November/December 2006

The Communicator :: November/December 2006

Web Site Redesign Project Makes Strides

Web Site Redesign Projects Makes Strides The MTSU Web Redesign project set goals to improve the audience experience, develop consistent branding and improve the ability to update content as methodologies for developing and presenting information were reconsidered.

To improve the audience experience, we went to the audience. With the help of the new Web Advisory Committee, which includes representatives from faculty, students, administration, classified staff, alumni, library and athletics, we identified eight main target audiences: students, prospective students, faculty, staff, alumni, community reps, media reps and "frontline staff"; such as operators, counselors and advisors. Five candidates per audience were chosen for "user interviews."; During these 20-30 minute interviews, we asked more than 50 questions and watched the users operate various test websites. As often happens with usability studies and large institutions, the findings revealed that the information architecture on MTSU's Web site was based on the organizational hierarchy and internal priorities rather than the priorities, needs and perceptions of the audience. The design was refined based on audience feedback, new accessibility and usability standards were implemented that increase and exceed our ADA section 508 compliance, and the search engine was upgraded to offer department specific searches and "recommended links"; for specific key words. The final design was presented to the Web Advisory Committee for support and then presented to campus administration for final approval.

To develop consistent branding and improve the ability to update content, the Luminis Content Management System (LCMS) was implemented. This system uses a template structure to provide consistent page layout as well as navigation and accessibility standards important to our audiences. The system allows content maintenance at the department-level with minimal training. We plan to offer the system to departments and offices which seek to participate in the LCMS and new MTSU template. Participating departments now include Marketing, Campus Planning, Criminal Justice, College of Business, CIS, News & Public Affairs, History and Event Coordination.

We've received enthusiastic feedback from these changes and plan to continue our improvements. Short term plans include developing Web publishing guidelines to help guide all MTSU Web sites to new standards of accessibility, usability and readability, continue conducting user interviews and making improvements to the content and design, and implement a new online map feature. Our long term goals, after more content redevelopment and culling, include moving MTSU-specific information to a more intranet-type environment.

With the input from many individuals inside and outside of campus, and a great spirit of compromise, the MTSU Web is continuing to evolve. With continued diligence and institution-wide attention to quality of information and presentation standards, the MTSU Web will grow to become a cornerstone tool of interaction for both external and internal audiences.

Illegal File Sharing is a Serious Offense

The sharing of copyright material via common file sharing programs such as LimeWire is not only a potential resource abuser and a security risk, it is illegal. Using MTSU and state resources for unauthorized copying and/or distribution of copyright protected information, music, video and software is prohibited.

The Recording Industry Association of America and other organizations have reported large losses of revenue due to this illegal sharing of copyright material. Some have recently fought back in the form of lawsuits targeted at users. There have been instances where huge fines have been levied on those participating in such peer-to-peer file sharing.

Beyond the copyright issues, the use of such programs can present a huge security risk. File sharing programs, by nature, turn your desktop machine into an Internet file server. As such, it has the potential to expose every file on your system from temporary documents containing sensitive data to cached web history. It also can open the door to allow a user to take over the machine.

File sharing of music and videos can consume resources to the point of preventing others from using the network effectively. There have been instances where machines set up to share such files on campus have had dozens of connections from both on and off campus, each using a significant amount of bandwidth. This creates bottlenecks for all users trying to use the Internet and campus resources.

These activities are prohibited by the MTSU Information Technology Resources Policy as well as state and federal laws and regulations. Employees engaging in such activity face the possibilities of disciplinary and legal action.

From resource hogging to disciplinary action to legal fees and fines, the savings incurred from not purchasing the material is far outweighed by the costs.

Inaugural ACT Summit Meeting

The inaugural Tennessee Summit on Administrative Computing Technologies (ACT), which was sponsored by the Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR), took place October 16-17 on the campus of Middle Tennessee State University.

The major theme of the meeting was the implementation of new software systems and leading institutional change through technology.

It addressed the opportunities, challenges and issues that surround such change.

An active examination of how administrative technology supports the institution, its students, faculty and staff and how this support can be improved upon was explored.

