Franklin & Marshall College Franklin & Marshall College

ITS Strategic Priorities

Updates for Summer 2014

from Carrie Rampp, Associate Vice President & CIO

What follows is a brief summary of some of the most significant projects planned by ITS this summer.  Some will be completed this summer, others will begin this summer with a later completion date.  We hope you find this information helpful.

Classroom/Event Space Upgrades
Equipment Loan Pool Merged and Expanded
Infrastructure Improvements
Helpdesk Services Reorganization
Wrestling with Java and Banner
Phone System Needs Assessment
eDisk Working Group
Canvas pilot as possible alternative to Blackboard
Boost Phase 2
Microsoft license management
Security Initiatives Group formed
Web Site Redesign
Governance revisions
Mavericks Update

Classroom/Event Space Upgrades
In partnership with Facilities, ITS will be upgrading TEN spaces this summer.

As part of the Task Force on Instructional Technology’s work, working directly with faculty chairs in a range of disciplines, three classrooms will be reconfigured as prototype classroom spaces.  These rooms will be completely renovated and reconfigured with a range of new technology.  These include: Stager 114, Kaufman 104 and Keiper 200.  Three classrooms in Keiper and one in Stager will receive new projection systems, to include a Crestron room control panel.  These are Keiper 100, 101 and 210, as well as Stager 316.  Two classrooms in Meyran will be upgraded as part of the larger facility renovation happening there.  These rooms will receive digital projection systems and Crestron room control panels.  Druker Commons will receive a large wall-mounted LCD and room control panel, making it easier to use this space for technology-enabled meetings and events.

Equipment Loan Pool Merged and Expanded
For the Fall, ITS will offer a greatly expanded equipment loan pool.  We are merging our two existing loan pools into just one, to be managed by Media Services, and adding new equipment to our inventory such as Chromebooks and a range of audio and video recording devices to support the increased interest in digital storytelling.  Prior to the start of classes we will share details on how to take advantage of this new inventory.

Infrastructure Improvements
You likely saw the announcement about our new guest wireless service that debuted just before Commencement.  We will continue to tune this service, but it is already being used heavily for special events.  We will also complete our network core upgrade which should bring much greater capacity and redundancy to our campus network.  Our current network infrastructure is more than 7 years old and is in need of replacement.  We will also complete a significant upgrade to our virtual server infrastructure.  Nearly 130 of our 170 servers on campus are part of this virtual infrastructure. This upgrade will bring new management features, including much easier ability to deploy new virtual servers when needed.  ITS has also recently announced that the latest version of CrashPlan Pro, with a new dedicated server, is now available to support backups of your desktop workstation--good insurance in the event of a disaster!  We will be working throughout the Summer and early Fall to complete the campus migration to this new platform so the older instance can be decommissioned.

Helpdesk Services Reorganization
To better serve our community, we will be making some changes to the organization of our Desktop Integration and Support Team.  Two current vacancies will be used to create a dedicated position at our service desk in the Innovation Zone to better assist walk-in requests from the campus.  The second position will be dedicated more exclusively to answering phones and email inquiries.  With this change, we will be able to devote much more of the time of our more senior members of the team to more complex computer problems, as well as desktop management and computer distribution projects, to name a few.  More information will follow before classes begin, but we believe this will be a great improvement to our service and support model.

Wrestling with Java and Banner
For users of Banner INB (the interface used by administrative users who enter and process data), you are likely aware of the many java update issues that F&M and many other institutions wrestle with to keep workstations working properly.  This summer we will take a very modest pilot effort with terminal services and expand it to much more of the campus.  With terminal services, you connect to a remote computer rather than using your own, just for running INB.  Other than using a different icon to launch INB, there is no noticeable difference to the INB user, but it allows us to keep workstations patched and up to date without fear of ‘breaking’ Banner.  We expect to have all INB users migrated to the terminal services environment by the end of the Fall semester.

