Duke ITAC - January 29, 2009 Minutes

Duke ITAC - January 29, 2009 Minutes

ITAC Agenda
January 29, 2009 4:00-5:30
Allen Board Room

  • Announcements & Meeting Minutes
  • Follow-up on Library Wireless Issue (Angel Wingate, Keith Gentry)
  • Undergraduate Feedback on Duke IT (Bryan Fleming, Andrew Tutt, Danny Wolf)
  • Update on RIAA Practices (Henry Cuthbert, Larry Moneta)

Announcements & Meeting Minutes

Terry Oas opened by asking ITAC members present at the January 15, 2009 meeting if they had comments on the minutes. Angel Wingate noted that she had submitted some minor edits.  Noting no objections, Terry accepted the minutes and stated that they would be posted on the ITAC web site. (http://www.oit.duke.edu/itac/index.html)

Terry asked attendees to introduce themselves.   Tracy noted that the large OIT contingent present was due to the specific agenda items.

Follow-Up on Wireless Issues

In response to the wireless access concerns at Perkins Library brought up by the ITAC student representatives at the previous ITAC meeting, Angel explained that various tickets were submitted via the Service Desk over the weekend of January 9, 2009. The service interruption resulted from an internal failure of the connection between the radio and the network on the affected wireless access point (AP).  Approximately four APs were affected so the issue was sporadic and isolated to the 3rd and 4th floors.  Keith Gentry’s team manually rebooted the APs on Monday morning.

Terry asked if there was a known reason the issue was experienced when it did and what the likelihood of a repeat was.  Keith G. stated the root cause is unknown; however, OIT is exploring better ways to monitor these systems.  Tracy asked if the existing monitoring showed problems with the network or the apparent severity of the service interruption.  Angel responded that the APs were being monitored but reported no issues, hence explaining the need for OIT to examine its monitoring of those systems.  In addition, Angel’s group is working with the Service Desk to improve troubleshooting and information collection procedures to better diagnose issues.  The team did not get any repeat calls, so there did not appear to be any. Terry asked if the APs were new equipment.  Keith G. confirmed that the APs in question are new 802.11n devices.

Tracy recommended to students who might have any ideas on how OIT can strengthen its processes to improve to reach out the relevant OIT staff at ITAC.  Angel added that her group is working on several new initiatives to reduce the possibility of having a repeat of that weekend’s events.  Specifically:

  • Providing the Service Desk access to the Networking team’s work queue
  • Defining new Service Level Agreements (SLAs) with Debbie DeYulia’s customer support group to better set expectations for turnaround time for and AP outage.
  • Publishing and communicating these service levels to customers.

Keith mentioned some reports of coverage issues in K-ville.  OIT added 2 new APs to enhance coverage and expects delivery of another pair the week of February 2, 2009.

Undergraduate Feedback on Duke IT

Terry introduced the DSG student ITAC representatives (Andrew Tutt, Bryan Fleming, and Danny Wolf) to discuss undergraduate ideas and concerns on information technology.

Bryan Fleming introduced two items the student ITAC members were interested in discussing.  First, Bryan noted an interest in both the key issues that affect students daily, and the ways Duke can do more with technology to improve the student experience.  Second, Bryan expressed that the DSG representatives had thoughts on University policies for long-term technical sustainability.  

Andrew Tutt offered three broad areas in which Duke University can become a leader in technology relative to undergraduate students’ interests:

  • Technology policy
  • Infrastructure planning since technology changes so quickly
  • Bringing students to forefront as primary customers for IT services

Andrew said that sometimes undergraduates seem to get lost in the technology planning process.  Andrew referenced a previous ITAC presentation where a guest speaker from a peer institution talked about their policy making process, and that it brought to his mind the idea that without written policies, customers are unclear about what is allowed and not. For example, Duke is the ISP for the student community, but Andrew identified the inherent conflict between Duke as an ISP and Duke’s educational mission. He mentioned that this might become a more contentious issue in the future.

As an example, Andrew recalled a concern in 2008 with information posted to a student organization’s listserv. Many policy questions were raised. (Who could know what? Who could reveal what?  Who knew what?)  This information was known to the university because they control the network; however, it was unclear what could be shared and by whom.  Andrew advocated a strong and clear separation between the University’s function as an ISP and its educational mission, and he suggested that this aligns with the overall student discipline policies.

Tracy asked if there were any other specific risks that the students identified.  Andrew stated that some areas exist that could potentially be so classed, giving the example of the web site Juicy Campus. DSG considered censoring this site, a move Andrew noted he opposed. Andrew stated some schools used their exclusive access to network information and tracked down individuals that commented on Juicy Campus.  Though this may be appropriate in some situations, such as public safety, it raises questions about the students’ rights and privileges, Andrew said.

