December 2012 Update from the CIO

HolidayCard_2 This is the final update from the CIO for 2012.

Getting ready for the TLB.
That shiny new building will be ours in a mere 203 days.  CIS is working hard on preparations for our part in getting a building like this open. The things we are working on include:

  • Network within the building
  • Campus network to support the new building
  • Changes to the network to support the new uses of vacated space
  • AV services in the building, which will include “simulcasting” and (hopefully) videoconferencing from some of the rooms
  • Three “technology rich” classrooms to augment or replace the Learning Studio Classroom resource
  • As we get closer to the data we will need to be planning for moving computers for people moving into the building and all the moves that are triggered by it (in Kingston, Parsons and Olin)
  • Digital signage in the building

This is quite a list!  It is work we are (happily) undertaking in addition to the normal work of a Spring semester.  Please keep this in mind, especially if you are thinking of an IT project for 2013.  We’d love to hear about it soon.

I mentioned last month that we had contracted with SIGMAnet to help us with a review of our wired and wireless networks, which will form the groundwork for a longer term comprehensive network plan.  We recently received a draft of the review of the wired network and will be presenting the results in an update to the Board in January.  In part thanks to the report, we have begun preparations for upgrading the campus network core in order to accommodate the new building.
In the past couple of weeks two intercollegiate committees  approved our proposal for major changes to the network beyond the Claremont Colleges that connects us to downtown Los Angeles and the greater internet.  Working with Los Nettos, our regional network provider, we will be purchasing equipment and fiber runs that will increase the diversity and redundancy of the network, and greatly reduce the risks associated with single points of failure.
We recently completed a four day workshop with Fischer International which moved forward our Identity and Access management project.  The current phase of the project is focused on account provisioning.  In ordinary English, this project will allow us to automate the creation and deletion of accounts in many of the College systems.
On the News Site
Elizabeth Hodas wrote about Recent Changes to Sakai and about the exciting Spring Bite of Learning Schedule.  And we have an article about what happens when people give us honest feedback, which I hope you will take the time to read and join me in thanking the members of our community mentioned there.

Everyone at CIS wishes you the very best for the holidays.

The value of honest feedback

We request feedback in many ways.  One of them is via the surveys that are sent out when we close a ticket in Footprints, our service request management system. Over the past year, we’ve seen a definite increase in the number of people who are filling out those surveys.

Whenever we receive feedback, I ask “what can we learn from this?”. If the feedback says “excellent service”, then we have learned that we got things right.  If the feedback identifies some problems, then we can ask what aspects of our procedures, guidelines or systems may have led to the problem.

I wanted to call out some of the feedback we’ve received this past year and thank those who took the time to give it to us.

Peter Saeta recently said it would be nice if we could let people know when an update was available for software such as Mathematica.  Jeho is now gathering the information we need about what software to include in our list.  Elizabeth told me that she used to use an m-software-l list for this purpose, so we may revive that, or create a calendar (or both!).

Stephanie Graham ran into a problem with an event that was scheduled for AV setup before 8am.  She was unable to contact anyone at CIS when the staff member was unavoidably late and the staff member did not have Stephanie’s number.  We changed our checklists for events so that we are always giving out a contact number and requesting a contact number from the event organizer.

Xanda Schofield told us about the challenges of being the moderator for students-l and suggested that we put something more modern than majordomo and easier to use than mutt in place.  So Xanda is going to help us review list software in the New Year (we’re very interested in Google Groups and in Sympa).

Many students have given us feedback on the new PaperCut print management system, which was taken up with great enthusiasm by the students in the early Fall.  We are working with the company to get some of the requests into the next version of PaperCut.

Similarly, we received lots of feedback when we launched the Fischer password management portal.  We have been working with Fischer and will relaunch this portal in the new year.  The new version will be at a HMC url  and will have much more flexibility with respect to the security questions it allows you to ask and answer.

Mark Ashley and Lauren Kim gave us a spreadsheet filled with detailed suggestions for improvements to the portal.

To these and all the other folk who have given us honest feedback we say “thank you” and please keep it up in 2013.


Take a book, leave a book

Last month the CIS management team met with our student staff to gather feedback about our services. One of the ideas that came out of the meeting waHuge_pile_of_bookss to start a “Take a Book/Leave a Book” lending library in the Learning Studio so that students could have access to books to browse and read (and our bookshelves wouldn’t look so lonely and empty). We all thought it was a great idea so we’ve gone ahead and started it up. It’s located in the Learning Studio on the ground floor of Sprague on the shelves behind the elevator.

Now it’s up to you! Stop on by to browse for a book to read or to contribute your own gently-used books. It’s open to students, faculty and staff and both fiction and non-fiction books are welcome.

CIS Holiday Closure Arrangements

During the winter campus closure, from Saturday December 22 through Tuesday, January 1, CIS services will be reduced (we reopen on Wednesday January 2nd). The Help Desk and all other areas of CIS will be closed throughout the holiday and, for the most part, CIS staff will not be working. However, the servers and other machines in our data center and switch rooms around campus do not take a break.