This meeting presented an excellent opportunity to share MTSU's expertise and leadership in administrative computing issues.

MTSU presented several topics on innovative thinking about the technology that supports administrative services for the Banner project.

Dr. Sidney McPhee, president of MTSU, John Cothern, senior vice president, Lucinda Lea, vice president for Information Technology and CIO, and Lisa Rogers, director of administrative systems services, presented How to Rollout ERP Without Killing Each Other.

Rogers and Doug Cothern, director of database administration services, presented How to Deal with SSN in Banner.

Jeff Hinds and Pamela Clippard, database specialists, and Doug Cothern presented An Access Reporting Strategy.

Iriarte-Gross Clicks with Students

The classroom is constantly evolving. Gone are the days of one textbook and one chalkboard. Dr. Judith M. Iriarte-Gross, an associate professor of chemistry at Middle Tennessee State University, is keeping up with the times.

With the use of programs such as the Student Response System (better known as "Clickers";) in the classroom and graphing calculators and motion detectors in the laboratory, Iriarte-Gross has created a learning environment where complex science ideas can be understood and applicable to everyone.

"Our students are changing. And we've got to keep up. I firmly believe the teachers have to keep up,"; she said.

In her classroom, Iriarte-Gross, who has been at MTSU since 1996, has used "Clickers"; in the past and will incorporate it again in the spring. "Clickers"; is an interactive program in which students wield remotes used for input. "Clickers"; can be used to engage class discussions, administer impromptu pop quizzes and tally attendance.

"Clickers"; sends the students' responses to a computer that automatically assesses their comprehension. "If most of the students know the answers, then I can move on. However, let's say, 25 percent of the students got it right and everybody else got it wrong, then what I would do is go back and re-teach that concept,"; she said.

Iriarte-Gross believes "Clickers"; and programs of its ilk engage the students and allow the students a learning curve. "It gives the students the power to make mistakes and then to talk about it. … They can teach each other, sometimes better, by speaking in their own language. I am throwing the science out at them and they are explaining it in everyday terms,"; she said.

"I try to bring in different techniques that will help them learn the best way they can. Some are visual learners, some are audio learners,"; she said.

Her use of technology does not end in the classroom. Thanks to a grant a few years ago, devices such as graphing calculators and motion detectors have been added to the science laboratory.

Iriarte-Gross says experiments as simplistic as freezing and melting ice have been given an entirely new perspective because of some of the technological advances in the laboratory. For instance, the graphing calculators show the physical process of ice melting instead of charting it with a pencil and paper.

"So being able to see this as it is going along instead of just collecting data and plotting it by hand enables them to get an actual feel for it,"; she said.

Motion detectors were used for a recent velocity test. Toy cars were sent screaming off down a ramp, and the motion detectors helped determine how the angle of the ramp affected the impact on the cars.

Iriarte-Gross, who lives in Murfreesboro with her husband Charles, a retired aerospace worker, and their two cats, Buffy and Lola, is excited about these new opportunities.

"[Technology] engages the students in their learning,"; she said.

ITD Staff News

Matt Tate has joined the Information Technology Division as the editorial assistant for communication support services. He writes, edits and proofreads all ITD publications, including the Communicator, Technology Xpress and all IT Conference materials.

In addition to his duties with ITD, Matt currently works as a part-time freelance reporter with The Daily News Journal in Murfreesboro. He has previously worked as a senior editor for the weekly sports journal Sports Memo in Brentwood, a part-time reporter for The Lebanon Democrat in Lebanon and a copy and layout editor/reporter for the Times-News in Burlington, NC. Matt is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.

Matt has a bachelor's degree in communications with a concentration in journalism from Appalachian State University. A native of North Carolina, Matt has lived in Tennessee for two years with his wife Ashley, a graduate student at MTSU, and their dog Gwyn.

He hopes his editing and writing skills will help further enhance all communication materials for ITD.

Janina Overton is the new web specialist for ITD. She consults with clients to identify and define project needs, makes updates to the MTSU website, assists with bringing new departments into the new content management system and researches and implements new web technologies as needed.

