The Division of Information Technology
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Tuesday, February 9, 2010
Academic Support Services Subcommittee Report
Staff of the Division of Information Technology (DoIT) continues to excel in the division goal of creating a “world class” technology organization dedicated to supporting the mission and goals of the institution. Several examples of this include the dedication to providing quality technology-enhanced teaching environments as exemplified by the University Media Center staff through their work of installing new and expanded technologies into numerous teaching classrooms on campus. Another example is the teamwork and dedication to excellence exemplified by the DoIT Applications team in their partnership with Business Affairs offices in bringing payroll services to the UNCP campus. The Client Services team of DoIT created a task force to address semester startup issues for faculty, staff and students and their work resulted in a seamless beginning of the spring, 2010 semester. The DoIT Budget and Planning area is supporting over 900 courses within Blackboard, the most ever, while planning the transition to a new Blackboard 9 version. The Interactive Video Facility is facilitating a large increase in video-based classes and through the addition of new technologies, is now connecting to more diverse video locations in support of new class locations promoting institutional outreach efforts. Networking and Operations, while short staffed, continue to rollout services to the greater campus including Unified Messaging and the expanded use of server virtualization. Other examples and additional projects underway and supported by DoIT staff are discussed in this document.
University Media Center
Media Center staff members Warren Love, Andrea Branch and Brock Brayboy remained active during December and January with classroom equipment upgrades and replacement. Classroom technology upgrade projects include installing large Starboard technology in Lowery Building in partnership with the Department of Social Work. The partnership will extend to include installation of the technology in all classrooms in the Social Work area. In partnership with several Arts and Sciences Departments in Oxendine Building, an additional seven Smartboard technology units are ordered and will be install in Oxendine classrooms. This is a result of the Media Center partnership with the School of Education that introduced the technology through its support of teacher education programs. Additional classroom upgrades continue in Oxendine Building to replace older technologies using the standard classroom model as developed by the Arts and Sciences Technology Committee and funded by Academic Affairs and the building departments. This work should be completed during the week of spring break. Director Warren Love also addressed classroom technology issues in Business and over the holiday break, engaged a vendor to address issues in six classrooms in Sampson Building as well as replaced damaged equipment in one classroom.
Under the leadership of Cindy Saylor, feedback and statistics show the beginning of the spring semester was exceptionally smooth due greatly to the work of the Back-to-School Task Force. The Task Force members Wanda Hunt, Wes Frazier, Michael Pruitt, Crystal Barton, Charles Kearney and others created information welcome packet for new students, staffed tables in the UC to answer questions and handle issues, while streamlining back-to-school procedures. A back-to-school call tree was organized, the Helpdesk schedule updated, and a document was created and shared with answers to “85% of frequently asked questions” before students arrived. Additionally, Liz Cummings organized the setup in Lumbee hall of four kiosk desktop computers in partnership with Business Affairs and Enrollment Management to assist with students needing access to information and printing, along with student refunds. Client Services staff member Mary Barton, the Brave Tech team and others withed with Networking to deploy Unified Messaging to a pilot group of individuals and two departments (the Library and Facilities Management). The feedback has been very positive, so the project is moving forward with campus department data collection and gradual, department-by-department migration to the new system. Migration is to begin during the beginning of February. Melanie Jacobs, Tom Jackson and Cindy Saylor continue to work to create a security training module to effectively inform our campus about how to keep both technologies and data secure, by explaining both good practices and inappropriate technology behaviors. This training will be mandatory for the campus community as directed by numerous local, state and national policies and guidelines. Tabitha Locklear and Daryl Burgwyn of the Classroom and Lab support area report the newly introduced Virtual Computer Lab (VCL) is experiencing excellent usage numbers in more efficiency providing access to specialized software packages for faculty, staff and students. During January, 75 individual users recorded 95 hours of use totaling 133 sessions, an impressive beginning for this new technology. Robert Hughes is the project led to explore new, more efficient ways to provide computer access for students and staff through the use of “thin client” devices.
