Update from the CIO November 2017

Picture of a pumpkin which evokes thoughts of FallIt has been quite some time since I managed to get out an update from the CIO.  Now I have a backlog of things to write about.  So here goes…

As usual, the team at CIS worked hard over the summer to prepare for the new academic year and to complete projects.  Every summer we share our top goals with Cabinet and that helps to map out our work for the year.  This year’s full list is in our article on  CIS goals for 2017-2018, but in this update I’d like to highlight:

  • Secure computing
  • Transition of services to TCC IT
  • Accessibility

Secure Computing

It is a cliche, but worth repeating, that secure computing is a constantly evolving journey rather than a fixed state.  The topic seems to grow more important by the year, and once again, security was the number one IT issue in the Educause annual top ten. In CIS we are constantly discussing how to achieve a balance between security and convenience. This year, we have a number of initiatives going that will enhance overall security, without being too much of an imposition on your daily workflow.  For example, we have some user training available through LawRoom and, to guide the roll out of this training, we are using the results of a data mapping project we did a couple of years ago.  That way, we hope to ensure that those who handle sensitive data have access to the training first.  Other security efforts include deploying two factor authentication and ensuring that hard drives are encrypted. You can read in more detail about this in our article here.

 

Transition of services to TCC IT

In January I wrote about the the changing landscape of IT at the Claremont Colleges and talked about a number of initiatives aimed at appropriate centralization.  We have since moved both CINE networking and HMC networking over to CUC under the auspices of TCC IT, which is led by Chuck Thompson, CIO at CUC.   The Computing Committee met with Chuck in October and learned about the governance structure and operations at TCC IT.  The transition was successfully completed in August.  HMC users should still contact the CIS Help Desk as always, and CIS staff will work directly with TCC IT.  This is basically the arrangement we always had internally in CIS.   If you’d like to read more about the transition and some of the achievements of TCC IT, please see our article on the Networking Services transfer to TCC IT.

Accessibility

The College’s accessibility taskforce worked continuously over the summer and into the Fall on many parts of the accessibility initiative.  A team of students at CIS converted many PDFs from the main college website into native WordPress format (WordPress is the software on which the HMC website is built).  CIS is working closely with the Marketing and Communications to implement the provisions in the College’s accessibility policy and to ensure that web content editors have all the training and resources they need.  If you are interested in creating accessible content, CIS provides consulting services to support you.  Details about that are on our service catalog page.

 

There are  some other articles to you may be interested in:

  • There are some new faces in User Services at CIS: Meet our User Services Team
  • And we have just welcomed a new Instructional Designer, Dr. Yi Luo, in our Educational Technology Services unit.  Watch for an article introducing her.
  • If you are interested in getting free access to Autodesk products, you’ll want to read Autodesk and HMC

At this time of year, I’m thankful for the great team at CIS and we at CIS are thankful for the great HMC community.  With that, it only remains for me to wish you and your families a Happy Thanksgiving!

Computing Committee update

This Fall the HMC Computing Committee has been meeting monthly to discuss CIS services and strategy. The Committee’s purpose is to represent the interests of faculty and students, advise college leadership about technology needs and policies, and advise the Chief Information Officer (CIO) on computer policies. The committee membership changes every year, with members appointed by the Faculty Executive Committee. This year, the members include:

  • David Money-Harris (2019), Chair
  • Weiqing Gu (2020)
  • Jessica Wu (2020)
  • Raissa Diamante (staff representative, ex officio)
  • Joseph Vaughan (CIO, ex officio)
  • Nick Draper ‘19 (ASHMC rep, ex officio)

This year so far the Committee has met with Chuck Thompson, CUC CIO to discuss the transition of networking to TCC IT, and also with the three CIS senior directors to discuss CIS accomplishments and challenges to come.   

You can contact the HMC Computing Committee at any time by writing to computing-committee-l@g.hmc.edu or by filling out the form here.

Networking Services transfer to TCC IT

CUC’s TCC IT Infrastructure Services has  been building a strong team and is taking steps toward appropriate centralization of networking services.  On January 17, 2017 HMC officially handed responsibility for the CINE service to CUC.  The CINE service provides connectivity between the colleges and beyond the colleges to our Internet Service Providers.   The hand off in January was successful, as we had been preparing and gradually transferring responsibilities since last summer. There was no direct impact on people at HMC, since the CIS Help Desk is still the first port of call for network related concerns.

Along with Pomona College, Claremont McKenna and Keck Graduate Institute, we are participating in TCC IT’s “to the wall plate” network service.  This became effective July 1, 2017  and the responsibilities were completely transferred by August 31st, when Roger Wiechman retired. This was also a smooth hand off to TCC IT with minimal impact on the people at Harvey Mudd.