Janina was a student intern with ITD before joining the division full-time after graduating from MTSU with a bachelor's degree in business administration with a concentration in computer information systems. Her job duties while as an ITD intern included installing and configuring personal computers and peripherals to work with all applications supported by ITD.

She has been trained on various web/graphic design software programs such as Adobe InDesign, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Macromedia Dreamweaver, Macromedia Flash and Acrobat Professional.

Janina lives in Murfreesboro with her parents and her two dogs, a German Shepard named Max and a pitbull named Cocoa.

Janina is looking forward to helping with upcoming ITD projects and easing departmental transition to the Luminis Content Management System.

Lester Lends a Helping Voice

When a problem arises with your phone service, it can be a maddening predicament. However, after a call to customer service specialist Sandra Lester, those frustrations will likely fade.

Warm, helpful and resourceful, Lester has worked as a customer service specialist in telecommunication services at Middle Tennessee State University since 1987. Lester serves both the students and faculty members of MTSU by providing assistance with their phone difficulties as well completing trouble reports for customers.

"My goal here is to provide the best telecommunication service and repair service I possibly can for everyone on campus,"; Lester said.

Lester came to MTSU after taking 13 years off to raise four adopted sons. Her husband Jimmy, who runs the family farm, encouraged her to pursue the MTSU job opening she spotted in the newspaper.

"He said, 'If you ever want to go back to work, you'd better go check on that job,' "; she said. Before taking time off to raise her children, Lester had worked as a customer service specialist at South Central Bell (now Bell South).

Her decision to re-enter the work force has been beneficial to both Lester and all the phone customers throughout MTSU.

She has seen many changes within telecommunication services in the nearly 20 years she has devoted to MTSU.

"I was here before the days of the computer,"; she said. Before information could simply be typed into the computer, Lester said a detailed process of printing reports and making sure the right receipts went to the correct parties was needed in order to bill students and faculty for telecommunication services.

Even with the advent of email and cell phones, Lester still sees telecommunication services as a key provider of external connectivity for the MTSU campus.

"[Telecommunications] is the source of being able to communicate with the outside world,"; she said.

She predicts her position and telecommunication services as a whole will expand and evolve along with the growth of the university.

"Telecommunications will continue on and move on to bigger and better things because of new technologies. Everything is going in that direction,"; she said. "We now have voice-over IP and many new ways of sending telephone calls.";

Lester, who teaches a class at Walter Hill Church of Christ in her spare time, says the friendly, team-oriented environment that permeates throughout the entire MTSU campus is what makes her job so worthwhile.

"It has been a good place to work with good people. I love MTSU …. I don't think you could find a better school in Tennessee,"; she said.

ERP Update

Here are the updates from Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) for November and December 2006.

Finance

  • The Finance Process Team developed various Access reports required for fiscal year Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR) reporting.
  • Testing was completed on Banner Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) financial statements and Banner was used to produce this year's fiscal year financial statements.
  • The Finance Process Team identified several business processes that will be reviewed for possible change in order to improve the year end process in the future.
  • The new purchasing card (PCARD) program was rolled out to the campus in July 2006. Weekly training sessions were held across campus to promote the new program.
  • New cards are being ordered daily for those individuals needing to make purchases in their respective departments. These cards are being issued to the employees once they have attended a training session.
  • Adjustments are being made to the online approval process for approving PCARD transactions. Each department is given individual attention, if needed, to determine that the appropriate approval structure is in place.

Human Resources

  • Employment experience data has been converted from HRS Plus.
  • The HR Process Team has provided seven HR Banner training sessions for the MTSU campus users with 190 attendees. More training sessions will be scheduled.
  • Deferrals are now being printed on paychecks.
  • The HR Process Team successfully loaded three sets of summer school assignments and payrolls.
  • Information Technology Division programmers completed Phase Two revisions to computer programs which include work on direct deposits, L50 deductions and deferral verifications. Phase Three revisions are under consideration.
  • More information was added to primary and secondary health groups, email update availability, benefit coverage, life insurance, etc.

Advancement

  • Human Resources ran July payroll and the related Advancement process was successfully run in report mode.
  • After verifying that acknowledgments are correct, Advancement Process Team members will work with ITD programmers to put the process on production.
  • Advancement Team has readied the Advancement Officer Self-service components for the Development staff.

