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Academica-ESP to be Featured at EDUCAUSE Conference

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Each fall, the EDUCAUSE Annual Conference showcases the best and brightest in higher education and technology. At this year’s event in Indianapolis, the innovative portal application, Academica-ESP, will be featured during a presentation by Joseph Sawasky, Merit Network president and chief executive officer, and Daren Hubbard, Wayne State University (WSU) interim chief information officer.

Developed by Wayne State University, Academica-ESP is an enterprise social portal that spurs collaboration and extends beyond traditional portal features. The application was created to replace an aging system at WSU and was deployed in the fall of 2014.
'Universities can benefit from Academica-ESP by cultivating a new digital culture on campuse, connecting students, faculty, and staff through modern social networking.' Joseph Sawasky, Merit Network
“Wayne State was utilizing a legacy portal that had reached the end of its life, and we had no confidence in the replacement offered by the vendor,” Daren Hubbard said. “The legacy portal was developed in the 1990’s and unfortunately the replacement retained all of its worst aspects (slow performance, no mobile support, etc.) and added little in innovative or modern capabilities. Seeing this, we felt we could do better. Our approach was to develop a portal with all the must-have functionality like single sign-on to enterprise tools and mobile support built in, while integrating new social tools that have become so ubiquitous today. And while there was risk with this approach, the rewards we have realized have been tremendous, in terms of application performance and end user acceptance and adoption.”

“The response has been overwhelmingly positive,” Hubbard added. “Even those who were initially resistant to change have come around and are embracing the new functionality. We have been particularly impressed with the student acceptance and usage—they have been quick to adopt it. It has exceeded our expectations!”

WSU is collaborating with Merit to provide Academica-ESP to schools throughout Michigan and beyond. The collaboration reflects the missions of both organizations. Wayne State is a research university that develops innovative technologies, while Merit is a non-profit that provides enterprise applications and technology services to its Members, including public universities, private colleges and community colleges.

“Universities can benefit from Academica-ESP by cultivating a new digital culture on campus, connecting students, faculty, and staff through modern social networking—however, doing it in a secure way, avoiding the many known privacy pitfalls associated with trying to use ‘free’ commercial services like Facebook and Twitter for university communications,” said Joseph Sawasky. “There is much untapped collaboration potential on virtually every campus, and WSU wanted to help unleash and actualize that power.”

Academica-ESP connects campus users together via two-way, real-time collaboration, an essential function for any 21st century portal. Academica-ESP’s message streams function like Facebook or Twitter, allowing open conversation between students, faculty and staff. Message streams grow organically, and incoming students are immediately engaged in discussion, even before they step foot on campus. The application becomes part of the fabric of the university experience. It engages users from any location, using any device. Academica-ESP supports all popular authentication systems and can be easily customized and branded to match the identity of a university.

“Academica-ESP is unique among portal solutions, in that it does all the old things portals do (single sign-on to other enterprise applications, for example), but melds private social networking features and elegant personalized navigation features. The underlying technology is beautiful, in that it allows the application itself to self-scale up cloud resources to meet spiky demand. It is a CIO’s dream. Also, Academica-ESP was built as a mobile-first application, working on all common mobile devices and web browsers,” Sawasky stated.

Privacy is a concern for many university administrators, and Academica-ESP utilizes an Internet Protocol Security (IPsec) tunnel to connect to a university’s campus. IPsec provides secure end-to-end communications by authenticating and encrypting each IP packet of a communication session, ensuring Academica-ESP users complete privacy.

You can see the presentation Academica: A 21st-Century Enterprise Social Portal for Education Communities at the EDUCAUSE Annual Conference in Indianapolis, Indiana on Wednesday, October 28, 2015 from 2:30 p.m. to 3:20 p.m. ET in meeting room 138 – 139.

If you are interested in Academica-ESP for your academic institution, please contact Joseph Sawasky at [email protected] or Daren Hubbard at [email protected].

About Wayne State University

Founded in 1868, Wayne State University is a nationally recognized metropolitan research institution offering more than 370 academic programs through 13 schools and colleges to nearly 28,000 students. Wayne State’s main campus in Midtown Detroit comprises 100 buildings over 200 acres; its six extension centers offer higher education to students throughout Southeast Michigan.

Wayne State is dedicated to preparing students to excel by combining the academic excellence of a major research university with the practical experience of an institution that by its history, location and diversity represents a microcosm of the world we live in.

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About Merit Network

Merit Network Inc., is a nonprofit corporation owned and governed by Michigan’s public universities. Merit owns and operates America’s longest-running regional research and education network. In 1966, Michigan’s public universities created Merit as a shared resource to help meet their common need for networking assistance. Since its formation, Merit Network has remained at the forefront of research and education networking expertise and services. Merit provides high-performance networking and IT solutions to Michigan’s public universities, colleges, K-12 organizations, libraries, state government, healthcare, and other non-profit organizations.

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