I. Announcements

  • Research Computing Symposium January 18th-20th
    • Registration page at rc.duke.edu
    • 18th Library
    • 19th TEC poster session
      • Special challenge from provost’s office to visualize scholars.duke.edu data
    • We will be focusing on posters and a technology showcase on the 19th.  Posters will be available on the 20th as well.
    • 20th “Big shebang” at the Great Hall, Trent Seamans.
    • Please submit your intent to submit a poster by 11:59 PM on the 15th.
  • Victoria Szabo was appointed at the beginning of the 2016-17 academic year, but has been teaching abroad through the fall term.
  • Drones.duke.edu is now live.  You may request to fly a drone at Duke, and there are ways for us to say yes now.
  • We are planning on having a Box Awareness Month in February, connected with a user interface update, with several events and giveaways.
  • We’re going to try to “scrape” notes from project meetings for usable tidbits we will try to share with IT staff across Duke to build awareness of forthcoming efforts.

II. Agenda Items

4:05- 4:30 – Innovation Co-Lab Roots Program  Evan Levine, Sally Hall (15 minute presentation, 10 minute discussion)

What it is:   The Innovation Co-Lab is building a training program where students, faculty or staff of any skill and confidence level can comfortably start to gain an understanding of how to make use of a variety of tools and technologies.

Why it’s relevant: The Roots program is designed to help members of the Duke community become more excited and confident about continuing their education.  Whether you’re interested in learning new technical skills, or building an app and don’t know where to start, the Co-Lab Roots Program is offering classes in a variety of topics from basic to more advanced skills.

One of the early pieces of feedback we received 3 years ago was, “I’d love to do this, but I don’t know how.”  We offered workshops, many now waitlisted or full; we’ve offered 50 or more.  We’d like to join with faculty to offer some co-curricular workshops, and we’d like to offer tracks to more directly connect and “stack” what students learn.

Most importantly, we’re able to get Sally Hall, a new FTE in the Co-Lab, who came to us from the Iron Yard, a national developer boot camp.

This semester we have one or two roots classes every week.  We’re starting with Basics of Web Development.  People coming to these classes don’t need to have written code before, but toward the end they’ll be able to create a basic website with some interactivity.

We also have intermediate classes such as Introduction to Linux and classes about the Co-Lab APIs.  Sally will teach many of them, and some Co-Lab students, OIT staff, and faculty will also be instructors.  Classes are open to students, staff, and faculty.

Typically, each course has a one-time 2-hour time investment, and sessions in a track build on one another.  Our next Intro to HTML/CSS is January 25, and subsequent classes in that track are about a week apart.

Sometimes we’ll bring in an outside instructor if we don’t have local expertise.  We did that with an early Internet of Things class, but it’s now taught with local instructors.

There’s been a lot of interest in courses such as How to Get a Job in Tech, and Art of the Pitch.  Both are new workshops we will offer this term for the first time.

A top priority is creating reusable on-demand resources.  Finding a good home for content to live. This is a demonstrated need: we’ve found a gap that the community is eager to take advantage of.  This raises a question about the future of these co-curricular courses, and we’re interested in your guidance.  Many faculty members are interested in OIT helping close the gap between academic learning and skills development.  Either faculty have to add skills-targeted classes to the curriculum, or those skills must be gained some other way.  The Co-Lab Roots program is one such option.

In working with ECE and CS faculty to establish relevant co-curricular materials, we discovered that Lynda.com had great material, which we wanted to contextualize.  We used DukeExtend to add localized assessments to existing Lynda.com materials. 

Extend is an online course and module platform we’re piloting with CIT.  Extend is built on Open edX, and unlike Sakai it can scale to large numbers of students, including non-Duke students.

We’re open to input and ideas.  We’re combining non-Duke and Duke material as appropriate.  For the course using Lynda materials, we use Lynda for the video, but we surround it with a Duke framework.  If you have input about workshops that would be valuable to introduce, please contact Michael Faber or Sally Hall.


4:30- 4:50 – Wireless hotel-style access points, Richard Biever, Charles Francis (10 minute presentation, 10 minute discussion)

What it is:  OIT provides wireless connectivity within buildings across campus.  While technological advances have provided faster speeds and more security, connectivity in spaces such as dorm rooms, that are unable to take full advantage of these advances has proven challenging.  We’re moving away from placing traditional wireless access points just in hallways to utilizing hotel style access points in the dorm rooms.

Why it’s relevant:  In a constantly connected environment, Duke’s residents come with multiple devices, all of which are ready to connect speedy and reliable Wi-Fi.  With the increased demand for reliable wireless, how can we expand coverage as well as improve performance in a sustainable manner?  Richard and Charles will provide an overview of what hotel style wireless access points are and how they will be part of the wireless strategy going forward.