Student

• Student/General Person went live August 2006

• Student/Admission went live September 2006

• The Student Process Team completed Faculty Load, Events Management, Housing and two Banner consulting sessions. International Programs and Services office attended fsaAtlas training, which will be used for SEVIS reporting.

Financial Aid

  • The Financial Aid Process

Team completed Student Employment, Common Functions, SAP and Data Logging Banner training.

  • ELM, a technology platform for data exchange using a web-based student loan management and disbursement network, is live.
  • The deferment proposal process was submitted to MTSU Vice Presidents. Students would be able to conduct deferral transactions via email.
  • The Financial Aid Process

Team started SIS Plus to Banner conversion.

Reporting

  • Microsoft Access is the new reporting tool that is replacing FOCUS. Workshops are currently being conducted on Microsoft Access. Please check the ITD Web site for workshop dates and times. Access has already been used extensively for writing reports from the production Banner systems.

PipelineMT and Banner Self-service

  • Be on the watch for your personal access to Banner Self-service to be granted. It will be on a new PipelineMT tab and will be known as RaiderNet.

IT Securtiy is Everyone's Responsibility

In today's world there is an ever increasing number of services available online and with each one, there is potential for misuse. There are a few main types of threats that one may encounter online.

1) Viruses: These are malicious programs that require human intervention to spread such as viewing an email or copying files from one computer to another. Viruses may perform a number of undesirable actions such as stealing information and passwords, sending out spam or even rendering the computer unusable.

2) Worms: These are similar to viruses, but worms spread automatically without human intervention.

3) Spam: This is a broad range of unwanted emails, but spam may contain viruses or fraudulent content such as phishing schemes.

4) Phishing Schemes: This is a special type of email or other communication that tries to trick the user into giving out personal information.

5) Hacking Attempts: This refers to someone directly trying to infiltrate a computer system.

It is important to be aware how you use sensitive information, such as social security numbers, driver's license numbers, financial account information and date of birth. Any bit of information can be used to commit identity theft. If this data is not encrypted or scrambled, then it may be possible for third parties to intercept the information. Email and sites which do not begin with "https:"; are not encrypted and should not be used to communicate sensitive information.

There are several things that you can do to help ensure your safety while online.

1) Install antivirus software, keep it up to date and perform weekly scans.

2) Install any patches for your operating system. If you are running Windows, you can download the latest patches from http://windowsupdate.microsoft.com. It is important to note that Microsoft will never send patches via email, and you should disregard any emails claiming they contain Windows patches as attachments. 3) Don't open suspicious email. This is one of the most common ways viruses spread. Many viruses spoof the <From:> address so it appears to come from someone you know, so do not automatically assume that it is safe because you know the sender. Newer viruses also do research and can customize the subject line to look like it contains familiar information. If you do open a malicious email, an updated antivirus program and operating system will help reduce the threat, but can not totally protect you.

4) If you use Instant Messenger, only allow messages from people on your "friends"; list and be wary of any files sent to you that you did not request.

5) Be suspicious if you receive an email claiming to be from a financial institution or other business that has personal information. Phishing emails routinely use the actual graphic files from banks to make them look official and sometimes they can use personal information obtained through other means to look official.

6) When entering sensitive information online, make sure the browser has a padlock icon and the address starts with "https."; This indicates that the site is encrypted, and third parties can not view the data as it travels on the Internet. Also make sure the site actually belongs to the intended party, and it is not a site set up to take advantage of careless users.

7) Never email sensitive information since email is inherently insecure and not encrypted.

Network Services Update

Network Services has been busy with various projects around campus recently. Here's a rundown of some of the updates this group has recently completed.

* Expanded the Floyd Stadium network to the concession stands, giving concessions the ability to provide credit card services to their patrons.

* Extended the Simplex Fire Alarm system to Voorhies Industrial Studies and Alumni Memorial Gym, enabling both sites to be monitored by campus police dispatchers.

* Completed the Cason-Kennedy Nursing Building north expansion network implementation, which will provide nursing with more than 200 additional network connections.