The idea behind appropriate centralization was to allow the Consortium to take advantage of economies of scale and at the same time to free the College IT departments to focus on services that are best delivered locally.  While I believe it will take some adjustment time to fully reap the benefits, we have already seen TCC IT deliver many advantages:

  • They negotiated an excellent set of discounts and leasing terms with Cisco, based on the collective purchasing power of the Consortium.
  • They negotiated for a “system” membership of Internet2, saving money overall and removing the need for each college to manage membership in Internet2.
  • They negotiated an excellent license cost for Duo, software that we are using to activate multi-factor authentication on our systems.
  • TCC IT has coordinated security initiatives that have focused on obtaining pricing favorable to Consortium members for IT security audits.
  • They have worked closely with Pomona College on an initiative that will help the Colleges meet new audit requirements in relation to Financial Aid record security.

While there will always be bumps in the road for transitions like this, I am very happy with how well things have gone and with the strong work that our new colleagues at TCC IT have been doing.   

Update from the CIO January 2017

I hope everyone enjoyed the winter break and returned with renewed vigor.  The start of classes already seems like so long ago!

There are many things to cover in this update as a lot is going on in the information technology world at HMC and at the Claremont Colleges.

Looking back….

We closed 2016 at CIS with a review of some of the year’s highlights.  The truly great staff at CIS brought up some new services,  with benefits for applicants to HMC, as well as for faculty, staff and students .   Brittany Oliver, one of our newest hires, wrote a lovely article  2016 Year in Review .

Looking forward, there is much to address, but I will frame it all up by looking at two things, IT@TCC and the HMC Computing Committee…

IT@TCC
You might recall that the Presidents’ Council set a number of initiatives in motion in the Fall of 2015, all leading in the direction of what I like to call “appropriate centralization” of IT. None of the Colleges are really in a position to go it alone in IT, which is an area in which there are many natural pressures toward consolidation and centralization.  The trick, of course, is to get the right balance between local and more centralized support; there are many minds from the colleges focused on this task at the moment.  CUC has made some excellent new hires and they are leading a fast paced change effort.  You can read about this in my article on the changing IT landscape at the Claremont Colleges.

Computing Committee
Under Prof David Money Harris’ leadership this year, the computing committee has been having vigorous and interesting discussions.

The committee, and the Department Chairs, have given us some very helpful feedback about the design and features of email, Google Groups and calendar systems.  We have created a document (requires HMC credentials) that summarizes what we have heard and the changes we can make with the intention of improvement.  Please feel free to comment in the document itself or give us feedback in any other way that suits you.

The committee has also been discussing what we can do about providing better Linux support, student printing,  and the new web accessibility policy.  It will soon take up a review of the impact of college growth indicators for Information Technology.

Staff, we are currently looking for a successor to Tim Hussey for the staff position on the Computing Committee,  so  if you’re interested, please use our sign up form.

More to learn about

Here are some other things you might want to read about…

Students (well, anyone really), if you are inclined toward building applications, want to learn a new operating system or delve into databases you should read about the free services you can use from Amazon Educate and about our APIs for college data.

The College adopted a policy on safeguarding confidential and sensitive information in March of 2016.  You can read about this and other policies on the IT Policy website.  We will soon be sharing some practical recommendations about how to comply with the policy, but the core of it is as follows.  We live in a high autonomy and very open information technology environment.  That means we must place an emphasis on each and every user being responsible for how they protect and make use of confidential and sensitive data collected by the College.  That means you!

If you are interested in mailing lists and want to follow what is going on with the transition from majordomo to Google Groups, I recommend three articles:

And, with that, we wish you a successful Spring 2017 Semester.

The changing landscape of IT at the Claremont Colleges

You have probably noticed some signs of it: the landscape of Information Technology at the Claremont Colleges has begun to change significantly. In this article, I will remind you of some of the initiatives that have started or will start in the near future and try to give an idea of their potential impact.

The Council of the Claremont Colleges (“Presidents’ Council”) commissioned a report on Information Technology from consulting firm BerryDunn in 2013. The report made a number of recommendations about consolidation and cost reduction/avoidance.  This led to extensive discussion between the ITC (committee of CIOs of the Colleges) and Council, resulting in the creation of six initiatives, collected under an IT@TCC umbrella.  The initiatives were to do with Networking, Security, Disaster Recovery, Telephony, Identity and Access Management and Data Centers.

