Initiative 14: Communication and Collaboration Tools

Cultivate a more engaged, connected, and collaborative campus community through the use of state-of-the-art technologies.

Achieving Top Tier goals requires a rich, robust communication and collaboration environment. At the foundation of that is the development of technologies to foster communication, engagement, and collaboration. The innovative use of an evolving array of technologies will enable UNLV to:

  • Enhance communication by conveying the university's story using a variety of creative methods including new media, social networking, direct marketing, video, print, web, email, and news outlets
  • Enrich engagement by facilitating broad participation, soliciting feedback, and increasing transparency for its many constituents on and off campus
  • Increase collaboration by supporting interdisciplinary teams to investigate, study, and work together more effectively

>Enhanced Communication

A new, comprehensive University Communications Strategic Plan (UCSP) is under development. At the core of the plan is the desire to portray UNLV to its many internal and external audiences in a polished, consistent manner using multiple communication channels. The plan will advance brand identity, broaden awareness of programs and priorities, enhance and protect UNLV's public image and reputation, and increase the visibility of university programs across key audiences.

New communication technologies, policies, standards, and programs will be needed to assist university units in aligning their communication and marketing efforts with the university’s evolving communication strategy. UNLV needs to provide:

  • Tools to consolidate, coordinate, and analyze the impact of multiple social media platforms
  • Assistance in meeting existing standards for official UNLV web pages to improve ease of use for both on and off campus constituents
  • Additional resources for web page development in academic departments
  • New policies, procedures, and programmatic efforts to protect and strengthen the campus brand
  • Tools to ensure consistent and timely distribution of emergency messages (e.g., emergency notification system, email, social media, portals, digital signage, etc.)
  • Standardization and expansion of the technology used for digital signage on the campus to allow for the distribution of campus-wide messaging
  • Implementation of an enterprise-wide video streaming solution

Difficulty managing the number of new communication venues and the increasing volume of communications across all venues were significant challenges mentioned by students, faculty, and staff during the IT master plan assessment. New tools that allow university units to target communications to specialized audiences will make communications more impactful. Providing tools that allow individuals to filter the messages they receive and customize how they choose to receive them will empower the recipients to choose how they are informed.

The development of portals for both students and employees will allow individuals to create electronic workspaces that consolidate the information and the applications important to them. While all students and employees will receive emergency and official communications, individuals will be able to tailor communications based on their disciplines and/or areas of interest.

Furthermore, new tools needed to enhance internal and external communication must allow accessibility via mobile devices. Support for mobile access requires enhancements to the campus infrastructure including:

  • A more robust wireless environment (See Initiative 11)
  • New security measures to accommodate unique features of mobile devices (See Initiative 8)
  • Role-based access to UNLV applications and information from mobile devices (See Initiative 10)

Enhanced Engagement

Conveying audience-specific information and creating feedback opportunities are central to UNLV’s ability to engage its many communities. Existing communication channels need to be enhanced and additional tools procured to improve UNLV’s interaction with targeted constituent groups. Campus communication tools must:

  • Integrate easily with existing campus survey tools
  • Offer multiple feedback solicitation options
  • Be accessible from the most commonly used mobile devices
  • Interface with Customer Relationship Management applications to coordinate communications with target audiences
  • Include assessment tools to measure the impact of engagement across channels and audiences

Strengthening engagement also includes providing timely information to multiple constituent groups who are seeking transparency and accountability. Dashboards are a powerful tool for conveying targeted information, assisting with decision-making, and soliciting feedback. UNLV has multiple tools to create dashboards. Currently those tools are underutilized. The university should offer:

  • Greater access to the tools used to develop dashboards
  • Training on how to create effective dashboards
  • Programming assistance for complex dashboards and/or access to enterprise systems
  • Assistance in creating real-time data feeds to ensure currency of information
  • Guidelines from university communications on branding
  • Assistance with usability testing
  • Security measures to ensure protection of personally identifiable data
  • Guidance in utilizing dashboard analytic tools to assess effectiveness

