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Information Technology Committee


The committee met in September, October, November, January, February, March, April and May. The topics considered included the following:

How IT governance works at UT and the current IT goals 
Brad Englert, chief information officer, reviewed the history of IT governance, and the plan and priorities established by the SITAC (Strategic Information Technology Advisory Committee). Recent accomplishments include project funding for LIFT grants to support innovative IT ideas, the opening of a new data storage center, and the selection of Google e-mail. Ongoing work includes the establishment of voice-over internet protocol (VoIP) standards and the evaluation of learning management system (LMS) options. Other issues include a lecture capture system, convenient data accessibility for travel, clarity on the responsibilities of ITS, the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL), individual college IT departments, a wireless coverage strategy, the availability of cellular service on campus, classroom response systems using mobile devices, and the need to publicize services that are available.

Update on iTunes U
iTunes U provides free content from schools. In January, the University entered an agreement with Apple and is currently working toward a launch. iTunes U has a public side and private side that needs authentication. CTL is working with the Office of Communications, the Office of Marketing, and the Office of Creative Service to design graphics and layout for the public side. Two hundred pieces of content will be provided by UTeach, Knowledge Matters, and individual colleges. Hopefully, there will be a soft launch on iTunes by the end of this or early next semester. The private side of iTunes works through Blackboard and is currently in beta phase. Apple’s system is intended to deliver public content, so the private side is used less. Schools use iTunes U to publicize the best of the best. 

Learning Management System selection
Project details are available at Blackboard does not meet everyone’s needs, so there was a RFQ for a new learning management system. Surveys, focus groups, and hands-on testing were conducted to get as much input as possible. After reviewing preliminary test results, only two systems were recommended for RFP: Blackboard and Canvas by Instructure. A pilot of the Canvas system will be available in fall 2012.  See

“UTmail powered by Google” roll-out and the retirement of the University Mailbox Service (UMBS)
Throughout the year, the committee was updated on this topic. The number of (Google) accounts has increased as the service became available first to students, then to alumni, and finally to faculty and staff. In parallel accounts have been removed from UMBS. The address continues to be available to faculty for forwarding or as an alias. Student workers and retirees will have their accounts retired June 4. Staff accounts will retire in mid summer and faculty accounts will be retired by about mid-October.

Laptop encryption
The executive compliance committee (president, vice president, and deans) considers the risks on campus. At the start of the year, laptops fell into low control/high risk. Laptop encryption has been ongoing since January 2011. At the start of the academic year, 51% of the 15,000 UT-owned laptops were still not protected. Crashplan was rolled out, which may have helped motivate individuals to have their laptops encrypted. By the end of the academic year, more than 85% of University-owned laptops had been encrypted.

Lecture capturing
The committee was informed about what is being done in the Colleges of Pharmacy and Liberal Arts. Issues, such as student privacy, were discussed. If lectures are recorded, departments could put together a library of lectures. Another side effect is that events can be made global using this technology. Putting Media Site or Echo 360 into the 60 or 80 largest classrooms would cost $1-2 million. This would represent about 90% of the credit hours. Very small cost per credit/hour. The systems capture whatever is on the projector and audio from the professors mike. Some faculty would like the talking head, but so far Liberal Arts does not include that. Technology is improving and will allow searching for topics and captioning (although captioning is expensive).

Mobile strategy
People are bringing more and more mobile devices to campus. Some are coming to campus with two or three devices. There are 61,000 wireless devices hooked to the network every day. UT needs to develop a mobile strategy. Surveys, interviews, and focus groups will be used to deal with these questions. Some classroom response systems need wireless. A multi-year plan is needed to plan which rooms have adequate wireless. The new Liberal Arts building will have adequate wireless. About 40 interviews have been conducted to date. People report that they are using their mobile devices to connect with e-mail, calendar, maps, news, social media, notes, efficiency apps, and entertainment apps. Students want the software to function the same on mobile devices as on computers. Bandwidth growth on wireless was 80% over last year. More wireless access points are needed, which depends on college/department priorities. 

Administrative system master plan
Every year, UT spends $25 million on administrative systems. SITAC recommended that there be a plan, so all the business areas got together to come up with a new strategy. Group decided to move away from database Natural, which needs an IBM mainframe to run. An interfacing architecture is needed to connect the Oracle open environment to the mainframe. This can either be package software, hosted systems, or, when necessary, custom development. ITS will work with the Architecture and Infrastructure Committee to develop a roadmap for replacing the old systems. Carnegie Mellon has a capability maturity model, which rates UT at the lowest level.
Voice-over IP
UT has 23,000 lines of copper that hook to a 25-year-old switch that connects to phones. Voice-over IP is expensive to tie into the University’s switches. Voice-over IP can route to a mobile phone during the day or connect to a computer. This will reduce costs. We need to stop using the switches because the aren’t made anymore, and the service building space will be repurposed in six years. Two to three thousand lines need to be copper for safety. Eventually, cost will be about one fourth for VoIP instead of copper. Phones will be moved when computers are moved. Currently, ITS overcharges for phone service and uses this money to fund other things. Six options were considered and two bids are currently considered. The transition from copper to VoIP will take five years. All new buildings will get VoIP service, and then the other buildings will be filled in. Sound quality will be better and voice mail will be bundled in. FTE tax may just cover the costs and then bills won’t need to be required. Long distance US, Canada, and Mexico will be free. The copper from the old lines will be recycled.

Classroom response systems
The Center for Teaching and Learning and ITS did an evaluation of classroom response systems – particularly browser-based systems that allow for a variety of question types. The four systems considered were, Learning Catalytics, Top Hat Monicle, and TOWRE. Learning Catalytics is available for the 2012-13 school year for free.

Cloud file sharing
Dropbox and Webspace are currently being used. Cloud file sharing taskforce is trying to see how we could get something better. Security, networking are issues. Students use Google docs (80-90% of students), USB drives, and e-mail files to themselves. Sharing and collaboration would be easier if there was a good way to share files. A survey was circulated to get some indication of what’s going on. It was determined that not many people store more than what they can for free. People expect Cloud file sharing to be free. Company called Box provides solution that committee will recommend. There is a cost, initial buy-in is $200,000 for 200 Terabytes. Accessibility and e-mail logins are concerns. Faculty want the service to be competitive with Dropbox. Students use Google docs. Google Drive will be available because it is included in the Google Apps for Education agreement.  

Planning for 2012-13 
Paul Resta was approved unanimously to serve as chair elect. The issue of increasing student and faculty participation in C-13 was raised. The committee is supposed to bring forward the faculty perspective/faculty voice. This is a key place where faculty voice should be more broadly heard. Where there are college or school faculty technology committees, there should be representation on C-13. Seven or eight faculty members are not going to be able to represent issues for everyone. A motion to add more faculty representation to the committee was passed two years ago, but not acted on. This should be pursued again. Currently, the committee gets reports and occasionally gives recommendations to ITS, but doesn’t really make decisions. It may be helpful to have a representative who is on both C-13 and the Learning and Technology committee. It was also suggested that the C-13 committee design and conduct a survey to see what technology needs would be desirable on campus. The survey is a project that might get the committee more engaged.

IT priorities for next fiscal year
Cloud file sharing
Lecture capture
Classroom response system
Library and e-content
Learning analytics
Teaching from the tablet
Sharing of things developed from Course Transformation
Blended/online learning – tools, instructional design
Overall – focus on instructional technology

Betsy Greenberg, chair