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ITC renivests savings into academic projects

By Dan Heuchert

Did you ever wonder what happens to the savings promised by new technology?

Well, here's at least one answer.

Information Technology and Communications recently announced that it has begun redirecting to academic projects more than $170,000 in annual administrative savings, mostly from substituting online forms for paper versions. And more money may be on the way.

Here's a sampling of the online forms available at ITC's Forms Directory at http://uvaforms.virginia.edu

There are two kinds of online forms, accessed via the Forms Directory at http://uvaforms.virginia.edu. One group can be printed and filled out as needed, thus redistributing printing costs and making it easier (and less wasteful) to update the forms. Even more efficient are some forms that can be completed online and routed to the appropriate office. The online forms reduce paper and microfiche costs and the need to pay data-entry workers.

"These are identifiable, real out-of-pocket costs," said Robert Reynolds, interim vice president for communications. ITC has identified six academic-related areas in which to reinvest. They are:

  • Enhancements to the Instructional Toolkit, totaling $22,700. The Toolkit, used by instructional faculty to create class home pages and administer and manage courses, has been incorporated into 40 percent of spring-semester course offerings.

  • Funding half of the cost a University-wide license for Adobe Acrobat, software that will ease online research proposal submissions. Several major funding agencies, including the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, have begun to require grant proposals to be submitted electronically. The Adobe Acrobat Reader, which allows users to read such documents, is freely available, but the software license to create the documents is not; ITC will split the $30,000 cost with the Office of the Vice President for Research and Public Service.

  • Enhancements to the Home Directory Service, which allows students, faculty and staff to easily store and access their files online, from a number of work stations. ITC will put $30,325 toward increasing capacity and testing new software to make using the directories even easier.

  • Enhancing and extending videoconferencing services, at a cost of $34,000. ITC is working toward enabling office-to-office videoconferencing and making it easier for guest lecturers to "appear" in classrooms without having to travel to Charlottesville.

  • Providing faculty support at the Robertson Media Center Digital Media Lab. ITC plans to spend $39,000 toward creating a shared position to support faculty instructional technology projects.

  • A $30,000 grant to the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities, for system administration and hardware and software support.

ITC officials said they expect the reinvestments to continue each year. The savings could be hugely enhanced by legislation making electronic signatures legally binding, which would allow greater use of online forms and have "a major impact on how we do business," Reynolds said.


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