The development of a Community Dashboard to communicate UNLV’s success to key constituents is one of the measures of success in achieving the Top Tier Community Partnership Goal. The dashboard will contain metrics such as:

  • Incoming admissions statistics, student learning outcomes, and graduation rates
  • Number and types of community partnerships formed
  • Employment data for UNLV graduates
  • Numbers of patents filed, startups created, and startups sustained
  • Success of athletic programs and academic success among student athletes
  • Results from community satisfaction surveys

Providing services to assist in the creation of additional dashboards around other topics of community interest would enhance transparency and increase community engagement. Other possible dashboards topics could include:

  • The status of major campus planning initiatives
  • Efforts associated with maintaining and enhancing Minority Serving Institution and Hispanic Serving Institution status
  • Progress on the development of a world-class medical school and the availability and quality of all of UNLV’s clinical services

Enhanced Collaboration

As the campus embarks on its efforts to improve internal and external communications and increase engagement, there is also a need to support new ways for campus constituents to collaborate. In the absence of enterprise-wide options, a variety of collaboration tools are emerging throughout the campus. While each campus entity has unique needs, the proliferation of different products to meet similar objectives makes it more difficult for collaboration between entities. Furthermore, individuals involved in multiple collaborations are using multiple tools, making it more difficult for them to organize and manage their work.

Based on a campus assessment and subsequent conversations with campus groups, it would be efficient and cost effective for UNLV to standardize on the following types of collaboration tools:

  • Web conferencing (e.g., WebEx, GoToMeeting, Zoom)
  • Teleconferencing (e.g., SoundConnect, Adobe Connect)
  • Teamwork facilitation (e.g., Box, Trello)

Expanding Use of Existing Collaboration Tools

In addition to introducing new campus-wide technologies to assist with collaboration efforts, expanding use of existing technologies is a viable and cost effective option for meeting UNLV’s collaboration needs. For example, the use of WebCampus, the campus learning management system, could be expanded to assist with online components of recruiting, orientation, committee work, training, and professional development needs. UNLV has also made significant strides in adopting integrated cloud-based software. See Table 14-1.

Table 14-1: New UNLV Cloud-based Productivity Suites
Adopted New Software Change
October 2014 Google Apps for Education Employee email moved from Lotus Notes
January 2015 Microsoft Office 365 Individual desktop productivity applications moved to a suite of applications in the cloud
August 2015 Adobe Creative Cloud Individual desktop creative applications moved to a suite of applications in the cloud

These cloud-based services support the way students and employees do their work, enabling users to access their productivity tools anywhere, anytime, and on multiple devices. The new software also makes it easier to share, comment on, and edit files collaboratively. There are a total of 43 new applications in the new cloud-based suites (see Tables 14-2 to 14-4). The full potential of all the applications is yet to be realized by the campus. 

Table 14-2: Google Apps for Education
Icon Application Icon Application Icon Application Icon Application
Mail Groups Docs Search
Calendar Sites Sheets    
Contacts Drive Slides    
Table 14-3: Microsoft Office 365
Icon Application Icon Application Icon Application Icon Application
Word Online Excel Online PowerPoint Online OneNote Online
Video Delve OneDrive Newsfeed
Sway Sites Class Notebook Staff Notebook
Table 14-4: Adobe Create Cloud
Icon Application Icon Application Icon Application Icon Application
Acrobat Pro After Effects CC Audition CC Bridge CC
Dreamweaver CC Edge Animate CC Extension Manager CC Fireworks
Flash Builder Premium Flash Professional CC Illustrator CC InCopy CC
InDesign CC Lightroom CC Media Encoder Muse CC
Photoshop CC Prelude CC Premier Pro CC Scout CC
SpeedGrade CC            

Together the suites put into the hands of all students, faculty, and staff the same productivity, communication, and collaboration tools. The shared applications create new opportunities for collaboration and make it possible to provide more comprehensive help with use.

