and students.
Though some basic web knowledge is required (such as importing media into a website, creating website navigation, and for those using Drupal Enterprise, coding skills) once you get the gist of it, it really is very easy and an effective way of conveying information.
- Use Scalar
Free to all University of Minnesota students, Scalar is a web publishing platform designed to facilitate individual or group creation of books, articles, or other digital projects - it supports a wide variety of media file formats.
This resource is perfect for scholarly publishing, and can be used for teaching, research, or creative projects.
- Create an online exhibit with Omeka
Another free-to-use platform, Omeka allows groups or individuals to create digital exhibitions or collections.
Perfectly suited to fine arts students, Omeka can be used for teaching, research or creative projects, and can be used by an individual or as many contributors as desired.
- Google Sites for project management
A commonly used Google application designed for producing websites, this resource is also supported by the University Of Minnesota platform. It offers a ton of theme choices, a variety of access settings and, best of all, can be used by as many contributors as needed.
- IP proxy for researching and accessing knowledge-based contents
The University of Minnesota offers for its users to research and access as many informative contents from its knowledge-based panel as possible.
Although a user may be temporarily blocked for attempting to access a particular content many times within a short time frame, this can be avoided with the use of a residential IP proxy to mask your IP details.
This way, students can research, access and utilize information from the platform without getting blocked or restricted.
- Canvas for building and accessing course material
Though this one is limited to faculty and staff, Canvas is worth mentioning for its capacity to supplement face-to-face learning. An online platform that enables course content to be taught digitally, Canvas offers additional learning tools for students and teachers alike.
For students, the beauty of Canvas is that it allows them to communicate with instructors and classmates and receive notifications via email, text, or social media, and remain organised at all times: they can see an overview of recent activities, tasks, and due dates across all their Canvas courses on the main dashboard.
For teachers, canvas can help streamline the grading process, simplify course creation, automate tasks such as populating the syllabus, and use web analytics to see how students interact with course content.