ITD Open Forum
Content Management System Update
Following welcoming remarks from ITD Vice President and Chief Information Officer Bruce Petryshak, Assistant Vice President Barbara Draude updated attendees on the University's migration to a new content management system (CMS). Draude explained that the University's website is currently managed and updated through SunGard's Luminis CMS. However, ITD was notified earlier last year that SunGard would no longer be supporting the Luminis product, which gave ITD an opportunity to obtain a more user-friendly CMS. After the appointment of a cross-divisional committee comprised of end-users, Web team members, and a representative of the operations area, an RFP (request for proposal) for a new CMS was drafted and submitted to the market. After a thorough evaluation process, the committee unanimously selected OmniUpdate's OU Campus to become the MTSU website's new CMS.
Draude said her team has been working with OmniUpate representatives for four months in preparation to get the University's current Web pages converted so that it can be migrated to the new system, which is significantly more user-friendly and easier to maintain as compared to its antiquated predecessor. For example, OU Campus will provide users with more creative options for their respective websites than the limited options available within the Luminis system.
The migration to the new CMS is approximately one month ahead of schedule, and Draude foresees a March launching date. New users are currently being trained to operate the new system. Academic & Instructional Technology Services Director Albert Whittenberg said that OmniUpdate representatives will be on campus during the week of February 13 and 14 to provide training for the new CMS. One day of the training will be allotted for administrators and Web team members, and the second day of training will be dedicated to those individuals who maintain departmental websites. Additional training opportunities for the new CMS will be provided to those who could not attend the February workshops.
Draude noted that publishing to the University's website will be temporarily halted so that the pages can be transferred to the new CMS. However, ITD can still make urgent changes to the site on request. The conversion will be conducted in phases. If a department's pages are currently housed in the CMS, they will be migrated to the new system. However, personalized sites on Frank or MTWeb will not be included in the migration. There are a number of departmental sites on campus that are not on the CMS, but ITD plans to invite them to join the new system due to OU Campus's numerous advantages, especially in terms of site maintenance. However, sites must still adhere to the University's branding for consistency.
As the Web pages are being converted, Draude encouraged attendees to think about any ideas they might have to redesign their respective sites that they couldn't do before due to the limitations within the old system.
Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) Project Update
ITD Associate Vice President Tom Wallace updated attendees about the Virtual Desktop Infrastructure or VDI project, which is in essence the ability to deliver a computer to a desktop over the network. Wallace said that ITD has been working diligently to get the University's infrastructure into place so that it can accommodate the virtualization system, including the recent installation and successful testing of additional storage space on the server. Wallace said that representatives of Citrix (the company providing the VDI technology) will be present on campus throughout February to assist ITD technicians with configuring the machines on campus in preparation for the project.
Wallace highlighted several advantages to the VDI project including the flexibility in ITD's ability to support individual services, especially in classrooms where there is a multitude of computers. VDI will essentially take the place of remote desktop computing, Wallace added. If a classroom computer should crash or malfunction, instructors can relocate their students to a different room (providing another room is available) and log on to find all the applications they had on their previous machines. VDI also allows quicker response times for compatibility issues. When software is in need of an update, currently every machine receives its necessary patch. However, VDI will enable ITD technicians to install a patch on one machine so that when a user logs into their machine, the patch will already be present.
One notable advantage with virtualization, Wallace noted, is network efficiency. Because VDI doesn't send a lot of data over the network, the technology streams the desktop over to the computer. The system will just track pixel changes, meaning that if a substantial portion of the computer screen doesn't change, the data isn't sent over the network.
Currently, there are some programs that share the same computers (such as SPSS or AutoCad) that conflict with one another. However, with VDI, that will no longer be an issue, Wallace noted. Older machines may be also used for longer periods of time, which will conserve resources. MTSU has purchased all the licenses necessary for its student population, allowing students to eventually access the applications they need from their machines.
With VDI, technicians can create an image of a machine that requires the SPSS, an image of the machine that requires AutoCad, or any other software package so that when students and instructors log in to their desktops, they receive all the software they need on one machine where they need it and when they need it. Wallace said that users will still be able to store files on their flash drives and that VDI is a similar concept to using a remote desktop, aside from the fact that users will be connecting to a server in lieu of another computer.
As ITD facilitates this project, Wallace said that instructors working with ITD will have the opportunity to create test platforms to ensure there will be no problems with their programs. ITD will eventually make VDI available through the network so students will be able to utilize it.
In terms of using Macs, Wallace said, though it is technologically possible, Apple will not grant MTSU a license to include it in the VDI project at this time. ITD will continue to work with Apple to resolve this issue. Wallace projected that 2,000 campus desktops will be virtualized by the end of the spring 2012 semester.
