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Report to University Council FY 2009

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  • 1. 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 summary follows: 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 resources.
  • 2. 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 computers. 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 servers. 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
  • 3. 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.