Technology Update: Fall 2007

Welcome back to campus everyone. And new faculty and instructors, welcome to PSU! Here’s what you need to know about computers, information and accountability. Please take a few minutes to review.

Contents

1. Where do I get information?
2. What’s new?
3. How does PSU communicate in case of emergencies?

4. Are we still using WebCT?
5. Why so many upgrades and systems unavailable?
6. Are there times we can expect the systems to be down?


7. What is the best way to look up students, faculty and staff?
8. Where do I go for help using technology in the classroom?
9. What are my rights to privacy?

10. Which Windows operating systems are supported? (Vista?)
11. May I bring my own laptop to the PSU network?
12. How do I get software loaded on computer clusters?


13. How may PSU classes are online?
14. What are the technology goals for this year?
15. How are decisions about technology made at PSU?

16. What technologies should we be paying attention to?
17. Where can I get computer help?

Where do I get information? The best source of campus information and communications is myPlymouth. This web application underwent a major upgrade this summer, along with the overall PSU web site. These two sites comprise our INTERNAL and EXTERNAL communications strategy. myPlymouth is where students, employees and constituents will get most of their information and online services. More and more communications will be posted to myPlymouth. The main PSU web pages now target prospective students, parents and everyone else outside of our organization.

What's new? Over the summer, upgrades occurred to Banner, WebCT and myPlymouth. The first two were relatively minor, but myPlymouth got a major facelift. Check it out and customize your myPlymouth page so it works for you. myPlymouth is your primary source of campus information and services. There is also a new email program called myMail. It is designed to work primarily as a web application, helping you communicate, schedule, maintain contacts, and share documents and calendars. Many new computers are being installed with Windows Vista. Also new is our emergency communications system (below).

How does PSU communicate in case of emergencies? PSU has partnered with e2Campus, an online service that students and employees may opt into. e2Campus allows PSU to send emergency alerts, snow cancellations, flood warnings and other critical information as text messages to cell phones, alternate email addresses and/or in customized home pages in Google and Yahoo. These are the communication tools of students and, increasingly, PSU employees. . You’ll hear more soon on how to sign up. This is all part of an upgraded emergency communication plan that distributes communication via multiple channels. PSU will continue to use email and the Web as primary communication tools, too.

Are we still using WebCT as our primary learning management system? Yes. WebCT has been in operation at PSU for the past 6 years. In 2006, Blackboard, an industry competitor, acquired WebCT and plans to support it several more years. Eventually, WebCT and Blackboard will not be separate products. For now, we continue to run WebCT from the Blackboard company. More and more, it will be call Blackboard CE and Vista. See http://www.blackboard.com/services/training/ce/index).

Why so many upgrades and systems unavailable? Software upgrades have become a way of life. The technology industry is highly competitive and new, updated software versions come frequently. We avoid the bleeding edge, but we keep pace with the changes. That often results in impact to users. Our goal is always to keep you informed, minimize the down times and look for periods during the year that are least disruptive to your work. We plan most of our upgrades during semester breaks. We also have a weekly maintenance window every Sunday morning, 6-10am.

Are there times we can expect systems to be down? Sunday mornings, 6-10am is a weekly time when systems or network maintenance will occur. Not all weekends, and not without advance notice to myPlymouth and the community.

What is the best way to look up students, faculty and staff? PSU publishes a student and faculty/staff directory each year. Like most types of phone books, they're going away. The advertising model that always supported them is no longer effective. The most current directory information will always be online through our main web page directory or within myPlymouth. You can also dial 3333 on any campus extension and speak the person or department’s name in our voice-activated directory.

Where do I go for help using technology in the classroom? Multimedia support is available through the Learning Commons and/or by seeking Equipment Reservations in myPlymouth (left column, see Services). The Learning Commons is available 7 days a week for your support in any number of ways. Stop in, call 2929 or email them at helpdesk@plymouth.edu.