Later we’ll have a broader presentation on the state of wireless across campus.

Demand for wireless is a big driver on our network.  A few years ago we had a refresh effort in the dorms with a powerful wireless access point (with six antennae) directly in each dorm room.  Students weren’t fond of the the prominent location of the large access points.

Moving access points outside of the rooms into the hallways meant that getting signals through the walls became difficult, and this was made even more difficult by changes to wireless bands and by interference from malfunctioning wireless ovens.

Hotels that have had recent refreshes have small, access points with more concentrated signals directly in the rooms.  These new, smaller access points are less expensive.

Traditionally we had sparse placement of APs, one each four or five rooms. We’re now moving to having small APs in each room.  Smaller cells have helped with interference; a microwave might interfere with a single room instead of several rooms.  The lack of contention (fewer devices per AP) allows us to offer better performance in each room as well.

Cisco’s monitoring is geared toward infrastructure: are APs working?  What we’ve done is set up Raspberry Pi miniature computers with WiFi which simulate clients.  This has helped us tune the network for better real-world performance.

We’re working with Cisco to refresh and expand the wireless network across campus, using a mix of large traditional APs and hotel-style APs.  We’re identifying areas that would benefit from smaller APs.

Questions and Discussion

Question: How much Internet of Things devices are we starting to see around campus?

Answer: We are starting to see them.  Giles door now has wireless door locks which download their updates once a day; we don’t have numbers on others but we’re starting to think about how to track those.

Question: What are students finding?

Answer: Some students had trouble getting connected to DukeBlue when they came back from break.

Question: Would the hotel-style access point help in office spaces as well?

Answer: Maybe.  Wireless problems tend to be ephemeral, and we’ve done significant network rebuilds in some locations.

4:50- 5:15 – OIT Engagement Groups Update, Jen Vizas (15 minute presentation, 10 minute discussion)

What it is:  OIT has established a new approach to engaging with major functional groups and units across Duke.  Through on-going monthly or bi-monthly meetings, the groups will identify emerging projects and process improvement opportunities, explore new technology applications that can support operational needs and strategic goals, and identify potential areas for integration and automation.  The groups established thus far include Administration, Alumni Affairs & Development, Athletics, Campus Safety, Facilities Management, Public Affairs & Government Relations, Student Affairs, and Libraries.

Why it’s relevant:  The purpose of the engagement groups is to generate and sustain dialogue about the functional group’s needs, upcoming initiatives and projects, and to share knowledge on a continued basis, including new service offerings from OIT and the ways in which those may be relevant to their organization.

Earlier this year we started an experiment, a new approach to engaging major business units across campus.  This is built on a model that seemed to be successful with DHTS and Duke Medicine.  These groups are about building relationships with these units; understanding what their needs are; and understanding their core functions and pain points.

This isn’t about IT talking to IT about IT, and it isn’t about promoting what OIT is doing or supplanting existing relationships.

Groups included:

Administration – Alumni Affairs & Development – Athletics – Campus Safety – Facilities Management –Library – Public Affairs & Govt Relations – Student Affairs

Each group has 2-4 leaders from OIT and from the functional group.  We have regular meetings (monthly or bimonthly), and groups have met about twice so far.  We’re looking for ways to support the operational needs of the units.

Since we started in September/October 2016, we’ve had some successes and lots of valuable conversations.  We identified that Nursing began using BrassRing Mobile for people to apply; now central HR is adopting this as well.  We found that HR and Parking and Transportation are using Tableau for data analytics, and now those groups are able to work more closely with others who are using these same tools.  We’re also looking at revamping how access and authorizations are assigned throughout the employee lifecycle.

We’ve had people give demos on newly developed or available tools, and we’re looking at using the ServiceNow ticketing system to automate the onboarding process for employees.  We’re also working with Parking & Transportation to investigate providing data transfers to make it easier for people to get parking passes.

We’ve helped Athletics get additional support resources for StadiumVision and Four Winds.  We’re also helping them transition certain IT services to campus enterprise services.  We’re talking with Residence Life and Housing about maximizing our investment with StadiumVision.

Upcoming, we’ll assess our success and see if this model can be used in other areas across campus.

Questions and Discussion

Question: How did you identify the groups you’d work with?

Answer: We started with the major campus administrative units because it was more narrowly bounded group with which we could pilot the approach.  There are cases where people don’t know what we offer in OIT, don’t come to us to ask questions and assume they have to know things themselves, or don’t know what technologies might be available or how to get started.  This is a perennial problem which we’ve struggled with.

We tried a few years ago to connect with the major administrative units.  The first time we tried this, about 5 years ago, we tried to associate one individual as the liaison to each unit.  That didn’t work well.  This time we found a team of people working at a different reporting level.  We’re cautiously optimistic that a similar model might help us get better connected institutionally, potentially including academic units in the future.