Phone System Needs Assessment
With the support of the College Information Technology Committee (CITC), ITS has contracted with Vantage Technology Consulting Group to complete a campus needs assessment as we plan for an eventual migration to Voice Over IP (VOIP) for our campus telephone system.  This is the first step in our planning for this eventual large initiative.  If you or your office is contacted about participating in the needs analysis phase, we hope you will provide your insights.  This needs assessment is slated to be complete by mid-Fall.

eDisk Working Group
With the support of the CITC, ITS is creating an eDisk Working Group to plan for the eventual replacement of eDisk.  The existing eDisk infrastructure is quite aged and no longer supported by the manufacturer.  As well, much of the infrastructure was put in place long before many of the other tools we have available to us today, from Google Apps to Blackboard and even our current web site management suite.  Careful assessment of what needs to be provided is the first step in planning this project.  This needs assessment is slated to be complete by December 2014.

Canvas pilot as possible alternative to Blackboard
ITS is preparing for a next phase evaluation of Canvas as a possible alternative to Blackboard.  Moodle and Canvas were piloted during Spring 2014.  Feedback suggests a move away from Blackboard should be planned, however further input is needed to make the decision.  The Committee on Academic Technology (CAT) has asked that we undertake a fuller pilot of Canvas in the Fall as we had fewer Spring participants with Canvas compared to Moodle.  This pilot should allow CAT to recommend a replacement learning management system by the end of 2014.

Boost Phase 2
Several pilot document management projects have just begun that will allow the College to take paper processes and make them entirely electronic, gaining efficiency, time and hopefully storage space.  A new campus parking system will launch this summer and as well we will complete the deployment of ACH payment processing which will allow the College to both accept and pay via ACH, further eliminating the need for so many paper checks.  ITS has been working with the Registrar's Office and a working group of faculty they assembled to assist with identifying and prioritizng reports that would be useful to faculty as well as possible enhancements for Inside F&M.

Microsoft license management
F&M had to complete our periodic renegotiation of our campus Microsoft agreement.  The previous 5-year contract expired this year.  In this time, much has changed about Microsoft’s product offering.  This summer ITS will be working with a vendor to provide a hosted software distribution platform, as our previous method for making the software available to the campus is no longer allowed by the license terms.  Going forward, the free version of Microsoft Office available to students and as well to faculty/staff to load on their home computers is the Office 365 product.  This software is only licensed in 12 month increments, and expires when one’s affiliation with the College ends.  As this service needs to be heavily managed, we have partnered with a vendor to manage this service.  There will be no cost associated with taking advantage of the software, but the experience will be similar to buying something through an online store in order to load it on your machine.

Security Initiatives Group formed
There are a number of critical security initiatives that must be advanced over the next 12-24 months.  These initiatives are wide ranging and vary in size and complexity.  Examples include:  better password management capabilities, improved identity management to assure individuals have appropriate access to campus systems, to changing the methodology we use to handle authentication to our secured wireless and more complexly, re-architecting our network topology to better secure those systems that store the most confidential data.  All of these projects bring complexity, dependencies and in some cases expenses.  The Security Initiatives Group within ITS, and led by Eric Smith, our Chief Information Security Officer, will help us create, scope and prioritize these many important initiatives for F&M.

Web Site Redesign
This summer ITS will complete the installation and configuration of the infrastructure required for the new website design.  This is a critical step for both ITS and Communications as we make our way to a late Fall website redesign launch.

Governance Revisions
In general, there has been a great deal of revialization and re-engagement of ITS-related governance during late Spring 2014.  We are working closely with existing governance structures to revise charges for some of the governing bodies that work closely with ITS.  CITC (College Information Technology Committee) is completing revisions to its charge and membership.  CITC will be considering and recommending revised governance structures particularly in the enterprise systems realm, as Boost Phase 2 winds down and some of the bodies convened for the project complete their assignments.  CAT (Committee on Academic Technology) has also reviewed its charge and hopes to move some revisions through faculty governance at the appropriate time.

Mavericks Update
With so much older hardware on campus, we have been challenged to make the move to Mavericks in any universal way. We continue to ask that you work with ITS staff to upgrade an existing computer to Mavericks so we can help to assure a smooth transition.  ITS continues to replace the oldest iMacs on campus as resources allow so we are in the best possible position to support the latest operating systems when they are released.