Northern Illinois University
Computing Facilities Advisory Committee
FY2009 Report to the University Council
The Computing Facilities Advisory Committee (CFAC) met on September 19, 2008;
November 14, 2008; February 20, 2009; and April 10, 2009. At the September meeting,
Brandi Hephner LaBanc, representing Student Affairs, was elected committee chair. A
quorum was present at all meetings, which were conducted in accordance with the
committee guidelines outlined in the University Council’s web page Committees of the
University: http://www.niu.edu/u_council/commbook0809/comfacadv.htm .
Agendas and minutes are available on the CFAC web site: http://www.niu.edu/cfac/ . A
The committee received regular updates on the status of Blackboard. A major upgrade
from version 7.3 to 8.0 took place in late May. Updates were provided regarding new
Blackboard features, such as a rules-based Early Warning System, and an interface being
developed to transfer grades from Blackboard to MyNIU. Based on input from students
wanting Blackboard to be used in all their classes, the committee discussed this issue.
Related to this topic, was the use of alternative course management systems by some
departments/colleges and the resulting duplication of resources and higher costs.
The committee discussed the University’s Strategic Plan as it relates to CFAC and ITS.
An ITS proposal addressing three goals has been supported by all the Deans. The
proposal addresses a campus-wide wireless network, secure and personalized access to
university network resources, and a document sharing system.
Four subcommittees were formed: Physical Infrastructure, Authentication and Access,
Shared Information Resources, and Mission/Innovation. The subcommittees would be
involved with both immediate strategic initiatives as well as longer range issues. Each
committee would work with an ITS liaison. The committee received subcommittee
reports regarding ongoing projects and plans falling within each subcommittee’s area of
interest. The four subcommittees are:
Physical Infrastructure would address issues such as networking, high speed Internet,
continuity of business operations, computer lab hardware and software, and
surveillance cameras. It would address the strategic goal of implementing a campus-
wide wireless network.
Authentication and Access would address issues such as network printing and
storage, university web portal, and computer lab printing. It would address the
strategic goal of providing secure and personalized access to university network
Shared Information Resources would address issues such as enterprise systems,
OnBase, PeopleSoft, Blackboard, and data warehousing. It would address the
strategic goal of implementing a system for document sharing.
Mission/Innovation would address cutting edge technology issues related to
teaching, research, artistry, service, and administration.
Plans to replace equipment in the ITS computer labs were discussed. Funding has not
kept up with the cost of operating the labs. Staffing and printing costs, especially, have
increased significantly over time and continue to increase each year. This leaves fewer
dollars available for other needs, such as equipment replacement. All ITS computer labs
currently run XP. ITS surveyed users last year about changing to Vista, and there was
little desire or demand to adopt Vista. A mass upgrade/replacement of computers would
be necessary in order to switch to Vista. Network connectivity in most labs also needs to
be upgraded. The question remaining was what direction to take when buying new
A proposed change to network fees charged by ITS was discussed. In response to
demands from customers who want to make technology upgrades, ITS is trying to find an
equitable way to make this possible while still covering its costs. Most requests are for
100 Mb connections, and most campus buildings now have the network infrastructure in
place to allow upgrades to 100 Mb. But infrastructure improvements are needed in some
buildings and there are also point-to-point connectivity issues in some areas, including
ITS computer labs. ITS proposed a reduction in the monthly charge for 100 Mb desktop
connections from $19 to $15, and a reduction in the monthly charge for 100 Mb file
server connections from $30 to $25, effective April 1, 2009. For a limited time period,
ITS would offer bulk rate pricing on the installation of multiple 100 Mb connections and
the upgrade of multiple 10 Mb connections to 100 Mb. This would be a first step in
better managing the network and assuring that users were paying their fair share for
network usage and connectivity. The standard is a ratio of no more than four IP
addresses per network node for workstations and one IP address per network node for file
Mitch Kielb gave a presentation regarding the concept of course content delivery using
Blackboard and print-on-demand. As a possible, less expensive alternative to traditional
textbooks in some courses, course content could be put on Blackboard, with a
supplemental course packet/manual. Students would access the Blackboard content by
paying a modest fee; access would be granted through the bookstore’s website. The
committee discussed various issues related to this concept: the huge effort involved in
creating online content equivalent to a textbook; faculty providing free access to material
they have created on their own websites or the free Blackboard sites for their classes;
students’ reluctance to paying for access to online content when so much of what is
online is available for free; the shifting of print costs to ITS and departmental computer
labs; the growing number of e-books available for free or for less than the price of
textbooks; unresolved questions of ownership and compensation for online content; the
ongoing need for content to be refreshed, both in textbooks and online; the need for
online content to be appropriately rigorous and not merely cobbled together based on
whatever is free or easily available; increasing pressure to implement something like this
when we are required to publish all costs (including textbook costs); using the most
appropriate technology to provide course materials at lower costs; and researching
different delivery models.
The committee was briefed on the purchase of a new content manager to replace
WebCRMA. ITS was working to have it in place for the fall 2009 semester, but it may
require a year or two to move all existing content from WebCRMA to the new system.
A collaborative effort between ITS, Housing and Northwestern University was
announced. NIU would be acquiring ten IPTV channels from Northwestern for a trial in
the residence halls. While there were no immediate plans to eliminate cable TV service,
but future delivery of content could change if the IPTV pilot were successful.