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2013-2014 Annual Report
C-13 Information Technology Committee

 

During the 2013-14 academic year, the C-13 committee provided input and feedback related to a number of University information technology initiatives and issues. Chang Liu (Moody College of Communication) served as chair of the committee and Gordon Novak (College of Natural Sciences) was vice chair.

The committee met throughout the academic year to discuss University IT needs, initiatives, and policies and to provide feedback and recommendations to the chief information officer and the Faculty Council. The committee met on the following dates: September 9 and 18, October 16, November 18, February 25, March 25, and April 22. During the initial meeting, Brad Englert, UT chief information officer, provided an overview of the IT governance structure and discussed the increasingly important role of the committee in the structure. The major issues and recommendations made by the committee are summarized as follows:

Transition to Canvas. The committee had multiple briefings on the status of the Transition to Canvas, the Learning Management System. Committee members who had used Canvas indicated they, as well as their colleagues, were very pleased with the affordances and usability of the Canvas and gave very positive evaluation of Canvas. It appeared that the transition to Canvas had been conducted well, (e.g., 29% of the UT courses were using Canvas, exceeding the 25% goal for the Spring semester of 2014, while the goal of Fall 2014 is to reach 50% and then 100% for next year). BlackBoard will be phased out on August 31, 2015. In addition, the committee also provided several suggestions to smoothen the transition to Canvas and to improve the function of Canvas. For example, provide the Canvas training by different approaches such as having regular training sessions for faculty and going to the colleges and departments to train faculty; let faculty informed of the transition timeline (this may need several inputs to faculty by different channels). Some technical suggestions were also provided such as including a plagiarism tool and faculty’s teaching/research website that were or would be constructed.

UT Shared Services. In the October monthly meeting, Kevin Hegarty, Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, gave a presentation on the UT shared services and discussed concerns and issues with the committee. Due to the change of funding climates (e.g., relative low tuitions and continually reduced state funding), the current support of administrative services is hard to be sustained. Shared services, the consolidation of business operations that are used by multiple units of the same organization, may offer UT Austin the ability to maintain its quality of service, improve career opportunities for staff, and create savings that can be reinvested into the university’s mission of teaching and research. A set of recommendations are submitted by the Shared Services Executive Steering Committee (Executive Steering Committee) and are initially expected to yield a net saving of $30-40 M and a gross total savings over 12 years of $280-320 M. A more gradual approach is being taken toward implementation with an examination of pilot projects in place for the coming year. Moreover, additional faculty members were added to the Shared Services Executive Steering Committee. Over the coming years, the UT shared services are to address funding constraints by focusing on three imperatives: maintain and/or improve services, create new career opportunities for staff, and reduce costs. The committee expressed and discussed some concerns with Kevin, e.g., the need for transparency and more frequent Shared Services, and how the centralized Shared Services fit to the administrative needs of individual units. Open dialogs and discussion on the Shared Services were being conducted across the campus and would continue until the end of fall semester.

Student Bandwidth Strategy and Syllabus Bandwidth Notice. William Green, the Director of Networking and Telecommunication in the ITS, presented the student bandwidth strategy and syllabus bandwidth notice to the committee and discussed the issue with the committee. First, for the new Student Bandwidth Strategy, students are required to purchase the bandwidth if they wish to use internet on campus and they will no longer receive minimum allocations that have been adopted for recent years. The strategy is to provide students the freedom to pursue their interests and be individually responsible, to ensure adequate bandwidth resources available, and to have the university protected from liability, This new strategy will be implemented as soon as Fall of 2014, but no later than Fall of 2015. For the academic year 2014-15, students will continue to receive 500MB per week at no additional cost. More bandwidth (4 tiers) is available at the announced lower rates (starting at $3.00 per semester). Faculty, staff, and graduate teaching/research assistants will receive an allocation, depending on their appointment. One suggestion for the proposed bandwidth strategy is that some free wireless internet connect can be served in libraries for the students who do not want to purchase the bandwidth. Second, for the Syllabus Bandwidth Notice, all course syllabi with a technology component are recommended to include campus network bandwidth recommendations that are appropriate to fit the course needs. Two samples are provided for course syllabi. Additional syllabus languages are also recommended for courses using wireless connection in the specially equipped large auditoriums.

