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Information Technology Committee

During the 2010-11 academic year, the C-13 committee played an active role in providing input for the ongoing information technology (IT) programs that were being reviewed by the Information Technology Program as outlined in the 2009 Strategic Information Technology Advisory Committee (SITAC) report. Dr. David Neubert, School of Music, served as chair of the committee and Dr. Betsy Greenberg, McCombs School of Business, was elected vice chair.

The committee met monthly during the year to consider and develop ideas that would address the IT needs of faculty and students. The committee met on the following dates: September 9, October 4, November 5, December 3, January 14, February 4, March 4, April 1, and May 6. One goal of the committee was to have meetings that were open and transparent to the faculty. Detailed minutes of each meeting were prepared and made publicly available.

Brad Englert, ex officio member of the committee and chief information officer for the University, provided comprehensive updates as to the progress of IT programs and actions being taken. Liz Aebersold, IT assistant, provided additional input when Brad Englert was unavailable so the committee was always well informed throughout the year.

In addition, special presentations were invited to help the committee understand the current issues, trends, and context of IT at the University. Some of these presentation and discussion topics included:

Harrison Keller, vice provost for higher education policy and research, acting director, Center for Teaching and Learning, discussed the current Learning Management System (LMS) program, Blackboard, becoming the primary system over the now unsupported grading program, e-Gradebook.

Mario Guerro, information technology specialist, Center for Teaching and Learning, demonstrated and reviewed some of the important grading features and upgrades that will soon be available using Blackboard, currently the University standard LMS. This prompted the need to explore a more efficient, cost-effective LMS.

Michael Cunningham, director of the University data center, offered a tour of the new, state-of-the-art data center. This provided a major resource for addressing a secure, centralized server platform for the entire University. New installations were ongoing throughout the year as we move more towards an open-source system. Additional secured faculty data storage was also made available.

Implementation of the digital measures initiative included mandatory encryption of all portable laptop devices. This is being done throughout the University for enhanced security of important data. Google has been chosen as the new student email system providing considerable support and options. This committee provided both student and faculty input during the selection phase.

Betsy Greenberg, vice chair, McCombs School of Business, brought up the issue of available wireless bandwidth during busy class periods. Several other committee members agreed with this issue, and it has been directed to the Architecture and Infrastructure Technology Committee to resolve.

Darlene Wiley, music, brought up the need for maintaining minimum classroom computing and presentation standards across campus. There seems to be a lot of disparity between colleges. This has also been redirected to the Research and Education Technology Committee. The new IT governance structure is apparently working very well.

David Neubert, IT director for Butler School of Music and chair of this committee, provided a demonstration of a free cloud computing program (called TokBox) for doing multi-video chat sessions. TokBox supports up to twenty webcam users, and a five-way chat session was shown to demonstrate live orchestral instruments to various public school classrooms. This particular educational program has been supported by the Austin Symphony and a grant from the Dell Corporation. Dr. Neubert also demonstrated an open-source lecture capture system (called Panopto) to both this committee and the Research and Education Technology Committee that has prompted further investigation. Panopto is one of several such programs that supports other LMS systems and uses less expensive cloud computing technology.

David Moss and Jennifer Jobst, ITS projects team, opened the discussion on the current LMS (Blackboard) – pros and cons. This has lead to five programs that were presented and are currently being reviewed. Input is now University-wide, including faculty, staff and students. This is an example of how the 2009 subcommittees’ recommendations to enhance the effectiveness of the new governance structure are working.

The new IT governance structure provides for the C-13 chair to serve as a member of the Strategic IT Accountability Board (SITAB). David Neubert attended the SITAB meetings and found them to be quite informative. This also provided a platform for further input from the committee and a means to interrelate directly with the other IT governance committees.

The composition of the C-13 committee was due to be increased in size and scope during this past academic year. This change, legislation proposal (D 8074-8075), had been approved by President Powers in September 2010. Three additional members for the C-13 committee would be chairs of college and school faculty IT committees. During the review process of new programs and learning management systems, additional input is essential to accommodate the vast array of divergent programs offered at the University.

During the May meeting, the committee elected Dr. Betsy Greenberg as chair elect. She will begin her term as chair at the beginning of the 2011-12 academic year. The issues that are suggested for the committee to consider next year include a final review of the five learning management systems, including Blackboard, Moodle, Desire2Learn, Canvas, and Sakai; open education resources, including lecture capture, to support instruction; VoIP (voice/video over internet protocol) development for enhanced communication; the support of mobile device technology and related technologies for faculty and student use; and meeting the ever demanding needs for campus wireless networking and off campus bandwidth capacities.

In summary, the C-13 committee has had a productive year. It has provided an effective means to articulate the needs and views of faculty and to offer recommendations to help ensure that the new governance structure will meet the needs of faculty, staff, and students.

David Neubert, chair