Wallace said that departments will be alerted when the VDI system goes online. ITD will work with departments to test new software before it goes live over the network.
Print Management Project
During these tight fiscal times, the University is examining ways to minimize costs by reducing the purchasing of items such as printers, toner, ink cartridges, and staples. As a result, MTSU is researching the feasibility of a print management project. ITD Communication Support Services Director Robin Jones said the University has commissioned Pro Buyers LLC as a consultant for this endeavor, which will begin with a comprehensive inventory of all the printing devices on campus. Pro Buyers is completely independent of all imaging equipment and software vendors and provides unbiased consulting services.
Before the holiday break, software was installed that allowed the University to take a preliminary count of the number of localized printers throughout campus. As of Feb. 11, there were more than 1,100 printers detected.
During the week of February 13, 2012, Pro Buyers representatives will be on campus to conduct a thorough evaluation of the University's printing devices including the number of such machines and how they're utilized. This inventory will include copiers, printers, fax machines, and scanners and will be conducted in every building on campus. The process will take approximately one week. Jones noted that Pro Buyers will be 100 percent focused on imaging equipment and that the first phase will be just exploratory in nature. The main objective of this project is to assess what the University's printing costs are and to determine how many imaging devices it contains. The entire project will be conducted in five phases, the next of which includes the creation of an RFP. The third step will be to evaluate proposals, the fourth involves contract negotiations, and the fifth step will be implementation.
In terms of fax machines, Petryshak noted that MTSU is also looking to establish a University fax server that will enable users to send and receive faxes from their computers, minimizing printing costs. By managing its printing, the University could save approximately 1-2 million dollars, Jones projected.
Petryshak informed attendees that MTSU is planning to develop a standardized process for colleges and divisions to purchase personal applications for mobile devices because consumer-grade apps are difficult to manage and are challenging to track. Although the details are still being conceptualized, Petryshak said the process will most likely include accounts for departments or colleges that will be associated with a certain amount of funds. An individual representing each department will be appointed as an administrator for the accounts and will have access to a redemption code that will be used to purchase the apps.
Many of these apps cost only 99 cents, and a substantial portion of them are free. One option ITD is exploring is to treat these kinds of apps as consumer purchases such as paper and pens due to the difficulty in tracking them. The general idea is to distribute responsibility out to individuals to maintain records of such purchases.
Draude added that the Learning, Teaching & Innovative Technologies Center (LT&ITC) will be hosting a series of mobile app workshops that will help users evaluate some of the apps that are available and how they can be used in a teaching and learning environment. The three planned workshops include a panel discussion with faculty members who implement such devices in their classes. In addition, Draude encouraged attendees interested in mobile apps to visit the site www.tbrelearning.org to view a database of mobile apps complete with user reviews. If the app you're interested in is not listed in the database, it may be purchased for you, Draude said.
Draude closed out the agenda by providing some general information about a plan to bring interactive state-of-the-art digital signs to MTSU. The University has partnered with a company called Four Winds Interactive to develop the innovative signs for the campus. ITD is working with the company to create a prototype for these signs, which are slated to first appear in the College of Education. A 65-inch monitor has been installed in the College of Education, and in another month it should be operational, Draude projected.
The first official digital sign will be an upgrade of the Tennessee Teacher's Wall of Fame sign that had been formerly located in the LRC. The new sign will allow visitors to search for teachers via an interactive touch screen by name, location of their school, the state in which they're from, etc. Visitors can also view the teachers' photos, read their bios, or view movie clips about them.
Draude said ITD has decided to take this standard a step further by also using the innovative signage as University information boards. Therefore, the signs will feature a top-layered template that in the College of Education's case will be used to display the Teacher's Hall of Fame, but for future signs this layer might serve as a building directory or display upcoming athletic events. If a user selects an icon on the first layer, it will bring up a second-level template that will be University-focused. Visitors will be able to view current events and news, directories, maps, and more. For example, if you touch the sign for the College of Education but need to find the Business Office, you can bring up a map to help you locate it. These high-tech signs will offer information on events, news, campus directories, maps, dining locations, and athletics.
Draude explained that all of these signs will be managed through a CMS, similar to the Web management system. Each individual sign will have its own computer attached to it that delivers content to the screen. There will be two kinds of digital signs: those that are interactive and those that are not. However, all the signs will still be managed through the CMS. The CMS will also allow administrators to take over all the signs on campus in the event of an emergency. The departments that own the signs will control the content, but the templates will be maintained by ITD, Draude said.