UT Streaming Media Task Force recommendations report. Kamran Zai, from the College of Pharmacy, introduced the current charge of the task force that included: evaluation and recommendation for central streaming media service, determination of funding sources for a centralized streaming media service, and evaluation of streaming media storage options. A report of the survey on the Streaming Media Service at UT conducted in Fall of 2012 was handed to the committee. In summary, the report indicates that there is a strong need for streaming media technology at UT that is used widely for both live and archived content. The problem was the inconsistency, duplication of effort, and the difficulty of accessibility in the Streaming Media Service, likely due to the diversity of technologies in use across the campus. A shared offering would be highly needed to diverse constituents working with the streaming media. In the spring semester of 2014, the task force has decided short-, medium-, and long-term goals. The short-term goal is to develop resources providing information on the current available streaming media services (e.g., Echo 360 and Mediasite for departmental lectures; ITS services including UStream for large university events). The medium-term goal is to propose a central Wowza streaming service with UT libraries as the hub and provide this service to campus. The long-term goal is to provide approaches to fit the need of UT’s future online education and presence. During the presentation, the committee discussed related issues such as the copyright of faculty’s lecturing video/audio and when considering to centralize the streaming media service, how to integrate resources and fit needs at different levels (e.g., colleges and departments), especially for those UT units that are heavily streaming media users.

The UT Web Infrastructure Project. Jenn Coast and David Moss from the ITS gave a presentation and discussed with the committee on the UT Web Infrastructure Project. Overall, the UT Web Infrastructure project is to replace Web Central and launch a new, panel-based shared web hosting platform. A timetable of the Web Infrastructure project is provided with details as follows. The detailed design was completed in 2013, while the work is underway on two proof-of-concept phases for the academic year 2013-14. To date, the project team has met with nearly a dozen colleges, schools and units across the UT campus to review the project’s progress and upcoming timeline and answer questions. During the presentation, the committee had a discussion on several issues such as the effect of faculty’s research website migration and the relationship between the Web Infrastructure project and the centralized data storage. In general, the Web Infrastructure project is only for www.utexas.edu and there is no effect on the faculty’s website at this moment. Faculty’s research data can be moved to the centralized data center, but this is an individual decision, up to the faculty.

The Web Redesign Project. Julienne VanDerZiel from the ITS provided the committee with the Web Project Design update. Overall, university communications and ITS are working together to plan, design, and build the next generation digital experience for the UT community. In 2012-13, a new mobile strategy for UT was defined and approved by the Mobile Strategy Task Force and the IT governance committees and funded by Budget Council and SITAB. Now this project has been referred to the Digital Experience Program and a number of projects are being simultaneously conducted to meet the strategic goals. Moreover, several issues related to faculty teaching and research are discussed. These issues included the availability and flexibility of the Web services team to colleges and departments, security and transmission of research data, support to faculty’s research website design (e.g., whether it is free depends on the nature of the research work), and online submission and digital storage/copy of faculty annual report.

The UT online Learning Infrastructure. In the April monthly meeting, Joseph Tenbarge from the College of Liberal Arts, and Emily Cichini from the Moody College of Communication, introduced the UT Online Learning infrastructure RFP (request for proposal) through the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL). The RFP is to integrate multiple resources to assess online learning productivity and capability more efficiently and comprehensively for teaching, learning and research purposes. The proposed online learning infrastructure will be composed of four main parts: data management and computation, administration, instruction, and analysis. The proposed online learning infrastructure will cover a number of aspects of online learning at UT including online research and library, Edx courses, education data access management and analysis, and etc.

IT Governance Structure. A new standing committee of the General Faculty has been approved by the President: C-14 Technology-Enhanced Educational Oversight Committee. The function of the C-14 committee includes: 1. evaluate and formulate policy on technology-enhanced education and make recommendations on such matters to the Faculty Council and to the University's Steering and Strategic Policy Committees on Technology-Enhanced Education; 2. ensure that initiatives in technology-enhanced education further the University’s mission to be a university of the first rank.

Election of C-13 IT Committee faculty chair for 2014-15. Dr. Betsy Greenberg was elected unanimously by the Committee to serve as the Chair of the C-13 IT Committee for the academic year of 2014-15.

Overall, the C-13 committee have discussed and made recommendations on major IT needs and issues at UT in the past year. Some changes have been made to the various proposals presented to the committee, reflecting the feedbacks and suggestions from the committee and other IT-related committees across the campus.


Chang Liu, chair.