Campus Technology picks HUBzero and Signals as top innovations for 2011

May 20, 2011

Campus Technology Magazine is recognizing Purdue as a campus technology innovator for HUBzero, a Web-based platform allowing researchers to collaborate using computational models to study complex problems and Signals, an early warning system that helps students succeed in their coursework.

Campus Technology selected HUBzero and Signals for two of its 2011 Campus Technology Innovators Awards. The annual awards recognize higher education institutions for initiatives in educational technology that are models for other schools. Purdue has won five of the awards since 2006, all for technologies developed by Purdue’s IT staff.

Purdue is among 10 award winners for 2011 selected out of 393 nominations from higher education institutions worldwide. This is only the second time a school has won two of the awards in one year. The winners are highlighted on and will be featured at the magazine’s Campus Technology 2011 conference July 25-28 in Boston and in its August print edition.

Gerry McCartney, Purdue's vice president for information technology, chief information officer and Olga Oesterle England Professor of Information Technology, will be a keynote speaker at the conference.

“Purdue as a whole is focused on developing cost-effective, yet innovative ways to advance student success and research beneficial to society — two essential university missions,” McCartney says. “Signals and HUBzero are technologies that support this campus-wide effort. Now, they’re available to help other colleges and universities with similar goals, without breaking the bank at a time when higher education budgets are generally shrinking, not growing.”

HUBzero makes posting and using computational tools about as easy as posting and viewing a YouTube video and brings access to high-performance and cloud computing resources as close as the Web browser. Built-in social networking features akin to Facebook create communities of researchers, practitioners, educators and students and facilitate virtual research partnerships and education.

HUBzero was originally created for, a Purdue-based international nanotechnology resource with hundreds of thousands of users. HUBzero, available in a free open source version, now supports more than 30 hubs and growing. These hubs are built around topics ranging from cancer care and environmental modeling to the study of volcanoes and engineering earthquake-resistant buildings, bridges and related structures, among other things.

“Like no other platform, HUBzero can host interactive simulation tools, so users aren't just reading about research, they can experience it and work together as they interact with this content,” says Michael McLennan, senior research scientist and hub technology architect. “Social media is a powerful new paradigm for communication. HUBzero helps people harness that power and focus it on science, engineering and other problems.”

Campus Technology Executive Editor Andrew Barbour said judges were impressed by the scope of HUBzero’s set of powerful, integrated tools as well as its international reach.

Signals applies business intelligence-style analytics — marrying large data sets, statistical techniques and predictive modeling to mine data and produce actionable intelligence — in a real-time, very early intervention system that provides students with concrete steps toward improvement in classes where they may be in danger of failing. Students start receiving a gauge of progress as early as the second week of a semester.

“Signals demonstrates how information technology can be a partner in solving key institutional challenges such as student success,” says John Campbell, ITaP associate vice president for academic technologies, a chief architect of Signals. “We’ve found this can improve student performance an average of one letter grade for many students and improve student success and retention.”

Signals, branded as Course Signals, is now available to other campuses through a Purdue partnership with SunGard Higher Education, announced in October 2010.

“Purdue's Signals provides an innovative, effective solution to one of higher education's most important challenges: student retention,” Barbour says. “We were particularly impressed with Purdue's partnership with SunGard Higher Education to make Signals available nationally, helping impact student success at institutions across the country."

It is the third year in a row Purdue has won at least one of the awards. The 2010 award was for the Community Cluster Program, a cooperative effort by faculty members and ITaP to build supercomputers that now rank Purdue’s research computing resources in the top five nationally among academic institutions. The 2009 award was for DiaGrid, a distributed computing system in which Purdue and partners on other campuses link idle computers in offices, student computing labs and elsewhere together for major research jobs. ITaP administers DiaGrid. Purdue also won in 2006 for ITaP’s visualization and virtual reality facility, the Envision Center for Data Perceptualization.

Writer: Greg Kline, science and technology writer, Information Technology at Purdue, 765-494-8167 (office), 765-426-8545 (cell),

Originally posted: May 20, 2011