He added that the former RIAA lawsuits are another example of potential issues.  He drew an analogy between red light cameras and RIAA lawsuits respective to knowledge of who committed the alleged infraction on a device.  Andrew suggested the university’s response to these lawsuits might have demonstrated a situation where the university’s response might have been different.
Andrew proposed a document analogous to a Bill of Rights. Though this document might not address those specific issues, the drafting process would likely be more valuable than the actual document, he said.

Terry noted that the acceptable use policy addresses some of these issues; Terry added that it was in some ways a bill of non-rights, detailing some of the things the university is not capable of.  Bryan Fleming replied that no rights have been explicitly stated in any document.  This gap is what the ITAC student representatives hope to address.

Andrew continued that packet data analysis issues have not come up at Duke but could be a future concern.  He illustrated a hypothetical situation where the university performs packet data analysis and notifies students via email about possible infractions.

Tracy added that the University of Michigan sends emails to people in residence halls who have been identified as sharing files to let them know they were doing it.  They take no action, other than customer notification.  This was pursued from the perspective of providing proactive assistance to students in protecting themselves.  

Alvin Lebeck asked if this was different from system scanning for security purposes.  Andrew noted that some vendors offer programs that show granular detail about network usage.  Ginny Cake commented that OIT does not perform that scanning; one of the student representatives noted that the university should document that.

Andrew commended Duke for providing software for departments, professors, and grad students.  As these applications become even more essential to the learning experience, he noted, undergraduates will want to find better access options than X-Win; he stated that the most popular page on his Duiki web site was instructions on how to use XWIN32 to access Teer.  Terry alluded to the previous ITAC meeting where virtualization was discussed.

Bryan spoke about technology becoming much more integrated element in the academic experience.  The Link serves as a pillar for what the new experience can be, Bryan said, and he suggested developing design principles that enable new classrooms and renovations to be modular and flexible enough to accommodate technology.  The technology development cycle clearly advances much faster than physical spaces.  

Bryan addressed a student concern about the current cable TV quality and price models. Bryan noted that he will pay $1000 over his time at Duke, and he questioned the current cost and funding model for the service. He suggested the possibility of an undergraduate student fee for funding residential television.

He also encouraged the university to provide high definition services over cable TV as these should become the de facto standard for television.  He added that he had explored working with Residential Life and Housing Services on placing an HDTV antenna on his building’s roof.  Bryan noted that IPTV services had been mentioned and wondered if Duke was technically positioned to deliver that service.

Bryan also noted the importance of considering future bandwidth needs as there will likely be great demands on bandwidth moving forward since this is critical to the student experience.  Tracy inquired if bandwidth was an issue today to students, or if this was a future consideration.  Bryan confirmed that this was for future deliberation and that there was no perceived deficiency in Duke’s current network bandwidth.

John Board asked whether the bandwidth concerns Bryan had mentioned related to intracampus bandwidth or external connectivity. Bryan clarified that his concern was whether IPTV would be sustainable with current bandwidth capacity.

Andrew added that his HDTV is also his computer monitor.  When he streams HD content, the performance is severely taxed.  Tracy asked if Andrew had experienced this issue, or if it was a theoretical concern; Andrew confirmed that he has experienced the problem.  

Tracy explained that Duke needs to be cautious about investing millions of dollars in infrastructure only to have a new technology from the network providers make the investment obsolete.  Currently, the wireless network is 100Mb/sec which should comfortably support 30 people, the equivalent of a typical classroom density, she said.  This supports the idea that streamed TV is viable on Duke’s existing infrastructure, though HD would impact this, Tracy added.  Robert Wolpert noted that HD has been on the horizon for a number of years.

Dave Richardson asked if bandwidth was an issue that students could see this as an academic problem.  Bryan mentioned that it might be solved in part through a software licensing change.  Specifically, X-Win may have too much latency; the experience of connecting to Teer can be very problematic, and that this can be a noticeable performance issue even when connecting from a residence hall to an on-campus lab.  Bryan added that this is not exclusively a bandwidth issue, but it is a factor.  Andrew clarified that the time horizons for the students’ presentation were varied, and that some specifics were not intended to be resolved in the near-term.

Kevin Davis added that we should ensure we account for Trinity’s software needs; our representatives today are entirely from Pratt and we should not skew the discussion too much towards science/engineering software packages.  Bryan continued that another specific bandwidth example was GIS applications.  Some GIS data sets were getting so large that it was becoming unwieldy to use them over the network.

Terry asked if IPTV was being looked at.  Angel responded that Klara Jelinkova, Barry Knuth, Bob Johnson, and Johnny Bell are part of a team looking at this.  This group is working on a pilot with a small number of channels.  They have experienced some of the challenges raised in this discussion.   They plan to meet next month with Larry Moneta.

