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San Francisco State takes IBM Lotus Workplace to school

The school will roll out Workplace Collaboration Services for more than 40, 000 students to create an anytime-anyplace electronic community.

After a long evaluation period, San Francisco State University (SFSU) will formally roll out IBM Workplace Collaboration Services at the start of 2006 on its campus of more than 40, 000 students. The university hopes Workplace will help standardize its messaging and collaboration infrastructure in order to improve efficiency and enhance security.

After two years of examining different products on the market, Jonathan Rood, associate vice president of information technology for SFSU, said the reason SFSU chose IBM was, "a shared vision as related to the nature of the product that is evolving. "Workplace is being built on an open standard as its foundation," Rood went on to add "That is exactly where we see higher education wanting to position itself as well. When you add to that the features we wanted and that IBM is putting it all together in Workplace and WebSphere, then it became clear that our visions were totally shared and it would be a real match."

Lotus Workplace is a set of customizable online work collaboration products from IBM's Lotus division. The suite of tools consists of Workplace Messaging, Workplace Team Collaboration, Workplace Collaborative Learning and Workplace Web Content Management.

Workplace Messaging, intended to work with a company's existing e-mail infrastructure, routes mail and allows users to be managed with an existing Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) directory. Workplace Team Collaboration lets users initiate and participate in online meetings and chats and work with other members of their project team through discussion forums and document sharing. Workplace Collaborative Learning gives users access to classroom-based and e-learning activities, resources, curricula, and courseware catalogs across an enterprise. Workplace Web Content Management allows Web content to be published across multiple enterprise sites, public and private.

Rood said SFSU hopes to use this product to "fit our mission, which is education and the real learning process. These things take this to a whole new level," Rood said, "which is what we're really excited about -- not the fact that it has this feature or that, but [it's] how we use the features."

SFSU students can use this environment, for example, to register for classes on the Web and have those classes transfer directly to their central calendar. When those students could go to a class, they automatically have that class's syllabus transferred onto their calendar, including assignments, exams and more. Students will have an instant messaging buddy list for each class they are registered for available to them, and they will be able to see who in their class is online at 2 a.m. and IM that classmate to ask for help understanding some material or an assignment.

In this example, Rood said, "Studying becomes a true anytime-anyplace academic community set up electronically -- and it moves SFSU into the new millennium starting true academic electronic communities."

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