Duke ITAC - August 4, 2005 Minutes

DUKE ITAC - August 4, 2005 Minutes


August 4, 2005

Members present : Ed Anapol, John Board, Paul Conway represented by Edward Gomes, Angel Dronsfield, Nevin Fouts, Tracy Futhey, Michael Gettes, David Jamieson-Drake, Deborah Jakubs, David Jarmul, Kyle Johnson, Roger Loyd, Gregory McCarthy, George Oberlander, Lynne O'Brien, Mike Pickett, Rafael Rodriquez, Molly Tamarkin, Robert Wolpert

Guests: Jim Roberts, Provost's Office; Yvonne Belanger, CIT; Kevin Davis, OIT; Deb Johnson, Student Affairs; Kathy Pfeiffer, SISS; Wayne Thompson, SISS; Jeremy Sisk, OIT; Ginny Cake, OIT

Start time : 4:05 p.m.


I. Review of Minutes and Announcements:

  • Tammy Closs hire

    Tracy Futhey says Tammy Closs is joining OIT toward the end of August. She will be the assistant vice president for Communications and Systems Infrastructure (CSI) – this means the telephones, networks, and three systems groups. She comes to us from Georgetown, and beyond her responsibilities there she had run a fairly large group at a smaller school responsible for telecommunications and a host of other things, and is just now finishing a one-year stint as the president of the Association for Communications Technology Professions in Higher Education (ACUTA). She also has an appointment to the FCC in terms of telecomm

  • Dan McCarriar has/ just announced that he is going to take a job Carnegie Mellon. He'll be returning there in mid-September, and we're already working on getting that position posted.


II. Introduction: Kevin Davis, Sr. Manager, Academic Technology Services - Kevin Davis

Mike Pickett says we recruited Kevin Davis from Harvard, where he was coordinator of student residential computing. He worked for the faculty of Arts and Sciences and has a lot of experience in academic areas and particularly working with students. He just completed his MBA at Boston University , and has already been a nice agent for getting things organized and moving in a positive direction.

Kevin Davis says I've been very welcomed at Duke, it's a pleasure and privilege to join the community. I had a good time up at Harvard. I worked with residential and academic computing, everything from wireless to Ethernet to computing clusters. One of the challenges of coming to Duke is that it is an organization that has so much energy for wanting to improve the experience of learning and teaching. I see this as one priority for ATS over time. I think we can offer a lot in terms of working with the community and finding resources and new innovations. A second role I see ATS playing a big part in is deepening infrastructure OIT provides to support projects. There is also an important role in creating dialogue between groups, and one of projects is meeting with Lynne [O'Brien] and various school IT programs to make sure we are all coordinating and offering front-end services to the community.

A third observation is that there is massive use of computing clusters and public printers. One thing I'm working on with ATS is the ePrint initiative and how to make it available as a service and infrastructure. There's also a lot of work I'd like to do in terms of how frequently and broadly applications are used across campus. Are there things we can do to be more flexible and responsive for getting apps out there? I'd like to see ATS deepening the amount of training and knowledge students have about technology. ATS already has a long history of participating in training, and if there is more we can do I welcome it. I look forward to working with everyone throughout the university in IT, and I am happy to meet with anyone to talk about questions and concerns. You can e-mail me at ksdavis@duke.edu.

John Board asks can you talk about one or two things Harvard is doing well you're not seeing at Duke?

Kevin says now its odd because we're over at the ATC, the students aren't really around, and the Chronicle hasn't been publishing to get an idea of feedback. There is efficiency to the way Duke operates. Harvard has the reputation of being the most decentralized; things run efficiently and smoothly around here. I also sense a welcoming of innovation here. At my first meeting with Mike Pickett, I heard the word collaboration three times, and I think that suggests a good culture.

Harvard has the resources from strictly being as old and well-endowed a university to throw many more things to the wall and see what sticks. Duke has the DDI [Duke Digital Initiative] to try initiatives, at Harvard they would try more, but there wouldn't be the same formal structure to evaluate it.

III. E-mail Systems Update -Michael Gettes

Michael Gettes says this is just to let you know about some work going on. An announcement has gone out that we have a downtime on the mail system this weekend. It is fairly simple, but it is enabling us to hook up new storage arrays. This is to initially hook up to new disc arrays; the test system will start to exercise them, we are going to do our testing, and once we're comfortable with everything we can bring them online and start the mirroring process without a downtime. While we're doing the mirroring there will be four arrays online; when things are working the way we want to we'll start taking the old arrays off carefully.

John Board asks what kind of time frame are we looking at?