At a very high level, the initiatives all call for appropriate centralization and improved management under the aegis of CUC.  In 2016, many of the original six, as well as a few others, launched.   CUC has begun to build a strong IT unit that will manage shared services.  They have made a number of great hires for the roles of CIO, deputy CIO and network management.

A new cross functional committee, the IT Steering Committee, has been formed.  It is comprised of the Vice Presidents from each College with responsibility for IT, the Dean of the Library, and representatives from each of the committees that report to Council (Academic Deans, Treasurers, Student Deans, Communications).  This committee has responsibility for governance of IT and for making decisions about which services should be provided at a Claremont wide level, rather than at individual colleges.  You can read about the ITSC and view its membership on the new it.claremont.edu site.  That site also has information on a number of sub-committees (called “ITOCs”) that are digging into initiatives on networking, telephony, identity and access management among others.

Other initiatives that started before the ITSC was formed are connecting up with the new governance structure and process.   They include:

  • Claremont participation in the Workday Student Strategic Influencer program, led by Andrew Dorantes
  • Assessment of Student Information Systems (SIS), led by Jeff Groves
  • Deployment of Workday’s Human resources system, led by Stig Lanesskog of CUC

So what might this all mean for  HMC faculty, students or staff?

By the summer, Council should have a recommendation from the SIS assessment group regarding the student information system.  It will take at least a couple of years, once a decision on a vendor has been made, to deploy a new system, but we will be saying goodbye to the current versions of the Jenzabar portal and underlying software.  I know that this will be welcome news to many.

The deployment of Workday HCM (“Human Capital Management”) has begun. This is the second Workday system that is being deployed for the Claremont Colleges, following the Financial Management System – the two are tightly integrated.  The new system is scheduled to go live in January 2018 (to coincide with the tax year).  We will be saying goodbye to UltiPro, to PeopleAdmin (for job applicants) and to current performance evaluation system (word docs).   Cynthia Beckwith, Kimberly Taylor and I are your HMC representatives on the workgroups responsible for deploying Workday HCM.  So please get in touch if you think there’s some aspect of this that you would like to influence. We’d love to know what is currently working well, what works but could be improved and what is not working for you at all.

The landscape really is changing, and there is much more to report, but I will stop for now.  Do get in touch if you have questions or comments.

 

 

Update from the CIO February 2016

This is the first update from the CIO for 2016.

New faces and new groups at CIS
The key ingredient to CIS is the people.  We made a number of changes during summer 2016, and I wrote an article about this last Ocober: New faces and new groups at CIS. Our regrets about two  retirements were tempered by our excitement about three new hires.  We also reorganized to reduce the number of units in CIS, and now have four people dedicated exclusively to Educational Technology.  Since some people’s jobs have changed, your best bet is to contact the Help Desk when you have a service request.

IT@TCC
A number of  Consortium wide IT initiatives are under way and they will bring some major changes to IT at the Colleges.  The impact should be positive from HMC’s perspective.   The areas being addressed this academic year include networking, identity and access management (IAM), telephony and security. I have more detail in the post on IT@TCC.  These initiatives have been set up to allow for lots of input from “functional users”, so please make sure to get involved if you have questions or ideas about how to proceed.

Goodbye Majordomo
It is going to be a long farewell, but by now you should all be aware that we are transitioning from Majordomo to Google Groups for the HMC  Mailing Lists.  We have lots of reasons for doing this, and we are gaining some new and much needed automation.  See the Goodbye Majordomo article for more information about what’s done and what’s left to do.

Awesome Videos
During the Fall, a nice coincidence happened.  This year’s Computing Committee with the intrepid Paul Steinberg at the helm, suggested that we should create short training videos as an alternative way of getting information out to people. “Sometimes a workshop is overkill”, they said.  Independently and separately, at one of our staff meetings, Elly Schofield said “we should make some short videos…”.

With that happy coincidence, we have started making what I think are awesome videos (a new meaning for “AV”).  The first two are about Google Groups features, and were put together by Elly Schofield and Brian Reid:

Canvas pilots
Last summer, the Presidents Council urged the ITC (Information Technology Committee) to work with the ADC (Academic Deans Committee) on “transitioning to a new learning management system”.  This could involve moving to a new version of Sakai or to something else. Work on this initiative has proceed during the Fall, with examination of market options and planning to gather student and faculty opinions.

Colleen Lewis had already decided to use Canvas in the Fall, which was a nice piece of serendipity, given that CGU moved to Canvas two years ago and it is a strong candidate.  Elizabeth Hodas and the Educational Technology team have worked with several more faculty to set up pilots for the Spring Semester.   We will be collecting feedback throughout the Spring… don’t be shy about giving us your opinions!

