FPG ITS: Providing creative and cutting-edge support to FPG’s Projects
The Information Technology Services (ITS) core of the UNC Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute (FPG) supplies a wide range of services to support and strengthen the projects, programs, and research endeavors of FPG investigators and partners. The ITS core provides FPG with traditional IT support including an in-house help desk, data collection support, and hardware and software assistance. The team includes a web services division that offers FPG and other campus units high-end web design and development as well as eLearning modules done in conjunction with Wendy Morgan, PhD, FPG’s instructional design strategist, all tailored to the needs of each project.
ITS director Jeff Alpi, MS, says that his team is distinguished by the vast array of services, attention to detail, and level of customization provided. FPG’s web services group implements creative designs and a range of user experiences to serve each project’s needs, with the goal of creating completely customized sites, with content that is engaging and easy to understand. Julie Chin, ITS education technology specialist, creates customized logos, color palettes, and layouts for projects, tailoring these for each project. “The projects we do are unique to each investigator, and they can put their own stamp on their site through their collaboration with us,” says Alpi.
That collaboration starts with an ITS team member engaging with the principal investigator of a project to create a scope of work, including wire framing, color palettes, among other customizations. The eight ITS core members—a team focused on the customer experience—take the time needed to understand the nature of each customer’s problem and then provide specialized service tailored to be the best solution. For web services, this results in a wide variety of websites ranging from informational sites, designed to showcase a project’s resources, to interactive sites with modules that facilitate eLearning. Team members have expanded into providing both video services and animation in sites they create.
Last winter, the team launched the redesign of FPG’s own website, after a collaborative process with the Institute’s communications team, resulting in a more user-friendly site that reflects the organization’s new brand strategy. The project, managed by Lead Web Developer Andrea Ross, also included a new intranet site for FPG, which enables the delivery of materials for internal users, a system for HR to manage information, and a grant proposal pipeline.
Working with the UNC School of Medicine, ITS created the website for the ELGAN (Extremely Low Gestational Age Newborns) Study. This site reflects ITS’s skills in graphic design and web design, with an engaging interface and accessible graphics. With programmers from FPG’s Data Management and Analysis core involved in data collection for this project, the ITS core is also responsible for configuring the data collection devices being used in study sites across the country, managing the devices’ security settings and offering compliance training in the field.
Ross contributes to an ongoing partnership with Morehead Planetarium and Science Center for which she manages the website for the organization’s annual NC Science Festival. ITS also partnered with Morehead—along with UNC's Center for the Study of the American South, Carolina K-12, and the UNC School of Education—on “Understanding the American South.” FPG’s ITS provided web development and support in the creation of this innovative new project, which offers K-12 teachers access to high-quality lesson plans and resources for teaching about the American South and related themes.
ITS created FPG’s most-used resource, Autism Focused Intervention Resources and Models (AFIRM), a dynamic site providing educational modules, videos, interactive assessments, resources, and materials. The websites for FPG’s Equity Research Action Coalition, State Implementation and Scaling-Up of Evidenced-based Practices, and FRONTIER all showcase the creativity and talent of the ITS team.
There are several projects in the ITS pipeline including a collaborative website between an FPG researcher and UNC’s Department of Allied Health Sciences. For this collaboration, ITS is providing customization of the web site as well as the instructional design component. ITS offers a Learning Record Store (LRS), which Alpi describes as a giant database that collects thousands of interactions as users explore online modules. Given that LRS is a new area of technology, unused by most researchers, it allows ITS to stay on the cutting edge.
“Our team focuses on doing different types of work—ranging from implementation science to child development to health—with different target audiences, along with budgets that range from small to large,” says Chin. “Regardless of the project, we always provide the best service we can.”