Michael says as quickly as possible, but also as long as it takes. We'd like to be in the direction of supporting I GB quotas. We've looked at a couple of schools, namely the University of Minnesota , and they found that it doesn't matter if they distribute 30 GB quota, most people stay under 30 MB. I don't think we'll hand out a 1GB system, but instead allow people to self-elect to increase their quota to a max of maybe initially 1 GB.

Robert Wolpert asks will this take days, weeks, months?

Michael says we hope to have the old arrays off-line by the end of the month. Most importantly, we want to get off of the old arrays: they continue to cause us problems. Once we lose the old arrays, we now already have additional discs that we think can support the beginnings of the 1 GB environment. This weekend we're adding additional memory, mostly because we have a lot of webmail users. One of the other changes is laying in some changes that will allow us to support the dot versus slash problem. For small devices, they assume the slash character is the separator of folders. Our system is old, and uses dots to separate folder names. We're taking the first step to figure out how to change service over to slash so we will be able to support not only small devices, but any mail client. As we speak we're trying to roll out a new webmail service. Documentation is being written, and we will send notes out to Fuqua and everyone else to test it and make sure it functions. It is an upgrade, will allow folder sharing, and this new system caches connections.

Robert says for the disc transition, you are planning and hoping for no glitches, but sometimes things happen. It sounds like you're trying to launch it before the student onslaught.

Michael says we making sure to do this when the “right” people are here.

Tracy says we made a significant change to the mail system approach a year ago, and have had several problems. Tell me what life has been like in terms of actual user-visible outages: have we had much, and if we have or haven't does that have implications for the overall architecture?

Michael says a little over a year ago in spring 2004 when we made the cutover, we encountered some growing pains. We ran into the problem of a file system/hardware problem hitting at the same time. We got the hardware problem resolved; it took a long time to analyze and recognize that yes, there was a hardware problem, but it wasn't until December that we finally tracked down the source of the problem. We were getting an erroneous message, and we responded very carefully and scheduled downtimes to correct a file system, which ended up not being a problem in the end. There was a system crash at the end that allowed us to realize it wasn't actually a problem. Since then, we've been pretty much up and running.

Tracy says so the horizontal expansion is the only thing in terms of the architecture we've set out.

Michael says we feel like now we've got a fairly stable system.

Molly Tamarkin asks do you have reason to believe the new arrays will be more robust?

Michael says yes, and there are more features. It looks like a better package.

IV. Classrooms Committee Update - Jim Roberts

Jim Roberts says this past year has been a silent phase of strategic planning, and the provost asked a number of groups to look into infrastructure to get start on planning process. Facilities was very much on his mind given huge investment in facilities made in the last five years; we need to avoid that sort of thing and have a more even investment plan. An academic space planning group was formed, and we were asked to identify issues that ought to be on the planning agenda. Bob Thompson in general stressed focus on classrooms. Based on his intuition and push we organized a separate working group on classroom assessment and planning, including some members of the other group, and expanded to include the registrar, Mike Pickett, Lynne O'Brien, etc.

We worked as three sub-groups, one working with data and assessment, an academic subgroup focusing on faculty perspectives and departmental perspectives, and a technology subgroup that looked at the intersection of technology and pedagogy for physical requirements. Our goal not to plan technologies, but make sure an understanding of technology is fed into thinking about classrooms.

We haven't developed a formal report, and the work is ongoing. The general conclusion is we haven't paid enough management attention to classroom needs, demand has risen while supply has decreased. That said, I can say all classes are scheduled in place for the fall, and that has not always been the case. We are using some makeshift classrooms, however.

One of the benefits of these discussions is we have a strong opportunity to fertilize with central campus planning discussions.

Robert Wolpert asks is there some plan for classrooms on central campus?

Jim says yes, there is an idea of a significant teaching facility without necessarily having a department there, possibly for languages. We are currently trying to do more data analysis looking at curricula trends and where courses are located.

Robert asks is there a simple explanation for why demand for classrooms is going up?

Jim says the student body size has stayed the same, but the size of the faculty has increased.

Robert asks does this scope include things like seating?

Jim says we have a good handle on what there is and what is offered; what needs are and how they are changing is what we're ultimately trying to determine. Many of you are aware there has been in the past academic year a faculty planning survey that included a number of questions pertinent to classroom planning. It confirmed dissatisfaction with classrooms and locations, particularly with Arts and Sciences and Engineering, and also in Nicholas. Forty percent of faculty surveyed indicated dissatisfaction with the quality of classroom for teaching.