During the closure:

1) We will be monitoring the systems located in the data center and a few staff will be on call to deal with server or network infrastructure problems.

2) In the unlikely event that we see problems with one of our services, we have plans in place to bring CIS staff back to work to deal with them. Priority will be given to core services:

  • E-mail (Google Apps, MS Office365)Mt Baldy
  • VPN
  • File Storage (Charlie, Alice)
  • Authentication systems
  • Sakai
  • CX and JICs Portal
  • Cognos
  • College Website
  • OnBase (online RFC)
  • Network (wired and wireless)
  • OCA scripts on

3) Issues with other servers will be addressed on a case-by-case basis. Depending on the severity of the issue, they may have to wait until the next business day, Wednesday January 2.

4) Should an issue related to CIS servers or the campus network arise during the holidays, we will in all likelihood be notified by one of our monitoring systems. If we are aware of a problem, we will post a status notification on the Help Desk voicemail (909 607 7777) as well as on the Help Desk Twitter Feed at If you notice a problem that you think is related to a server, please check either one of those first. If the problem persists; you believe it is server or network related, and we appear not to know about it, please call campus safety at 909-607-2000* *(x72000 from on campus). Campus Safety operators have the ability to contact CIS staff directly at any time.

5) To save power, all workstations in the labs will be turned off.

The staff at CIS wish you and your families a Happy Holiday break!

Spring 2013 Schedule for A Bite of Learning

Bite of Learning logoThe schedule for the Spring 2013 A Bite of Learning series has been finalized. We’re looking forward to a great series of talks by speakers both from HMC and from outside the campus. For example, Jane Manning, Manager of Online Course Production and Platforms from the Office of the Vice Provost for Online Learning at Stanford University, has agreed to reprise her excellent presentation on MOOCs from the Saddle Rock Board of Trustees retreat. Liam Robinson (HMC ’06), Kenneth Asare will be presenting on a start-up project they co-founded called Henry Neeman, Director of the OU Supercomputing Center for Education & Research at the University of Oklahoma, will be speaking on “Supercomputing in Plain English.”

Sara Lowe from Honnold/Mudd Library will be presenting results from a 2012 student survey on student perceptions of technology and the library. We’re also looking forward to Paul Steinberg (Humanities, Social Sciences and the Arts) bringing us up to date on the progress of his Social Rules project. Nancy Lape (Mathematics) and Darryl Yong (Mathematics), along with their co-researchers Karl Haushalter (Chemistry), Rachel Levy (Mathematics), and Jacqueline Dresch (Mathematics), will be presenting on their experiments with the flipped classroom model at HMC. Nancy and Darryl also presented at the Saddle Rock retreat and their presentation generated a great deal of discussion.

You can find the full schedule of presentations on our web site at We’ve also begun posting videos of the presentations from the Fall 2012 series so if you missed a presentation please check our web site. We’d love to hear your feedback too. You can fill out our feedback survey at

And if you haven’t liked us on Facebook yet, please do so at

Recent Changes to Sakai at The Claremont Colleges

Sakai logoOur new Sakai administrator at Pomona, Sanghyun Jeon, has gotten off to a roaring start. After familiarizing herself with The Claremont Colleges’ installation of Sakai and with our policies and procedures, she has begun working on the long list of fixes and new features that the Sakai Administration Team has been compiling.

One important change affects the behavior of the add/drop scripts that synchronize Sakai with the student information system. In the past students who had been inactivated in a course because they had dropped it or because they were added to the site before officially registering for the course, would not be automatically re-activated when they re-added the course or officially registered. That behavior has been changed. Students will now be automatically re-activated when they re-add a course or officially register for the course in the student information system. This should result in a lot less frustration for students and faculty and the CIS Help Desk alike!

Two of the most important bug fixes are fixes to the Manage Groups and the Section Info tool. The Manage Groups tool is used to create ad-hoc groups of participants and is located in the Site Info tool of each site. It had a bug that caused it to generate an error when one of the participants in the site was inactive. The only work-around was to delete all inactive users. This bug has now been fixed and inactive participants in a site will no longer cause the Manage Groups tool to generate an error.

The Section Info tool is very similar to Manage Groups, but has the useful feature of being able to assign Teaching Assistants to individual sections. At HMC it’s been a useful tool for ubercourse sites where the instructors wanted a combined course site for all of the sections of their course, but still wanted to be able to grade by individual sections. This tool has been broken since we upgraded to Sakai 2.7. This tool has also been fixed and no longer crashes when a user tries to create a Sakai section.

A new feature that has been implemented is the Check Quota tool in the Sakai Resources tool. Site Instructors and Maintainers can now check how much of their site quota they have used. Users who have Maintain or Instructor role in a site can go to the Resources tool and click “Check Quota” to find out how much of their quota they have used. The default quota for a Sakai site is 2GB. This amount can be increased if needed.

We’ll keep you posted as new bug fixes and changes are implemented.