March 2010 update from the CIO

Hello everyone,

One of the pieces of feedback that we’ve received in recent months was a request to improve the level of  communication about “what is going on” at CIS.  “We know you’re doing lots of things”, one person said, “but we don’t have a good way of following it”.   We received this feedback through more than one channel.    As part of our response, we’ve decided to provide a monthly update to the community.  It will contain highlights and links to our news site, where you will find regular updates provided by CIS staff.

We have so much news!   I’ll have to choose a few pieces and urge you to visit the news site for more.

1. In the Fall, we launched a new version of the HMC Information Technology Strategy Document.   The Board of Trustees reviewed it briefly in September, and I did a long presentation on it at the Saddle Rock Trustee retreat in November.   When I visited departments in the late Fall and early Spring, I distributed copies.  Four big areas for IT strategy in the coming years:

  • Information Technology Governance at HMC
  • Information Technology Infrastructure at HMC
  • CIS, the central Information Technology organization
  • Innovation in Information Technology at HMC.

The IT strategy document is available for comments at http://www5.hmc.edu/draft91/ You can download a copy there too.

2. Our newly created  Educational Technology and Media Services unit, headed up by Elizabeth Hodas, has been busy.  They’ve hired a Scientific Computing Specialist,  worked steadily on the Learning Studio in Sprague and, in collaboration with the Library,  introduced a new series of lunchtime opportunities to learn more about educational technology. It’s called “A Bite of Learning”.  As if all that wasn’t enough, they also got a couple of really interesting pilot programs under way.

3. CIS launched a client centered initiative last summer.  It’s designed to steadily increase our focus on and accountability to you, our customers.   The core idea is that honest feedback, if we pay attention to it, will allow us to constantly improve our services.   That last sentence had three important elements:

  • honest feedback.  We can’t get it if you don’t give it to us!
  • we pay attention.  In our staff meetings we’ve been working on giving and receiving feedback and identifying our internal and external customers, suppliers and stakeholders.
  • we improve our services.  All the feedback in the world won’t help if we aren’t responsive.  Over the coming months we will continue to analyze the feedback we’ve received and develop new service strategies.

You will have noticed some of the early steps in this initiative, such as our focus groups in November and the surveys that request feedback about service issues recorded in the Footprints ticket system.

By the way, this is a good moment to mention that a great way to bring issues to our attention is to send a note to helpdesk@hmc.edu.   Those messages automatically go into our service issue tracking system (we use an application called Footprints), where they are visible to many CIS staff and we can ensure that your needs are being met.   Calling, visiting or stopping us on campus are also great ways to go — if you do that, we’ll put the issue in Footprints on your behalf.

Our ultimate goal is to surprise and delight you every time you come to us for service. And we won’t rest until we have evidence that that’s what’s happening!

4.  In the Fall Semester I asked the Cabinet to form an Email and Calendar task force to address the question of what the College should be doing in this important and fast changing area of information technology.  The task force is to assess if Harvey Mudd should alter its email and calendaring systems and if so make a recommendation.  We are also considering sourcing options, such as whether CIS should continue providing email in-house or whether we should use one of  the hosted alternatives, such as Microsoft Live@edu or Google Apps for Education.   In the Fall, the task force ran a campus wide survey — you can still participate at http://tinyurl.com/HMCemail and you can view a snapshot of the results.   They also narrowed down on a number of issues that we think are important for the college.

I am hoping that we will see a recommendation from the task force before the end of the Spring  semester. 

5.  Data and Software Engineering Services (led by Susan Selhorst) and the User Support Group (led by Calvin Tong) have been working in close collaboration with the Registrar’s office and the Jenzabar CX team at Pomona College, to support a Claremont wide move to online registration for classes.   Pilots in the Fall Semester were very successful, so much so that the Registrar decided to extend the pilot to juniors and sophomores as well as seniors.   As well as the programming and testing of the portal, CIS provided laptops in the Green Room and technical support throughout the registration period.  A next step for CIS is to help develop an electronic means to track the approvals of two advisers (something which is unique to HMC among the Claremont Colleges).   Web Registration is scheduled to reach full production status in the Fall.

So that’s a sample from the many pieces of news we have.  I hope you enjoyed reading it and that you will tell us your reaction and what you’d like to read about next time.  The comments section at the end of the news article would be a good place to do that.

Wishing you the best as we move into the frenzied time at the end of Spring semester!

Joseph Vaughan

CIO/VP for Computing and Information Services

HMC IT Strategy document available

In Fall 2009 we released the more or less final version of the HMC Information Technology Strategy Document.  It is available at http://www5.hmc.edu/draft91/

I presented the document to two committees of the Board in September and to all of the Trustees at the Saddle Rock retreat in November.   I have also been giving copies to the academic departments when I visit.

Unlike earlier versions, the latest version separates strategic planning from tactical initiatives and other kinds of planning.  It sets out four strategic areas for IT at HMC:

  • IT Governance
  • IT infrastructure
  • CIS, the central IT organization
  • Innovation

The link above will take you to an online version of the plan where you can leave comments.  We’d be very interested in reading them.