Networking and Operations
Kevin Pait, Director of Networking and Operations, reports that 1285 faculty, staff and departmental mailboxes are being supported by our Exchange E-mail system. This is an increase of 27 mailboxes from the previous report. The mailboxes combine to account for approximately 684GB of storage on the campus enterprise storage system. Operations staff member Elaine Vesley is now deploying requested shared mailbox solutions for departments or organizations to enable users to send a message to a departmental email address which can be accessed by those who have been granted access. Each person accessing the account uses their own network credentials, thus ensuring security and eliminating the need for a shared password. Operations staff members Kevin Pait, Elaine Vesley and Barry Graves now support 95 physical servers and 45 virtual servers. These servers are the combined total of servers between the primary and secondary data centers. The 95 servers consist of 52 HP based servers, 4 Apple servers, 22 Dell servers, 14 Sun servers and three generic servers. The virtual server environment continues to grow and increasingly provides a valuable resource for departmental servers and replacement of older physical servers. Staff members are focusing on increasing capacity and redundancy of the virtual environment as mission critical services continue to migrate onto this platform. Following the November 2009 upgrade, staff member Tony Chavis reports no system-wide outages of the telephony system. Operations plans to be completely migrated users from the old Octel voicemail system and fully deployed the Unified Messaging environment by the end of May, 2010. Additionally no major network service outages were experience during the last quarter only local, isolated outages associated with electrical power were reported by Chris Desmit. Network Services staff Chris Desmit along with Kevin Pait and Terry Oxendine are working with UNCP’s network equipment and implementation support vendors to further define UNCP’s strategy for replacing old network technology and to position our campus to meet the technological demands and new stresses invoked on the network by emerging hardware and software technologies as well as new teaching and learning strategies. These staff members have developed a proposed migration and upgrade strategy that will replace old equipment and greatly enhance the capability and reliability of the campus network infrastructure. This strategy will be used to proceed with an eminent network refresh according to the availability of funding.
Applications Development and Support
Tom Jackson, Associate CIO reports that UNCP completed the first monthly payroll for regular employees in January, as well as the fourth month of biweekly payrolls. This major milestone makes UNCP the first campus to migrate from Central Payroll to Banner Payroll. It is also a significant step in completing UNCP’s obligation as the pilot campus for the UNC FIT Payroll Project. Applications Development staff members Tammy Locklear, John Hays and Sue Gaston continues to provide technical support by completing five Web-based reports needed for monthly payroll, dozens of clones of Banner data and updates to test instances for testing, installation of new and revised interfaces, management of virtual and storage environments, database administration and hosting, etc. Applications also supported the generation of tax documents and forms for the calendar year, and the establishment of the payroll hotline. Applications staff members were active partners in this project along with the Controller’s Office and Human Resources. They worked closely with General Administration staff and provided office space and support resources for the General Administration Payroll team. The partnership model developed during this project serves as an example of best practices in collaboration and support. Applications staff member Dawn Albrecht along with support from Terry Oxendine completed upgrades to Banner General 8.2.1, Financial Aid 8.5.2, Advancement 8.2, Web General 8.2, Web Tailor 8.2, Financial Aid Self Service 8.5.1, Advancement Self Service 8.3, Human Resources 8.2.4, Employee Self Service 8.2.1, and updated 2010 tax tables. They also completed updates to Intellecheck and Form Fusion for 2009 W-2s and 1099s. In support of other campus initiatives, staff member Deloris Lowry modified the advisor listing in Banner Self-Service to only display current students in response to requests. Deloris also completed an application to provide students access to unofficial grades before they roll to academic history, again in response to student needs. Applications supported the annual role over of employee leave for 2009 by modifying and testing the rollover scripts. Staff created data extracts from Banner to load into a new Housing Management System and is partnering with Housing and Business Service on the implementation and integration of this new system which brings new online services to student. For Advancement the online giving project is nearing completion due to the efforts of Jonathan Lowery, Financial Aid is now using new reports and processes created by Pam Chavis associated with loan and grant reconciliation and in partnership with the Bookstore additional information is now following from Banner into the Bookstore operational system concerning student accounts.
Budget and Planning
Following the Faculty Senate’s recommendation to remain with Blackboard, our online course delivery software, staff members, led by Alan Prevatte are working to plan and implement the new Blackboard 9 version. Demonstrations of new capabilities will be conducted during spring, with training and development work focused during the summer months. Deployment will be at the beginning of fall semester. Support for more course sections than ever are currently being provided by this system as staff have created over 900 sections, an increase of over 100 sections for the same time period last year. The Interactive Video Facility, through the strategic planning efforts of James Lewis, has implemented new technologies to enable multiple connections to regional video sites. Partnering with Distance Education, this technology is bearing fruit in new course deliveries to multiple sites for Criminal Justice and other disciplines. Feedback from faculty has been excellent and there is a call to expand capabilities to meet additional need according to Director, Maureen Windmeyer
It is a busy time for DoIT staff as they continue to support UNCP’s mission and goals. Other initiatives include exploring with the Faculty Senate and Students a student computing requirement, a more cost efficient “thin client” approach to classroom and office computers, a enhanced printing solution for students as well as implementation of a new campus calendaring solution in collaboration with Student Affairs. All made possible by the administrative assistance of Vicky Brewer.
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