Robert Wolpert added that faculty would like many more channels, including international broadcasters, to provide content to their students.  Angel mentioned that there are some issues being explored.  We are currently limited at the maximum number of channels that we have.  

Tracy addressed the earlier question about financing cable TV by stating that Duke resells the Time Warner Cable service at an unsubsidized rate.  The rate has been stable for a while.  The cable usage by students has dropped from 65% to 44%, Angel added.  

Angel noted that new channels such as ESPNU had been added, and that there had been discussions about making cable access universal but that would require the vendor to be paid for each room, not on a per subscriber basis.  Angel thanked the students for their feedback because she wants to understand what needs the student community had and how Duke can best meet them.

Danny Wolf, the third DSG representative to ITAC, focused his remarks on ACES and on software platforms supporting student needs. He noted the new ACES is probably viewed as a disappointment by students, and opined that there is no way to calculate the cost to campus by all the additional clicks and meetings between faculty and students.  He acknowledged that even though the university has responded with some small changes, he felt the student body remained very keen on revamping the current ACES experience.

Danny noted the presence of “buzz” as a new student-focused event calendar. He suggested that most students are not likely to go to the web site to use the calendar component, and that iCal exports of customized schedules for each student to be used in Outlook, Google, etc. might be useful.

Danny also encouraged the university to facilitate online food ordering and to facilitate the use of ePrint from off-campus.  Danny noted that this capability may exist, but students do not know about it.

Danny suggested that some of the items above might have been avoided or already addressed if Duke separated the IT consulting arm from the implementation arm. This split would enable Duke to focus on identifying the student needs without initially focusing on implementation costs.

Tracy asked if the students had concerns over Blackboard. Andrew T. responded that services like Blackboard were built ad hoc across the university, and that the university should be thinking more broadly of these sites and services as a platform and should look at offering these sites in an integrated, customer-oriented way.  

As to Blackboard, Andrew said that anecdotal evidence suggests that every student has at least one problem with Blackboard.  The questions he believes need to be addressed are:

  • Why do we stay with particular vendors?
  • What are the drivers for selecting those vendors and are those the right drivers?

With technology’s rapid evolutionary pace, current solutions will likely be out of date within five years, Andrew noted. He said that we should not get rid of legacy systems just because they are legacy; we replace systems because they are no longer the best fit for the need.  ACES did not need to be changed from a user’s perspective.  He suggested solutions should be driven by the people whose needs are purportedly being addressed.

John Board asked if there were known peer schools that had better experiences with solutions other than Blackboard.  Andrew mentioned that universities used to answer every problem by building their own systems, pointing to the number of disparate, disconnected calendars as an example.

Sunny Kantha, the DSG’s executive VP, disagreed with the stated universal dislike of Blackboard.  Sunny did request that if a replacement of Blackboard is pursued, the university should include students in the process.

Bryan clarified that replacing Blackboard was not the end goal.  Bryan suggested they want Duke to be a premiere provider of technology solutions that meet student needs.  To accomplish this, Duke may need to break from its traditional solutions.

Billy Herndon mentioned we need to provide this feedback to the vendors.  As a leader, Duke could work closely with the vendor(s) to affect positive changes that improve the user experience.  Billy suggested that building our own solution might result in an obsolete solution within two years.  Andrew T. agreed that he believed a vendor solution was preferred.

Susan Gerbeth-Jones asked how the ITAC student representatives suggest Duke get feedback from students.  Danny W. responded that surveys can be effective, and that the students that complete the surveys will probably have constructive ideas.  He added that many students have ideas but they do not know how to provide that feedback to OIT.  

Bryan added that the Link and the table at the beginning of the year are great.  These avenues are likely a wealth of information. The addition of ESPNU was news to Bryan, and he is an ITAC member.  Bryan suggested that similar service enhancements could be public relations avenues to show students OIT working to meet their needs.

Terry summarized that a clear theme was increased explicit communication between OIT and students.  Terry suggested that the ITAC students propose a mechanism for serving as a communication channel. For example, if DSG thought a specific committee could meet this need, ITAC is open to exploring this.  This is an issue also being addressed on the faculty side through the academic council.  Terry added that broadcast emails are likely very ineffective.  

An ITAC member contributed that Blackboard is clunky but the best he knows of.  It is a very complex system with many inter-connections.  He suggested an ongoing dialog between select people to provide continuity and breadth of understanding.  In addition, the member volunteered that different communication channels are needed for different needs.

A student suggested using Blackboard as a communication method since it I so course oriented.  This may help address the “mass mailing” issue.  Andrew T. added that Blackboard’s purpose should be defined; Blackboard has many functions and features, but the actual usage may be much more limited.  For students, Blackboard is usually used for a small number of things like syllabi and not all the professors use it the same way.  For example, everyone knew what ACES was for; it had a clear, defined purpose.  The fundamental interface changes also changed what users actually did with ACES.