What are my rights to privacy? The email system, PSU-issued computers and the network all belong to the University. Within that framework you have a high degree of academic and personal freedom. No one tracks your surfing or email. You do, however, leave tracks everywhere you go. And since 9/11, there have been numerous changes in laws that have reduced the degree of privacy. Still, privacy and personal responsibility remain core PSU values. Please read the PSU Acceptable Use Policy. We are all accountable to it.

Which Windows operating system is supported? PSU is rolling out Windows Vista on computer labs and many new computers. Students will also be bringing new computers with Vista to campus. We will continue to support Windows XP, too, for quite a while yet.

May I bring my own laptop to the PSU network? Yes. Like students, PSU employees may log on to the PSU wireless network with an appropriate username and password. They may also plug in to network ports in the library. Your computer needs to be current with Windows security updates and have MacAfee Anti-virus software installed. Personal computers cannot, however, plug in to office ports unless their computers have loaded several more PSU network and security components. This is designed for security and network protection. Those who choose this option should have a fair amount of computer savvy and troubleshooting skills. ITS desktop support for individual employee computers is limited. Service is available through the University Computer Store.

How do I get software loaded onto the computer clusters? Faculty and instructors receive notice every April and December alerting them to submit requests for software to be installed on our network and in computer labs. Because there are so many software applications already loaded, new requests have to be tested for compatibility. If it passes muster, the new software is loaded and made available the following semester. This delicate process constricts ITS's ability to load any software at the beginning or other times during the semester. It poses risk to the stability of other applications.

How many PSU classes are online? This past year, there were 104 classes offered online. That's almost double the number from the year before (61). Most online classes are offered in the summer, followed closely by winterim. More and more classes, however, are offered during the fall and spring semesters. If you would like to explore options for online courses, contact the Frost School.

What are technology goals for this year?

  1. Improve Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Plans
  2. Enhance academic technologies in the classroom and ensure that PSU has a learning management system to meet the needs of students and faculty
  3. Implement New Email and Content Management Systems
  4. Explore Overall Communication tools for Telephony and Unified Messaging
  5. Manage Online Relations with Varied Constituents: Prospective Students, Parents and alums
  6. Improve Identity Management System: Required to address security, regulatory compliance and campus interoperability
  7. Improve Institutional Reporting
  8. Expand Wireless Access Points across Campus

How are decisions about technology made at PSU? The Technology Advisory Committee (TAG, see myPlymouth Groups for documents and agendas the past several years) meets monthly during the academic year. Made up of faculty and staff (and occasionally students), TAG tackles a variety of technology issues that impact students and faculty. It also creates ad hoc groups and reviews policy recommendations. TAG is led by the senior technology officers: The CIO, Dwight Fischer, and the Director of the Library, David Beronä. TAG recommendations on major PSU decisions flow up to the President's Cabinet. In addition to TAG, there is an Executive Steering Committee for Information Systems (ESC). The ESC includes vice presidents, TAG leaders, Graduate Studies and others as needed. ESC has purview over all aspects of information systems, project priorities, data and network security, major system upgrades or replacements, and regulatory compliance.

What technologies should we be paying attention to? Think about trends more than specific technologies. More and more software is made available as web applications. Email is a good example. Microsoft Outlook, an application that resides on your computer, used to reign. Now our email, calendar and documents can all be on the web with our new myMail system. This practice is far more prevalent with students arriving at our doors. There is, however, a trade-off in your control and local storage. You're good as long as you’re connected. (Good if you live around Internet connections, not so good if you live in the sticks.)

Where can I get computer help? The ITS Help Desk is located in the Information Desk of the Learning Commons in Lamson Library. You may walk in, call x2929 or send a note to helpdesk@plymouth.edu. The Learning Commons is staffed by students and experienced IT professionals. They work closely with library personnel to integrate our services around information, research, multimedia and support. Don't hesitate to contact them first if you are experiencing difficulties. Chances are you may not be the only one with a problem. And if you are, they can escalate the issues to appropriate ITS staff to get it resolved. The Help Desk, like the library, is open seven days a week.

Best of luck in the new semester. We're here to help.

Dwight Fischer, CIO
Information Technology Services

ext. 2443 dcfischer@plymouth.edu