Technology specialists in the working group met several times and contributed a short white paper. Two things stood out: 1) technology changes affecting what needs to be installed and hardwired; 2) physical classroom doesn't adequately describe teaching and learning environment.

David Jamieson-Drake says I wonder if space planning has approached classroom space location as an integrated part of overall planning. Great classroom planning is determined by the location of faculty offices and student living, so where you plan those can make old classroom space defunct or more or less appropriate. Have you thought about that to coordinate office/departmental, residential and classroom locations so all appear better because of each other?

Jim says that is the idea, but the rigidity of space means there is always a limit. In central campus, you can't have the mere state of art specialized facilities; one of the provost's goals in central is to make it not just residential but a campus in the true sense of word.

Robert says the technology in the classrooms in particular is moving very quickly. Today it's important where the electrical outlets are, but I'm hoping that won't be important in the future. This doesn't seem like the problem you fix in 2005, but that we need to plan to have it refreshed regularly over time.

V. Academic Support Technology Executive Committee (ASTEC) Systems Update - Jim Roberts, Deborah Johnson, Kathy Pfeiffer

Jim Roberts says ASTEC was created based on a joint recommendation from me and Tracy so that rather than having steering committees for several separate systems, we can group together several related systems. Tracy and I chair the group. This is an official governance group for PeopleSoft, ACES, Blackboard, etc. It's academic support technology in the sense supporting academic enterprise. What is not included are financial systems, the SAP world, and academic and research computing in that sense. It's generally a happy collaboration.

The student portal project went live a year ago. All in all it has been a success. The penetration has been substantial but not great. We haven't done much to market it particularly to incoming students, because we were not sure what its state would be midsummer. This year we made DukePass the access point for all pre-matriculation services for incoming students to use for accessing Duke. I think we're going to see a climb in usage and will do more to publicize to upper-class students as well. Also, a more significant fact is that in the middle of the year Tracy and I provided a demonstration to the deans of the graduate schools, who had substantial enthusiasm for the idea of a graduate portal. We have had very productive meetings with Molly [Tamarkin] and her colleagues about extending portal to graduate and professional students starting this fall. Students will receive safety and general announcements everyone receives and also messages targeted to their own school. It will have tools for administrative work, newsfeeds, etc. There will be different branding for each school and a different skin look. It may not be ready day one, but there will be logo identification. One challenge faced is each school has its own branding identity on the Web, and we didn't want to confuse that.

ACES has not made a lot of headlines this year, and that is a good thing. This year was first with no glitches in senior registration. Photo class lists became available last fall, and we had summer web enrollment for entering students. We also have document images.

Jeremy Sisk says that is in the pilot phase now working on understanding usages. We're working with network services to understand the number of images moving at a time. The one good thing is there is an extensive amount of data that goes into system initially that is then not as taxing because we have a limited number of users at a time.

Jim says technically I'd say we've made a number of improvements: Jeremy Sisk has been a tremendous asset. Part of the registration success was in the technology, but a lot of it was also the management. He's really helped us get and stay on the same page. Also, not having a fully parallel testing module caused us problems before, and now we have a more sophisticated testing software in the works, so we should be more bulletproof, if not completely bulletproof.

Robert Wolpert says you suggest that there will be more use of the portal: are we concerned about capacity?

Jim says I don't think we'll have issues, but I'm not the expert. Billy has been my co-captain in this respect.

Jim says I won't go into detail on smaller projects, but we are facing in the relatively near future an upgrade of PeopleSoft. Advantages of this are a better and more stable tool set and better self-service abilities. The first aspect of self-service we are ready to deploy is the Duke GradeBook. It was an interesting choice because Blackboard has a grade book, but not all faculty use it. We committed 18 months ago to purchasing that software and had a slow rollout. One condition was to have a crosswalk with Blackboard so people who used it could move back and forth - we had to get single sign-on capability. This week we are turning on GradeBook for submission of final grades for summer session two. We're anticipating significant publicity for this in the fall term.

Kathy Pfeiffer says what we have this summer is final grading for all faculty and grade uploading from a CSV file. What we have here is a short how-to online grading in four easy steps. We also have directions on the SISS Web site that has features for the more adventurous, partial posting, the upload instructions, etc. What we have available now is an instructor can grade and save or grade and submit to registrar. They can also have a grader who can grade and save only, but cannot submit. We're asking for faculty input before the fall semester. In the fall we'll have midterm grades available and partial posting, which is required for midterm grades, can be used by faculty who need to submit quickly such as for seniors, and we hope to have blackboard interface available. The icing is that assignment grading is available, but we won't be actively promoting that until the fall.

