Open Forum Notes
Wednesday, October 9, 2013
Following opening remarks, Vice President and Chief Information Officer Bruce Petryshak updated attendees on the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) project. The CRM is an initiative that allows advisors to maintain an up-to-date dialogue with students and is a component of the One-Stop-Shop project. The CRM, which will interface with Banner, will be used by academic advisors in order to collect and record data pertaining to students. The cached information will be stored on a secured database, and the documents will be managed by a content management system. Petryshak noted that the CRM will be deployed to coincide with the opening of the One-Stop-Shop next fall.
Petryshak also noted that the University president recently conducted hearings with all of the colleges that focused on retention efforts to enhance student success initiatives. One of the topics discussed at the hearings was a degree audit system which features student "progress bars."
Director of Network Services Chris Piety provided an update of the ongoing wireless enhancement project. Technicians are currently surveying buildings throughout campus to determine wireless access point locations based on the respective construction of the buildings. Buildings that have been upgraded thus far include the Scarlett Commons, Womack Lane Apartments, James Walker Library, and the College of Education. Structures that are currently being updated include the Business and Aerospace Building, Jones Hall, McCallie Dining Hall, the Student Union ballroom, and the McFarland Building. Piety projected that Jones Hall and McCallie will be completed during spring break. ITD is also in the process of designing a new core equipped with 10-gigabyte wireless switches and is processing a bid to acquire a second Internet provider in order to fortify the University with twice as much bandwidth and resiliency.
Microsoft Lync Update
Telecommunication Services Director Steve Prichard updated the forum on the current status of the Microsoft Lync project. Lync is a unified messaging platform that integrates with Exchange and offers users a single client that brings innovative features to communications such as presence, instant messaging, Enterprise Voice, and conferencing. Unlike the current phone system, Lync is a software-based application that loads onto your computer. Prichard noted that Lync offers a myriad of equipment options such headsets, wired, wireless, classic handsets, etc. Prichard, who's been testing the various modes of equipment offered by Lync, said the headset provided the best experience because of its convenient one-click functionality. Lync is scheduled to be deployed to ITD within the next few weeks in order to fully test the system before it is rolled out to the rest of the campus. Lync requires Windows 7 or 8 and Office 2013, Prichard said. He added that phones do not have to be connected to PCs in order to function and users may use a handset that is connected to the network if they wish. As long as the network connectivity is operating, the phone will function. Phones may also be connected to laptops so they can travel with their users, Prichard added.
Assistant Vice President Barbara Draude encouraged attendees to partake in ITD's upcoming Technology Quality Survey. The survey was initiated last year as a means to acquire annual feedback about technology quality across campus. Draude said the endeavor is part of a national survey that is used at approximately 250 different institutions around the country and helps ITD compare MTSU's data to a national mean. The survey is comprised of 13 standard questions with a few extra inquiries provided by ITD. Draude said a website will accompany the survey and will feature a video tutorial on how to complete the questionnaire. She encouraged user participation because the more information ITD acquires the better it can help serve the campus. Draude projected the survey to be administered the week after Fall Break and will be available for one month.
Draude also updated the forum on the digital signage project which now includes approximately 49 signs on campus. The University recently obtained an Enterprise campus license for digital signage, which means that offices will no longer have to pay for individual software licenses if they wish to acquire a digital sign. Draude noted that the innovative signs also serve the campus as an alert function during emergencies. For example, during a recent bomb threat at the KUC, all of the digital signs throughout campus switched to an emergency channel to broadcast an alert similar to the Rave alerts that are dispatched to mobile devices. Not only do digital signs provide key information they also are in integral component of emergency communications, Draude added.
Draude provided the latest developments in the University's ongoing Web revitalization project, Phase 1 of which was launched at the beginning of the fall semester. An initiative began last year to redefine MTSU's Web presence to become more user-friendly for prospective students and to emphasize the University's retention and graduation focus. The new site aims to accommodate potential students in a more organized and consistent manner. Draude said content such as video clips is still being added and edited for some departments as the project moves into the next phase, which includes individual areas and departmental pages. Web team members will meet with individual departments to cull extraneous content to create a more succinct and organized web presence.
