CAMPUS TECHNOLOGY COMMITTEE
Submitted by Donna Mohr, Chair
Faculty Members: Donna Mohr (Chair), Sherif Elfayoumy, John Ouyang, Lakshmi Goel, John McEldowney, Cate Hough, Jeremy Hall
Non-Voting Members: Gordon Rakita, Lance Taylor (replaced recently by Reggie Brinson), James George, Jeff Durfee, Alison Cruess, Deb Miller, Dave Wilson, Daniel Choisser, Dmitriy Bond
During the Fall Semester, the committee revised the Faculty Technology Survey (FTS) and administered it. This was done with the invaluable assistance of Alison Cruess, who also summarized and distributed the results. During December 2014 and January 2015, the committee reviewed the results and identified five major themes. These are described below. While a great deal of background work was accomplished during this academic year, many of these initiatives will require efforts over several years in order to be effective. I have briefly identified future work at the end of each description.
A. Investigate expanded file and email storage for faculty
Fueled by a number of comments with requests for DropBox or similar external cloud storage, the committee discussed faculty email and file storage. Separately, ITS had already increased the email storage from 350 MB to 1GB. File storage in our internal cloud (the ‘I-drive’ appears adequate for the great majority of faculty, as only about 11% or at or near the limitations of that storage. This raised the question of why faculty are requesting DropBox – is it for file sharing or is it because they perceive the I-drive as difficult to access remotely?
B. Continue improvements on classroom technology
ITS is investigating whether Office 365 will provide sufficient privacy controls to meet our legal obligations. If so, it may be that it will provide sufficient convenience, sharing, and storage size to meet faculty needs.
Future work: pursue evaluation of Office 365.
C. Expand that suite of advanced software available on campus and through VLAB
- Podium improvements are continuing. Many podiums now have USB access on the top and soon all will have this. Power outlets on the podium tops are more difficult than initially thought, due to Fire Marshall Regulations. This is a concern because an increasing number of faculty bring laptops to the podium, requiring a power cord stretched across to the nearest wall outlet. New podiums should provide power outlets and a variety of connections (e.g. HDMI). Signage has been updated in all rooms.Future work: continue installing USBs, mark on/off switches for greater visibility, remove doors from podiums where space is tight, compile list of desirable features in new podiums.
- 15/1303 and 15/1304. These large lecture halls present a challenge because there is inadequate board space when the screens are down. This is particularly so in 15/1304. A variety of technological fixes were discussed, including dual projectors. The cost involved drove us to try a non-technological alternative first: to simply work with college schedulers so that ‘projection-heavy’ classes go in one room and ‘board-heavy’ classes go in the other. Future work: evaluate the results after a year.
- Improve classroom configurations (e.g. lighting and boards). Mohr, Rakita, and George toured classrooms in Building 2 with the assistance of Decato Burke of ITS. Classrooms in this building were renovated just a few years ago, but there were numerous mis-steps in the construction of the rooms. We noted rooms where lighting was misaligned with the projection, where screen controls were distant from the podiums, where the orientation of the seating and A/V was poorly chosen, and where the only whiteboard was covered by the screen. Requests were submitted in April 2015 to Physical Facilities to replace a damaged board and to add a new board in one room. None of the rooms, even those with table configurations, has power outlets for student computers. Future work: A letter is being drafted by Mohr (working with Rakita) to John Hale, describing the issues, identifying potential action items in Building 2, and requesting better coordination with ITS when new renovations are undertaken.
MatLab and advanced modules of SPSS were quickly identified as software where needs were spread across a number of departments. This was particularly true of MatLab, and a budget request was submitted by Rakita to make this available campus-wide and on VLAB. SPSS’ advanced modules, however, were found to be extremely expensive and the number of faculty needing them is small.
D. Establish a mini-grant system to fund the purchase of software/hardware that will advance faculty research and/or teaching.
Future work: Identify the faculty who actually need advanced modules of SPSS. ITS will investigate what the cost would be to purchase individual licenses of SPSS Premium and AMOS for a small number of faculty.
Minitab was requested repeatedly on the FTS, but was found to be already available on VLAB. The university already has a site license for Acrobat Premier Pro. It is a very graphics-intensive package and is being evaluated to see if it is possible to run via VLAB.
Other packages, such as Maple, Mathematica, MultiSim, and RocScience, would be good additions to the university’s suite, but budget is not available this year.
Screen-capture software was frequently mentioned as a valuable tool, particularly for teaching. There are numerous options here (e.g. Camtasia, SnagIt, Screencast-o-matic, Jing). A working group has been formed (Rakita, Wilson, Hough, Mohr, Ouyang, George) to evaluate the options over the summer.
Future work: evaluate options and make a recommendation to the CTC for an application that would be made available campus-wide.
From the FTS, the committee noted many instances where faculty reported that they needed some unique piece of hardware or software to advance their teaching or research. Department and college budgets are often inadequate to meet these requests. Therefore, Lakshmi Goel and Gordon Rakita led the effort to draft a grant proposal process as described in the Attachment. Rakita submitted a $20,000 budget request for the coming fiscal year. If funded, this could make a tremendous impact on the needs of faculty for a diverse set of information technologies.
E. Pursue development of high-performance computing capability on campus
Future work: if funded, the CTC will be heavily involved in evaluating grant proposals.
Several faculty identified high-performance computing (HPC) as a need on the FTS. However, this is a phrase that means many different things. The anonymous nature of the survey makes it impossible to contact these faculty for clarification. A request to chairs to forward names of faculty with HPC needs got no response. Therefore, Rakita sent out a notice through Campus Update requesting that those faculty with this need come forward. Future work: form a discussion group with these faculty to link them with existing resources (such as the Sunshine State Education and Research Computing Alliance) or identify needs for new sources.