VI. Duke Digital Initiative - Lynne O'Brien, Ginny Cake, Yvonne Belanger

Lynne O'Brien says Ginny and I have both been working furiously all summer along with many other people to being planning what the DDI for this year will actually look like. In spring I met with several large groups of faculty to ask what had been valuable, what could be done differently, and what types of things they wanted to do that couldn't be done with iPods. We drew a number of conclusions from the iPod, and based on those different conclusions the provost announced the DDI for next year. We are going to continue using iPods for courses that could find good academic use for them, but we won't issue them to everyone, and the plan is to pursue other types of technology. We spent time looking for a model for the overall initiative. We thought it made sense to look at three years: in the first we'll be experimenting a lot, we're not sure what the goals are. We're playing around with things this year, and then we'll try to figure out how to consolidate and transition it from a highly experimental model to something easier for a lot of people to do to as an established service where we are no longer looking for special proposals.

John Board says at some point early on there should be a point at which Duke could pull the plug. It seems like you haven't left yourself that option.

Lynne says the last sentence says we can stop at any point.

Ginny says we should find some way to work that into the chart.

Lynne says we tried to articulate broad categories of goals, and we're bringing them to this group. I think we need a much broader discussion, and I'm hoping to talk about them today, and I'm going to talk about them to faculty groups this fall. We're looking for other kinds of opportunities to get ongoing feedback.

Molly Tamarkin says one of my questions when I read the statement from the provost is making sure when you say “technology” you mean more than hardware and gadgets to buy, but also software to buy and using tools we already have in different ways. It doesn't say you don't do that here, but I want to make sure technology is broadly defined.

Lynne says in fact one thing developed out of the iPod project was some faculty said the kind of audio content they wanted was not available. So for this year we're looking at how we can get more content, work with librarians to get content, how make them available for download.

Robert Wolpert says I'm concerned about year three, “fully supported.” This seems to be implying that there is more central funding than may be appropriate. A natural evolution for some technology would be something students buy in the bookstore.

Lynne says “fully supported” assumes that the university may not be providing complete funding.

Robert says “fully supported” seems to imply that. Maybe call it “infrastructure.”

Tracy says also, by that point our support might be more focused on integration of audio that is device-agnostic.

Lynne says there are a number of things that have been proposed by different groups of faculty and IT folks. One thing I would like to point out is this year digital audio doesn't just mean iPods. In response to things that happened last year we're also experimenting with the University of Western Australia lecture recording system, which may or may not have anything to do with iPods. We are also looking at content models like the one with PRI, and things like the podcasting symposium that is coming out of ISIS . What we're in the process of doing now is putting a task force together to do a feasibility study to determine what we need to do to make it happen. We also put up an online interest form where faculty or others could say what they'd like to do. Some of these projects are based on that, and in some cases we've gone back to the original group that suggested an idea to find out more how they want to do it.

Ginny says one thing we tried to do because our planning time has not been as long as we'd like is determine which faculty proposals we felt like we could support to be effective in class. Most of those for the fall semester are based around audio content with little experiments in other areas. Most of the fall will be spent planning to do other initiatives in the spring semester. The thing I'm very excited about is the large group of people working on this. Some of you on this table will probably be tapped. One thing want to do in fall is planning for wikis and blogs to get courses to test this with and see how effective it is.

John Board says the one thing that worries me is last year was one project; this year there are 39 and there are still only two of you.

Ginny says it's also the people that make it happen. We've been talking to a lot of people about what we need for support to make these things happen.

Lynne says a number of the projects on this list might not happen.

Ginny says in three weeks we'll come back and say this is exactly what we're doing for fall, and see if you all think it is the right priority and list for what we want to do.

Lynne says the list is also long because it includes a lot of things we didn't consider projects last year, like an evaluation plan. We've had people from different schools propose things and tapping resources for different things. The law school loaned us Wayne Miller, who knows a lot about video.

Ginny says there's something like tablet PCs. We know Nevin has looked into that so we're going to contact people to find out how it worked for them and what is there to think about.

Lynne says one ongoing question we have is how to keep the Duke community best informed so everyone knows what's happening and know what they can participate in and provide feedback.

John Board says that will be harder when they don't have the focus of a little white box.

Molly Tamarkin said you could have a showcase, nothing that formal, but even an open house for IT.

Lynne says because we're in the second year of dealing with iPods we're trying to make a transition o something that doesn't require “heroic effort” to make it all work. I've been talking with Hannah Arps and others for staff who work out in departments to help faculty doing iPod classes to create support models so they feel some ownership of it.

VII. Other Business


End time : 5:31 p.m.