Amazon Educate
Have you ever wanted to try your hand at running your own server? Or maybe you are developing a mobile app and want to test it on multiple types of phones, none of which you own? Or you want to explore some “big data” tools? If so, you might be interested in Amazon Web Services, Amazon Device Farm, or Amazon Big Data Services. The College recently signed up for Amazon Educate, a program which will get you free access to any of these Amazon services, and many others (though not Amazon Prime!) For details, see the news article about Amazon Educate.

I’ve promised myself that I will try to do more frequent, but shorter updates this year.  So that’s enough for now.  I hope you’re having a great semester!

 

 

Course, Major, Dorm and Class mailing lists

In 2013 the Computing Committee surveyed the faculty to identify priorities for CIS.  The second highest priority (after “Improve the Portal”) was “improve the course mailing lists system”.   Since then, we have been steadily moving lists away from the old software (called Majordomo) to Google Groups within our Google Apps for Education domain g.hmc.edu.  I am writing now to let you know that we are about to move some widely used lists to Google Groups.

There are two kinds of list:  ad-hoc lists that are created by hand and automated lists that are created by scripts that draw on information in the student information system.   We (and you)  have been creating ad-hoc lists on google groups for some time.  We are now ready to migrate the automated lists to Google Groups and also to automate more lists, such as faculty-l, staff-l and some departmental lists.

The automated lists on Google Groups are now working in parallel with the Majordomo lists (so you can write to either).  On Wednesday, August 26 we will turn off the majordomo lists for the following categories of automated lists.:

  • section (“math-60-1-L@hmc.edu” will become “math-60-1-2015-FA@g.hmc.edu”)
  • major lists by year (“bio-majors-15-L@hmc.edu” will become “bio-majors-15@g.hmc.edu”)
  • dorm (“atwood-dorm-L@hmc.edu” will become “atwood-dorm@g.hmc.edu”)
  • class (“HMC2019-L@hmc.edu” will become “HMC2019@g.hmc.edu”)

You do not need to memorize any of these names, as they will appear in both the Directory and your  “My Groups” listing at groups.g.hmc.edu, as well as autocompleting when you compose a message in gmail.

Your course lists will be automatically updated three times per day, on the same schedule as Sakai. And you will be able to read archived messages at any time.

There should be no major changes for people who wish to use the lists. There are some new additional features of Google groups that you may find useful, such as the ability to view and respond to messages on the web, view archives and view member lists.  To distinguish automatically created lists from manually created ones, we will not be using the “-l” convention on Google Groups, so automatically created list addresses will have the format “groupname@g.hmc.edu”, whereas ad-hoc lists will continue to have “-l” at the end.

I would like to publicly thank Andy Davenport who has done patient and careful work to develop a system for automatically creating these lists.

As usual, I would appreciate any feedback you might have.

February 2015 Update from the CIO

80101383152976HMCWeb10We had such a busy Fall semester that I was unable to send out updates.  In this one, I will cover developments since my last update in late August. I hope you have some time to read it.

People
Starting with the most important aspect of all organizations, I have the pleasure of introducing three people.  Taylor Calderone has joined us in a permanent position as a technical analyst on the User Support team.  Taylor has been with us for a while on a temporary basis, working primarily with audiovisual support.  When Corey LeBlanc left for Pomona’s Computer Science department, it was really great to see Taylor compete for and win the permanent position.

Brian Reid has joined us in a temporary capacity to work on the User Support team. Brian came to HMC from the Geek Squad, and we are very happy to welcome him to the campus.

I am also very happy to announce that our Senior Network Engineer search has finally yielded fruit.  Duke Vu joined  the CIS team on January 5th.  He comes to us after a five year stint at JPL and we are really looking forward to adding his set of skills and insights to the team that works on that most fundamental of things, our network.  Duke will report to Mitch Shacklett, Director of the Systems and Network Group.

ITC
The intercollegiate Information Technology Committee (ITC) has  been very active of late.  This year, I get to co-chair the committee with Ken Pflueger of Pomona. Among the topics we are dealing with is the IT Assesssment by BerryDunn, which I mentioned in my last update.   The final version has been received and is under review by both the ITC and the Presidents Council.  The ITC agreed with many of its recommendations and has started to lay the groundwork to implement some of them.  The Council discussed the report at their January 2015 retreat and ITC is meeting with Council in March.  Council has urged the IT leaders to collaborate more deeply in order to build strong centralized services where appropriate, in particular in areas like networking, data centers, security, identity and access management and disaster recovery.