Julian Lombardi added that an effort was begun this year to examine how Duke uses IT processes and tools to deliver e-learning.  Blackboard was primarily a faculty course management tool.  Julian said that an effort led by Ed Gomes is currently collecting functional requirements for e-learning.  This effort includes IT leaders from across campus.  He will be reaching out to a many groups for this, including strong student representation.   For example, social networking and mashup technologies are very different from monolithic systems.  This effort will explore how to knit and integrate these disparate systems.  

Terry pointed out that the student self selection process of technologically literate members provides a biased audience view.  He suggested that students could help identify a good cross-section of the student community.  Andrew T. responded that as a contributor to numerous committees, he finds that people always want features. However, he feels that software simplicity – ease of use – should be the driving force.

Kathy Pfeiffer noted that her office used a student focus group to help improve the new ACES, and that they have made numerous changes based on feedback.  Kathy asked about the utility and composition of student focus groups, and asked how they suggest that the university identify and assemble effective student focus groups?

Sunny replied that the self-selection bias is very common and that DSG is pulling back from using surveys.  One of the best ways to get students involved, Sunny said, is through specific projects through a course or through their department.  This provides an avenue for creating a tangible output through a course.  Free food and t-shirts tend to help.  Jim Roberts suggested paid collaborators may help as well.  

Danny identified a few specific examples of possible communication improvements. He thought students would benefit from a campus map showing up-to-date information on cell phone coverage. He also noted that ePrint release station outages can be difficult to report without finding a way to email or call OIT; a button that could be pressed on the station to report issues would be useful.

Andrew stated that Microsoft Word is itself a very useful student tool.  Microsoft may not have student focus groups; moreover, student focus groups are not always necessary.  Andrew suggested that a challenge for focus groups is asking members to envision something that never was and provide feedback on it.  Student focus groups should not be the foundation for in-house software development.

Robert pointed that Blackboard bought out its competition.  There are open source efforts that may fit this need.  Maybe Duke can offer some of these to select classes as a pilot.  Julian stated that this is something being considered as part of the e-learning initiative.  Terry added that members suggested tackling the future of e-learning systems in smaller bites than all at once.

Update on RIAA Practices

Larry Moneta opened by noting that the industry recently decided to change their approach.  Larry M. mentioned that he, Tracy and Henry Cuthbert from the Office of General Counsel have managed the university’s approach in response the recording industry’s efforts and that they established the university’s position after a great deal of deliberation.   The goal was to balance three principles:

  1. Right to student privacy – It was of paramount importance to maintain student privacy.
  2. Legal obligations – Assure Duke met its legal obligations under DMCA.
  3. Copyright ethics – An institutional position on copyright holders’ rights to their intellectual copyright, of importance to Duke as producer knowledge and intellectual property.

In finding the right intersection between the three principles, Duke has always erred on the side of protecting student privacy, Larry M. added.  The only way that one would learn of a student’s identity would be through a valid subpoena that has been vetted by Office of Counsel.  

Discussion followed regarding Duke’s practices in this area.

Referencing the earlier Bill of Rights concept, Terry O. asked if any of these principles were explicitly stated somewhere.  Larry M. mentioned this information is up on the Student Affairs web site. (http://deanofstudents.studentaffairs.duke.edu/filesharing/)  Terry asked the student representatives if students were familiar with the site; they replied that they suspected the average undergraduate was not. Larry M. reminded the committee that he and Tracy send a broadcast email at the beginning of the year.  

Terry wondered if there were better ways to ensure that people were aware of this information.  Larry said that there is a lot of information to attempt to retain at all times, and that awareness is most necessary when the information is particularly pertinent. For example, providing individuals with access to that web site and other resources at the time they are being served an official notice is most effective, he noted.  Larry stated that Duke will continue to disseminate general information regularly through means like the broadcast email, but focus on targeted information at appropriate times.

Andrew T. rejoined that the university should examine the need for a document that is a declaration of principles.  Andrew pointed out that email is not a private communication method; it travels through numerous unsecured servers that expose it.  He believes this would support the university if it chose to read a given listserv during a sensitive time.  The core issue, Andrew asked, is what the Duke process for handling these issues.  Terry O. added that these general principles are not restricted to the context of RIAA, but to many areas.

Tolu Adewale asked whether Student Affairs was too protective of students.  Larry M. conveyed that Duke has attempted to take a thoughtful, balanced approach, including looking at how peer institutions addressed this.  He added that he felt Duke had reached a middle ground driven by the three core principles stated earlier. 

Sunny Kantha added that DSG worked with Larry M. and had concerns because some peer schools had some troubling approaches.  Sunny agreed with Larry’s comment that this was a “middle ground” approach.