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Information Technology Committee


During the 2012-13 academic year, the C-13 committee provided input and feedback related to a number of University information technology initiatives and issues. Paul Resta (College of Education) served as chair of the committee and Betsy Greenberg (Red McCombs School of Business) was vice chair.

The committee met throughout the academic year to discuss University IT needs, initiatives, and policies and to provide helpful feedback and recommendations to the chief information officer and the Faculty Council. The committee met on the following dates: September 10 and 28, October 26, November 30, January 25, February 22, March 22, April 19, and May 3. The minutes of the meetings were prepared and made publicly available. During the initial meeting, Brad Englert, chief information officer, provided an overview of the IT governance structure and discussed the increasingly important role the committee plays in the structure. The following is a summary of major issues and recommendations made by the committee:

Canvas pilot. The committee had multiple briefings on the status of the pilot and results of feedback from faculty and students on the use of the Learning Management System (LMS). Committee members who were participating in the pilot indicated they, as well as their colleagues, were very pleased with the affordances of the Canvas LMS. In discussing faculty implications, the committee indicated that the move from Blackboard to Canvas involves more than simply “porting over” the content and will require the faculty to make some changes in both design and content to make optimal use of the new LMS.

Technology response to September 14 UT bomb threat. Most committee members indicated that the notification system worked well. Alerts included the siren, text message, website pop-up, Facebook/Twitter messages, TV, and radio. Network and other means are also being explored. Concerns were expressed by the committee for individuals in areas such as basements where sirens cannot be heard and there is a lack of wireless access. They also felt loudspeaker announcements were needed.

University Mobile Strategy Task Force recommendations report. Mike Horn, Director of Digital Strategy, discussed the University’s commitment to mobile responsive web design, including efforts to provide a personalized, socially engaging experience and customized apps for specific users. A strategy to support mobile use in instruction places a high priority on wireless access in classrooms, and a road map to accomplish this goal is being developed. The task force hopes to submit a large bulk request for funds for the upgrades. Other issues discussed related to the use of mobile devices with Blackboard, Canvas, iTunes U, and EdX.

UT System and EdX. The committee was briefed on UT System’s partnership with EdX and its goal to increase graduation rates by increasing student participation in online courses. It was indicated that the provost was interested in the C-13 Committee’s input on blended and online courses. The committee felt that to achieve online and blended courses of the highest quality, faculty must be provided with successful models for course development and that part of the budget should be allocated to faculty development. The committee indicated that there would likely be strong faculty interest in participating in educational research efforts similar to the ones underway at Harvard, MIT, and Berkeley that use student data generated by these courses. Questions were raised about whether EdX will at some point be a replacement for Canvas, and there were concerns about faculty needing to migrate to a new platform so soon after migrating to Canvas.

Restructuring of the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL). Plans for changing CTL into a campus hub for teaching and learning research and coordination were discussed, as was the creation of a faculty fellowship program, in which representatives from the colleges would have two-year appointments and serve as liaisons with their departments, helping peers develop online and blended courses. The committee expressed support for the concept.

Big Data. A group from the Texas Advanced Computing Center briefed the committee on TACC’s computational capabilities to provide the resources for big data technologies, including high-performance data processing, data analytics, and high capacity data storage. Several faculty members shared how these resources play a critical role in their research and felt that the trends in research toward increasingly more massive and complex data sets will place greater demand on these technologies.

Massive Open and Online Courses (MOOCs). The committee was briefed on the status of UT MOOCs, as well as the emergence of a new platform focused on student collaboration and group learning. Questions were raised about policies regarding rights to the materials, and it was indicated that the policies would be the same as those covering faculty ownership rights for course materials they develop.

Early Academic Warning System (EAWS). The committee discussed with CTL staff the development of EAWS. The system is designed to provide feedback to students and faculty to increase academic success. Although it may be used in any class, it has particular value in large classes where individual feedback from the instructor may not be feasible. EAWS allows instructors to alert students at the first sign of struggle and provide them with resources. The committee expressed interest in seeing the system and providing feedback on it before the student portal is activated.

Analytic Prediction Tools. SITAB’s Business Services Committee is working on policies for administrators, college units, and individuals that will govern the access and use of data for the purposes of course improvement and research. Members of the committee expressed interest in staying abreast of this important effort.

Proposal to Change the Composition of the C-13 Information Technology Committee. The committee developed and approved a proposal to change the composition of the committee to include faculty representatives from colleges/schools with faculty IT committees. The rationale for this proposed revision is to provide a broader base of faculty input for the University IT governance process by adding eight more voting faculty members. The college/school faculty IT committees provide an effective means to identify faculty IT concerns and assess the impact on faculty of University and college IT policies and decisions. These members will be able to present their faculty’s needs and issues to the committee and disseminate information on committee matters and recommendations to their faculty. Colleges/schools without faculty IT committees will be encouraged to create them. The proposal was submitted to the Faculty Council, and the Committee on Committees provided helpful feedback on procedures required for its implementation. The chair of the C-13 Information Technology Committee was invited to make a presentation of the proposal to the full Faculty Council. It was unanimously approved, and the Faculty Council has sent out the request for nominations.

Election of C-13 IT Committee faculty chair for 2013-14. Dr. Greenberg nominated Chang Liu (College of Communications) to serve as C-13 faculty chair for 2013-14. Derek Chiou (Cockrell School of Engineering) seconded the nomination. All members voted in favor of electing Dr. Liu.

Paul Resta, chair