Related to the ITC, I have been helping out at CUC since the late Fall departure of the previous CIO. I am assisting Stig Lanesskog, the CEO of CUC, with IT decision making and keeping the department moving while they redefine the CIO position and launch a search.  It is an honor and privilege to help the consortium in this way, and will, I believe, yield benefit for HMC in the long run.

Workday
I hope you all saw the announcement about Workday Financial Management.  This is big news for lots of reasons.

Last year, the intercollegiate Budget and Financial Affairs Committee (BFAC) began looking for a replacement for the aging Datatel financial system that is run by the Claremont University Consortium (CUC).  The BFAC narrowed its requirements down to four or five “show stoppers”, two of which will be of great interest to our faculty.  The first was the ability easily to report across fiscal years, which is often very important to grant holders. And the second was support for all modern browsers. (You read more about their philosophy on user interface design).

There is so much to say about this topic that I have started a series of separate posts about it.

Password Policy
Password Policy: As you know by now, we did not implement the system change we had announced for October 27th, which would have required you to change your password every 365 days.  Thanks to good feedback from the community and the Computing Committee, I went back to the drawing board, connected with our financial auditors and finally we worked out an agreement that will require slightly longer passwords, but no annual changing of passwords.  Once per year, you will be required to check your password to ensure that it meets the HMC Credentials password requirements (the timing of this check is up to you, based on when you last changed or checked your password).  If your password meets the requirements, then you are good to go.  Only if it doesn’t meet the requirements will you be required to change it.

Email aliases
joseph.vaughan@hmc.edu, jvaughan@hmc.edu, vaughan@hmc.edu, joseph_vaughan@hmc.edu which one am I? We have traditionally tried to anticipate what people might think was someone’s address by populating our “Mail Central” with a number of aliases for the main address, which is always of the form username@hmc.edu. During the Fall semester we reviewed a number of issues with this system:

  • As the numbers in our community increase, it is more and more common to have name clashes, so that the underlying idea of being able to “make up” the email address if you know a person’s name is no longer valid.
  • Many systems now use email addresses as usernames, which means that they treat the different aliases as different accounts.  We have a variation of that problem with the Footprints Ticket System.
  • All modern email systems have some form of directory lookup and autocomplete of addresses, so you don’t have to remember them.

With this in mind, we decided to stop creating aliases for email addresses and just use the canonical form username@hmc.edu.  We did not touch existing aliases, but will no longer be creating them when we create accounts.

Other Topics
So this update has gotten long enough. But please visit our IT News site to read other articles:

NSF cyberinfrastructure grants

Dramatic increase in service requests in SCTL

CIS Digital Badge Pilot

Enjoy Spring Break and the rest of the semester.

Shanahan Center brings dramatic increase in service requests

As the table below makes clear, we are seeing a huge increase in the number of requests for CIS services in the Shanahan Center.

We are happy to have this “problem”, but we are having to work hard to make sure that we are delivering services as efficiently as possible.

To that end, we have reorganized within User Support to make sure that there more people available to provide audiovisual services.   We have also made sure that every request goes into our ticket system and our calendar.

One of the best ways you can help us is to always request audiovisual support via our request form. Give us as much advance notice as you can and be as specific as you can about your needs.

We’d also love to hear your feedback about how audiovisual services could be streamlined even more.  So send your ideas our way.   Thanks!

Shanahan Center Usage

 2012
before SCTL
2013
start of SCTL
2014
SCTL full operation
Lecture Capture Events
44216549
Laptops ReservationsLearning Studio *145 (Fall)349 (Fall)
Overtime Hours283377550 (Jan-Oct)
Total Support Hours12,03513,20913,883 (Jan-Oct)

Workday Student

As I mentioned before,  the Claremont Colleges have decided to participate in Workday’s Strategic Influencer program for the Workday Student product.   This initiative is now taking more shape.  The following people have been appointed to the Workday Strategic Influencer Project Team:

  • Margeret Adorno (Registrar, Pomona)
  • Mark Ashley (Registrar, HMC)
  • Andrew Dorantes (Treasurer, HMC)
  • Robert Goldstein (CIO, Pitzer)
  • Elizabeth Morgan (Registrar, Claremont McKenna)
  • Joseph Vaughan (CIO, HMC)
  • Chris Waugh, (Director, Smith Campus Center, Pomona)

The Project Team will visit Workday headquarters in Pleasanton, CA on February 24 for the first meeting of Strategic Influencers and Design Partners.  These meetings will be broadcast so that you can listen in from home.  Workday will be conducting interviews with functional groups as well.  If you have views on what a Student System should do, now is the time to speak up!