Pilot Programs in Educational Technology and Media Services

EdTechMed is conducting two pilot programs this spring. At the beginning of the spring semester we purchased a new set of 200 iClickers and 4 rolling cases. Clickers, also known as Personal Response Systems, have been used in the classroom by several faculty to assess student understanding of the topics being discussed, to gauge the pace of a course, and to encourage student participation and attendance. Our previous set of clickers had become quite old and unreliable. The new iClickers are extremely simple to use and to transport to class. They rely on radio frequency technology, no longer requiring line-of-sight to register votes and can be used with both Macs and PCs. Another advantage of the new clickers is that they can be used with any software, from Power Point and Keynote to Mathematica and Maple. The pilot program comprises Kerry Karukstis, Nancy Lape and David Harris. Prof. Karukstis is using them in both of her sections of Chemistry 26: General Chemistry Laboratory. Prof. Lape is using them in Engineering 82: Chemical and Thermal Processes and Prof. Harris is using them in Engineering 158: Introduction to CMOS VLSI Design. We have one set of iClickers available so if you are interested in trying them out in your class please contact me at Elizabeth_Hodas@hmc.edu

Our second pilot program involves two faculty who are experimenting with assigning student video projects as part of their course syllabus. The two faculty members participating in this pilot are Prof. Erika Dyson and Prof. Peter Saeta. CIS has purchased a number of small digital videocameras to support the program. Students will be able to check out the digital videocameras from the CIS Help Desk in order to film their video projects. This pilot came about after a presentation by our Apple representatives in which they presented samples of student-generated videos that have been uploaded to iTunes U.

“A Bite of Learning”

“A Bite of Learning” is a new series sponsored jointly by CIS and Honnold Library. It takes place every Tuesday at lunchtime in the Aviation Room in the Hoch Shanahan Dining Commons. Jezmynne Dene and I conceived the series as a way to share topics of interest with the Claremont community in an informal lunch setting. We’ll be inviting speakers from CIS and the Library to teach short topics, describe new technology or share a new project they’re working on. We’ll also be inviting speakers from outside the colleges on occasion. So far this semester we’ve had James Sadler from CIS describe recent testing of wireless video projector technology. Jezmynne has shared some of her favorite cool tools such as LibX, Flickr and Skitch. Jezmynne and I also did a well-attended session on our favorite tricks and tips in Sakai. On March 9th we had a special session with Adam Johnson from HMC Chemistry and Ethan Benatan from Reed College. The subject of their presentation was the successes and failures of various Web 2.0 tools they have used for VIPEr, an online community of inorganic chemists. Some of the tools discussed included Skype (just in time teaching, chatting, text), Central Desktop (versioning, polishing docs), Delicious (social bookmarking), Ning (virtual community, specialized), Google Docs (writing, creating, thinking) and crappygraphs.com (Caution: be prepared to lose an hour exploring this site!). Ethan joined us remotely using Elluminate, a web-based video conferencing tool.

Jeho Park Joins CIS

Jeho Park joined CIS in the Educational Technology and Media Services Group in January. Jeho is our new Scientific Computing Specialist, a new position in the CIS department. Jeho has a PH.D. in Engineering and Industrial Applied Mathematics from Claremont Graduate University. Most recently he was a lecturer at California State University, Long Beach. Jeho will focus primarily on providing support for our specialized scientific software such as Mathematica, Matlab, and Maple. Jeho also has a great deal of experience with high performance computing. Jeho has gotten off to a running start. One of his first projects was to implement grid Mathematica in our Mac lab. He has also been working on developing a new faculty grant program called the “Teaching With Technology Innovation Grant Program.” We will be introducing the pilot phase of this program later this spring.

Update on the Learning Studio

The Educational Technology and Media Services Group may be new, but we’ve been busy with lots of projects! Our biggest ongoing project is the new Learning Studio on the first floor of Sprague. This project started out as a remodeling of the Mac and PC labs in the basement of the Parsons building after CIS received a grant from the Fletcher Jones Foundation to remodel our labs in Fall 2008. In Spring 2009 we conducted a series of focus groups with faculty, staff, and students. The main themes revealed by the focus groups were an emphasis on flexibility, comfort, natural light, and facilities for individual and group work. We quickly realized that the physical space of the Mac and PC labs was not conducive to any of these expressed desires. So we were thrilled when the first floor of Sprague became available as an alternative location. A group comprising members of CIS and Facilities and Maintenance has been meeting with an architect, Dan Lawrence, to design the layout of the Learning Studio and to choose furniture and equipment. We’re happy to report that the construction drawings are complete and that the furniture will be ordered this week. If all goes well construction should be completed by the beginning of May. The new Learning Studio will include space for a classroom with flexible tables and charis. The tables can easily be moved around to reconfigure the space and can be collapsed and stored to make more room. Two sets of laptops will be available for use in the classroom. A group work area similar to those in the Platt Living Room, several lounge areas, and approximately 18 dedicated desktop computers will also be available. We’re also in the process of constructing a “wish list” of other technology and services thathave been suggested for the Learning Studio. You can view and add to the wish list by joining the Sakai site called “HMC Learning Spaces.” To join, login to Sakai and use the Membership tool in your My Workspace.

It’s been an exciting experience working with faculty, staff, and students to design this space and we can’t wait make it available to the HMC community. For more information please feel free to contact Elizabeth_Hodas@hmc.edu