October 2013 Update From the CIO

IMG_20130704_210653What a Fall Semester we are having so far!

Shanahan Center
We love the new Shanahan Center.  As everyone knows, we’ve seen a few issues with the AV systems.  We are developing a list of these issues and their status, which we will share with everyone.   And I thank the people who have given us specific feedback about what’s working or not working for them.

I’d like to provide a little context about some of the issues. The TLB Advisory Committee (8 faculty, 2 students, 5 staff) met with the two AV companies that were bidding for the project in early summer 2012.  Both companies recommended a Crestron system and both anticipated programming the system, receiving feedback from users and then making changes.  That is the phase we are going through at the moment.

Overall, from our perspective, the move into the Shanahan Center has gone rather well. The sheer number of pieces of technology in the building (90 wireless access points, 450+ wired ports, VOIP phone system, networked projectors, lecture capture, document cameras etc) is daunting and, while we acknowledge that some things need fixing, we are glad that so much is working well.

CINE issues
When sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions. (OK, so Claudius, in Hamlet, probably didn’t have the Shanahan Center and CINE in mind).  Most of you know “CINE” as one of the wireless networks on campus.  ”CINE” also refers to the backbone network between the Claremont Colleges and connectivity beyond the colleges to the internet.  Harvey Mudd College is responsible for that CINE too.  Recently some work being done by a contractor in the CUC phone office on Eighth Street resulted in damage to parts of the CINE core switch.  As a result, we lost internet connectivity, VOIP phones, VPN and other parts of the network for periods of several hours in late September and October.  These incidents emphasized the fact that we have a single point of failure at the CINE core.  We had received approval from the Colleges late last year to place a second redundant switch at a different location and bring new fiber connections from downtown LA to the CUC building on First Street.  The project was approved and we are moving ahead with obtaining the new fiber, as well as looking at ways to get the second CINE switch earlier than we had planned.  Together, these initiatives will remove the single point of failure problem with the CINE core switch.

Identity and Access Management (IAM@HMC)
Our IAM@HMC initiative continues apace. We have begun testing Fischer’s work for phase III of the project, which will bring us automated creation and deletion of accounts on several of our key systems. The CIS Help Desk will soon be sending an email requesting that users synchronize their passwords and configure their security questions.  I mention this now to ensure that all users know that the message is a legitimate request from the IAM project team.  It will instruct users to enter their username and current password at the HMC Credentials kiosk. The request will include a detailed set of instructions,  which you should follow.

HSA Advising Portlet
The HSA Advising portlet, which will replace the HSA department’s standalone Filemaker Pro application, is in final testing.  Using this application on the JICS portal, HSA advisors will be able to work with their students to identify the classes that meet HSA requirements and record student progress.  Students will be able to use the portal to review their progress toward completion of the HSA requirements and will not have to shuttle paper over to the Registrar’s office.  This portlet will be in production for Spring pre-registration in a couple of weeks. It was developed under contract by Lee Jones.  Paul Steinberg, Bill Alves and Susan Selhorst guided the work, which was funded jointly by CIS, HSA and the Dean of Faculty.

Ongoing Infrastructure Upgrades
Thanks to the Information Technology Infrastructure Fund (ITIF), which was established in early 2013, we have a source of funding for infrastructure upgrades. These will be ongoing, and we are steadily building out a project list for 2013-14 and for 2014-15. Generally speaking, we will follow a process similar to that for building renewal and replacement.  If a project is on the ITIF list, we will prioritize it accordingly (eg. improvement to network, high number of people impacted, construction opportunity etc). Departments then have the choice of waiting or of funding the project directly to bring it forward in time.

Among the projects funded by ITIF so far this year were the Core Switch upgrade in March, wireless improvements in three dorms (which took advantage of already existing wiring) and improvements to the network in Olin.

One can never say thanks often enough: I am very grateful to President Klawe, Andrew Dorantes and the Physical Plan committee for their foresight in establishing this fund. There is much work to be done on our IT infrastructure, but we now have a regular source of funding and coherent decision making process that will help us design and build out a more robust infrastructure.

Smartboard Arrival
We recently acquired a new Smartboard, which will be traveling around to a number of classrooms in the Shanahan Center.  Some of our faculty will be testing it out in their classrooms during the rest of the semester. We are looking forward to getting a better understanding of how HMC faculty and students might make use of this technology. Do talk to your colleagues and fellow students and let us know what works (or not) with this technology.  If the boards prove useful, we will plan to purchase more.

Educause Conference
Several CIS staff recently attended the Educause Annual Conference in Anaheim. Educause is the professional organization for IT in higher education and the conference was attended by nearly 8,000 people from 51 countries.  Even a glance at the agenda will probably stoke your curiosity http://www.educause.edu/annual-conference/agenda-and-program/annual-conference-face-face-agenda.  Many of the sessions were recorded and most will have some materials available, so take a look if you are interested in topics like   For thought-provoking points on gaming and its relationship to learning, I recommend the keynote by Jane McGonigal, which will be available in about 90 days.

 

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