While additional tools will still be needed by organizational units and campus groups, the campus community should take advantage of available tools whenever possible. Awareness campaigns, training, and peer-to-peer presentations highlighting how all the new tools can be used to support learning objectives, teamwork, individual productivity, and administrative efficiency are recommended.

Providing the Underlying Infrastructure - Governance

The strong overlap between the communication needs identified through the IT master planning process and the technology-dependent components of the University Communications Strategic Plan underscores the importance of close coordination between the entities involved in both efforts. To provide that coordination, the governance structures proposed in Initiative 1 include representatives from the units reporting to the Senior Associate Vice President for University Marketing, Communications, and Brand Strategy on the Technology Advisory Committee (TAC) and the Technology Review Board (TRB). That representation should provide a strong and persistent voice in determining campus technology projects and priorities. Moreover, it is recommended that technology specialists with expertise in communication and collaboration tools be represented on the groups created to implement the emerging strategic communication plan.

Furthermore, implementation of the IT project review and purchasing processes outlined in Initiative 4 will ensure that new technologies required to support the strategic communications plan will have the underlying infrastructure needed for implementation, work well with existing campus systems, and have the help-with-use support to ease adoption.

Providing the Underlying Infrastructure - Unified Communications

A strategically determined set of technologies to improve and enrich the ways the campus community shares information internally and with its many external constituents should be complemented by the ability to receive the most timely and interactive messages across multiple devices and different media types.

In a Unified Communications environment, synchronous (e.g., a phone call) and non-synchronous communications (e.g., voice mail, email) converge. Individuals can send messages on one medium and the recipients can receive the communications in a variety of media. For example, if a phone call is made when the intended recipient is online, the products that comprise the Unified Communications solution can detect that the individual is available for communication (e.g., instant messaging in available mode). When the communication arrives the individual can engage in a text chat, a video chat, or a phone call on a traditional phone, a cell phone, or a computer through a network phone application. If an individual is not available, a message can be left as a voice mail and accessed via a cell phone or through a voice-to-text translation and sent to a text number and/or an email account.

At UNLV the ability to provide Unified Communication services is dependent on interfacing voice and data services offered through Telecommunications (Telecom) and through OIT’s Network Development and Engineering group (NDE). As voice and data technologies have converged, the services provided by the two units overlap. However, the approach to offering these services differs significantly and requires coordination between the two units that often strains limited resources in both groups.

While there is strong agreement that UNLV should provide Unified Communications, there is no agreed-upon and documented strategy for creating that environment. Consequently, each group proceeds cooperatively but independently towards its vision. Recently, the two groups agreed to create one position in each unit that has overlapping expertise with the other unit. While these two positions will help the two groups keep the interdependent technologies working, the effort is not sufficient. The Telecom group and the NDE group need to be merged. The merger will facilitate the university’s ability to deliver the full complement of Unified Communications services. The effort is particularly important for the development of more comprehensive and coordinated emergency communications.

As the new CIO seeks to create efficiencies and optimize services (see Initiative 3), consideration of the best organizational alignment of the units providing voice and data services is an important priority to address as early as feasible.

Initiative Owner

  • Chief Information Officer

Consultative Role

  • Technology Advisory Committee
  • Technology Review Board
  • Office of the Senior Associate Vice President for Integrated Marketing Communications, Brand Strategy and Digital Presence

Budget Estimate

Three new positions are required to support UCSP initiatives, two in units reporting to the Senior Associate Vice President for University Marketing, Communications, and Brand Strategy and one in OIT. An additional position is required to assist academic departments with web page development. The salary range is $68,000 to $73,000 before benefits.

Social media dashboards and content managers to consolidate, coordinate, and analyze the impact of social media platforms range between $10,000 and $15,000 annually, depending on the number of users accessing the tools.

Video streaming solutions range from $50,000 to $75,000 if strict content deletion schedules are followed, more if materials must be kept for long periods of time.

