September 2010 update from the CIO

My last update was in May.  How time has flown!

Welcome back to Claremont if you’ve been away and welcome to the new year, everyone.

There is much to report from CIS, where we’ve had a busy summer.  Of the many initiatives and projects we undertook, in this post I will cover only a few that I hope you’ll find interesting.

Before I do that, let me point out that a recurring emphasis you will notice is “experimental”.   Given the vast array of things we could do in IT and the limited amount of time and resources we can apply to any given initiative, we cannot afford to set up structures or services that do not work for the College.   So we’re adopting the approach of trying things out, assessing the work and making changes as necessary.  I believe that this will help us get closer to HMC’s answer to the challenge posed in the 2007 IT Review  by Dodds and Smith: “IT excellence in higher education, especially for an institution of HMC’s size and quality, is not a solved problem”.

About two months ago, we decided that we would choose two services on which to focus our team efforts and we asked ourselves the following questions: “What is the faculty and student experience going to be like in the Fall Semester?  Are they going to come back and be surprised and delighted by the ways in which we have anticipated their needs and made ourselves easier to do business with?”.  We picked out two service areas to concentrate on, The Learning Studio in Sprague Hall and Printing Services.

The Learning Studio service is completely new.  I hope you will agree that it got off to a great start at the beginning of classes. Lisa Sullivan tells me that the classroom has transformed the way she teaches her Economics class “Home, work, school, play: Representations of the Economy in Children’s Literature”.  And Dagan Karp wrote “I love the space! It is really facilitating the course.”  There are some rough edges still, but we have a nice suite of services in mind and we hope you’ll help us grow them by giving us your honest feedback at http://www.hmc.edu/learningstudio.   We anticipate moving to 24/7 access to the studio within the next week, once the software for managing the card readers has been fully installed and tested.  As an example of our experimental approach, for a four week period we had all the CIS employees help staff the Learning Studio during regular office hours.   We then discussed this experience with staff and gathered feedback from the faculty teaching in the foldaway classroom (there are 17 instances of class per week!).   After evaluating the feedback, we decided to staff the space at the beginning and end of classes, relying primarily on employees from our User Services and Educational Technology and Media Services units.

We are planning a ceremony to mark the opening of the Learning Studio on Friday, November 19 from 4 to 6pm.  Save that date in your calendar!  You can read more about the Studio, including information about how to reserve the classroom,  at http://www5.hmc.edu/ITNews/?p=544

We created a small team of students and staff to push forward with a couple of things in Printing Services.  You’ve been telling us for a long time that print queue management is an issue.  Recently, CUC and the Library introduced a new “follow me” print service that provides queue management tied to your id card.  I asked the team to explore this solution and let me know if it would meet HMC’s needs for the print services that CIS provides to students and for the copiers we manage.  They are in the process of obtaining quotes for this service.  They have also collected proposals and quotes for maintenance of networked printers.  The College currently engages at least two such services, and we’re planning to consolidate if possible.  In the future, support of networked printers will be our primary emphasis, and if the “follow me” print service is as good as it looks, we will reduce or eliminate service for non-networked printers. Watch for more news about this in my October update.

We were about to launch a new staff computer upgrade program in June when we noticed that a lot of departments were doing last minute purchasing, which meant that our statistics about the ages of computers would be out of date.  So we held off and will now use the July numbers as the basis for the program.  The program, which will be overseen by Calvin Tong, aims to provide each department head with an annual list of computers that are eligible for upgrade. The computers will be replaced after four years and supported for five.  The department head is free to shuffle computers around as much as they like; so they could, for example, give a new computer to someone whose computer was two years old, and give the two year old to someone else. They then let us know to whom we should deliver the new computers.  With this program, we aim to streamline the process of computer replacement as well as providing departments with one reliable and ongoing source of computing equipment.

So what’s on the horizon for this semester?  Well, we have five positions open, so we’ll be doing some hiring, including two key positions on the CIS management team.  Watch for a post on new faces at CIS.   The Computing Committee has an interesting roster of topics to discuss (see http://www5.hmc.edu/ITNews/?p=572) and will, I hope, help me with recommendations on several important issues. We are in other words, looking forward to a very productive semester.

Thanks for reading!

Joseph Vaughan

CIO/VP for Computing and Information Services

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