As part of the quest to increase security and transparency in the directory system, members of the University’s Information and Technology Services team implemented MCommunity, a new program that launches today.

According to Janet Eaton, ITS communication documentation lead for MCommunity, the program serves as an “identity management system” that will replace the old University Online Directory and provide a more modern interface to search for information on University affiliates.

“It will provide easier access to the directory information,” Eaton said. “It will be easier to find people in groups and it will eventually be used for provisioning of computing services to students, staff and faculty so that people get the appropriate access to the services they need.”

John Gohsman, executive director of the NextGen program office — an internet technology program that aims to advance computing services for University members — echoed Eaton’s sentiment and said utilizing MCommunity will be “a really easy transition” for students and provide a simpler forum for University members seeking contact information.

“(It will have) better usability, better accessibility for students with disabilities and there are some other things planned that I think will benefit students down the road, but I think those will probably be transparent to students as well as it goes to the point of provisioning computing resources,” Gohsman said.

As part of their initiative to make the directory more user-friendly, Dana Fair, web marketing and communications specialist at the University, said ITS engaged with groups on campus to garner feedback about how they would like the program changed.

“In the onset (ITS) had input from students so they were able to get their feedback before they actually moved into this,” Fair said. “Students were actually able to say what they wanted.”

According to Gohsman, development of the program originally started in the fall, but design work started before then as part of the University’s plan to update the older interface, which was originally created in the 1990s.

In addition to providing easier accessibility for students, the University aims to increase privacy for students by hiding home addresses and phone numbers by default and instead having students and faculty members enter this information themselves, which is different from the old system.

Gohsman said the updated service will also automatically remove non-affiliates from the directory by utilizing human resources and alumni systems to ensure that only true University members can use computing resources. However, it will provide a sponsor system that will allow people who aren’t a part of the University “through normal channels” to receive access, such as visiting lecturers.

He added identity management has been particularly difficult for institutions of higher education as opposed to the corporate world since often time professionals and students come from all over the nation for brief periods of times to engage in research endeavors.

“Our researchers interact with a lot of researchers from other institutions, so it brings in some different challenges around affiliation,” Gohsman said.

He added this has been a problem plaguing much of higher education, and the University has been collaborating with other universities to pursue the best method of action.

“Higher education has been grappling with this issue and we’re part of a number of consortiums across higher education trying to think about this,” he said. “So we’ve been working with (universities) extensively on this over the years to the point we’re implementing (identity management programs) a little bit quicker than others.”

-Marisa Winter and Carissa Flocken contributed to this report

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