Portal development will cost $150,000 one-time for initial implementation and require one new position with a salary range of $60,000 to $70,000 before benefits. Assuming existing contracts could be utilized, no additional annual fees are anticipated.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) costs depend on whether a single tool will meet multiple needs. Use of cloud-based applications will eliminate the need for hardware. Implementation services will be required for the most sophisticated solutions.

The Community Dashboard and other dashboards are likely to be developed by current staff using existing business intelligence and reporting tools.

The web conferencing application will require a site license costing $50,000 to $100,000 annually.

The teleconferencing services are likely to be paid by the entities that use the services; however, brokering a single provider for the services will help keep costs low.

Annual costs for teamwork facilitation tools will be in the $30,000 to $80,000 range depending on the size of the deployment.

Annual costs for video content management software to maintain UNLV’s video assets are approximately $50,000 annually.

The costs associated with ensuring communication and collaboration tools are usable in mobile environments need to be included in the development of the mobile strategy (see Initiative 11).

Merging the units responsible for the delivery of the voice and data infrastructure on campus is not likely to produce any costs savings but will optimize limited resources to create an easier-to-manage converged infrastructure and provide more seamless services.

New Positions: 4 FTE; Total One-time and Recurring Costs FY16-FY19: $2,314,575

Action Items to Implement Initiative

  1. Implement tools to consolidate, coordinate, and analyze the impact of new social media efforts.
  2. Provide assistance for meeting official UNLV web pages standards.
  3. Increase assistance for web page development in academic departments.
  4. Standardize and enhance campus-wide digital signage services.
  5. Expand video streaming solution enterprise-wide.
  6. Implement a student portal with single sign-on allowing access to multiple campus applications.
  7. Implement an employee portal with single sign-on allowing access to multiple campus applications.
  8. Provide integrations for Customer Relations Management tools.
  9. Support dashboard development.
  10. Adopt enterprise-wide web conferencing, teleconferencing, and teamwork facilitation solutions.
  11. Extend the use of the learning management system beyond course delivery.
  12. Offer awareness campaigns and training on using cloud-based tools to support collaboration.
  13. Merge the units that provide the infrastructure for voice and data services.

Anticipated Benefits

  • UNLV's public image and reputation is enhanced and protected.
  • Increased visibility of university programs across key audiences.
  • Increased ability to manage multiple social media platforms.
  • Customized portals enable students and employees to effectively manage information.
  • Consistent and timely distribution of emergency messages improves campus safety.
  • More effective communication through targeted messaging.
  • Enhanced ability to engage targeted constituent groups.
  • Improved collaboration by deploying new enterprise-wide collaboration tools.
  • Increased teamwork, productivity, and administrative efficiency by maximizing the utilization of existing communication and collaboration tools.
  • Access to a robust Unified Communications environment at UNLV.

Measures of Success

  • Satisfaction with tools to optimize internal and external communication.
  • Additional traffic on campus social media sites.
  • More consistency across campus web pages.
  • Satisfaction with web page development services.
  • Increased use of digital signage on campus.
  • Increase in targeted messages and a decrease in broadcast messages.
  • Satisfaction with new dashboards.
  • Number of new enterprise-wide collaboration tools.
  • Increased use of existing enterprise-wide productivity, communication, and collaboration tools.
  • Increase in converged voice and data communication services.

Contextual Information

Peer Institution Research

Arizona State University (ASU) has four methods for conference calling. Each method is provided by a different system. The systems have varying capabilities (e.g., moderator and/or use passcodes or no passcodes at all; scheduled or impromptu) and limitations (e.g., number of users varies from 6 to 48; some can only be used with certain types of telephones). A comprehensive guide to the services including a short video comparing the systems and online instructions for use of each system has been created.

For web conferencing, ASU has secured a campus license for Adobe Connect, an enterprise web conferencing solution for online meetings, eLearning, and webinars. The service is licensed for faculty and staff use only. However, students and guests may participate in sessions hosted by a faculty or staff member.