Associate Vice President Tom Wallace updated attendees on the current status of the Cloud at Middle (C@M) virtual desktop initiative. The project aims to deliver software applications and services to students and faculty anywhere they are and on any device. Wallace explained that on the front side of their devices users will essentially receive the pixel changes, allowing the VDI system to function without overwhelming the University's network. Wallace said that a contingent of Citrix representatives was recently summoned to campus in order to examine the University's implementation of virtualization software because there were a substantial number of applications that were virtualized that are rarely used. In addition, there were some technical issues that needed to be addressed, Wallace added. A plan is being initiated in order to revitalize the VDI project. Wallace noted the project has already experienced several successes including an incident at the Financial Aid Office. Some Student Affairs representatives were using iPads to advise students but could not access Banner since it requires Internet Explorer, which is not available on Apple devices. ITD technicians deployed virtualization technology so that the Student Affairs staff was able to access Banner over the wireless network using their iPads.
MTSU Mobile Application Update
Assistant Vice President Lisa Rogers briefed attendees on the current status of MTSU's mobile application, which was developed by a team of students for the benefit of the campus. Rogers said the team had released an upgraded version of the app over the summer that sports a new look and feel. One of the recent updates includes the ability for students to confirm their class attendance using mobile devices via the app. Rogers noted that students have to establish a payment plan or have to confirm attendance to avoid being purged before the start of the semester. MTSU Mobile will now send text messages to those students in danger of losing their classes approximately one day before the purge. Those students will receive a text message warning them that they're in danger of losing their classes. Rogers said several hundred students have already used the app to confirm classes.
Rogers also discussed the Schedule Planner feature, which was developed by a group of Computer Science students, who worked in conjunction with ITD in acquiring the Banner data needed to create the program. Schedule Planner will be integrated with the mobile app and will provide students with the ability to use up-to-date data to schedule their classes. The Banner information is updated every 10 minutes, Rogers added. The mobile app team is planning to integrate Schedule Planner into the app this fall. Rogers also encouraged attendees to provide the student team with feedback about the app.
In addition, Rogers discussed a project that examines student progressions and student numbers that comprise the new funding formula for Tennessee universities, which emphasizes retention and student success in lieu of enrollment. Rogers said the data that normally is sent to the Tennessee Board of Regents has been collected, along with census data, and end-of-term information that includes the number of students' attempted hours and earned hours, how many degrees were awarded, etc. Administrative Information Systems Services staff worked industriously to engineer a set of dashboards to exhibit the data in a presentation layer that displays trends across a certain number of years such as courses, retention, transfers, and student progression. Rogers said a program called Argos is being used as the campus recording solution. Users can click on a bullet point on a trend line to view a spreadsheet that examines the data, and rows and columns may be adjusted around it. Superfluous rows and columns may be removed, and the program will automatically readjust the spreadsheet.
Help Desk Relocation and New Hours
Communication Support Services Director Robin Jones announced that the IT Help Desk will soon move to a more centralized location in order to provide more convenient access to faculty and students. The Help Desk is currently located in the basement hallway of the Cope Administration Building but is projected to relocate to KUC 320 after the new space is fully renovated. Jones hopes that the additional space will allow for more Help Desk services.
In addition, after conducting a traffic study, it was determined that the Help Desk's customer service hours be adjusted to better accommodate the busier daytime period. The Help Desk's new hours of operation are 2-9 p.m. Sundays, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Fridays, and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays. Jones noted that the hours may be tweaked after the relocation and that the daytime service has become more expedient due to the inclusion of additional staff.
Before the forum adjourned, Petryshak announced that the University had recently vetted its courses in an effort to enhance student success initiatives. The findings concluded that 42 of its 2,400 courses contained approximately 12,000 students, which represents roughly half of the University's student population. Among those 42 classes about 5,400 students received at least one failing grade. The findings have spurred a course redesign project to facilitate student retention. Participating classes were selected by deans and department chairs and sport at least a 25 percent failure rate. Petryshak noted that the course redesign project will not water down the class materials but will redefine the curriculum in a manner that reflects the ways in which modern students learn through technology.
In addition, Petryshak updated the forum on the current status of the print management project. The project aims to move the University away from buying or leasing printers or copiers. If departments do not use their centralized printers they will not be obligated to pay for the printing services. Those who do use the printers will be billed for the amount of paper used. Petryshak said the paper usage across campus will eventually balance out.