2016 Year in Review

The CIS department at HMC has spearheaded many initiatives that have made meaningful changes for faculty, staff, and students across the Claremont Colleges. Through the hard work of our staff and partnerships with departments across campus, we have introduced innovative projects, much-needed updates, and new processes to be a more effective support team for HMC and others.

We’ve seen many changes throughout the year and want to highlight some of the most impactful and memorable accomplishments we’ve made. If you’d like more information on any of our projects, please contact the Help Desk and we will gladly connect you with those who can provide additional updates.

Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs): In 2016, the CIS department inherited the responsibility of managing and maintaining MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses) for the HMC community. These courses are designed to offer HMC-styled courses to students and teachers across the world. High school-aged students and younger can take courses that are roughly based on our own CS 5 course. This year, we relaunched SCRATCH, created by Colleen Louise, and CS 4 All courses to serve as introductory Computer Science courses. All videos created for the CS 4 All course were created by HMC students who are passionate about teaching computer science. To date, the SCRATCH course has had over 20,000 students enroll while the CS 4 All course has had over 23,000 students.

Data Assessment Team (DAT): In response to the cabinet’s desire to learn more about how data flows through HMC, our Data Assessment Team (DAT) set out to assess and document the way in which Harvey Mudd College collects, creates, and consumes personal data. The project results were delivered to the Data Standards Management Team (DSMT) to help Harvey Mudd improve current practices. Based off the data gathered, DSMT is able to help in a number of ways including: identifying process overseers, eliminating redundancies, streamlining the flow of student data, and monitoring data security. The progress made in this project has served as preparation for more impactful changes set to take place further down the line.

ETS Impact Report: The Educational Technology Services team published their first Impact Report this fall. The report focused on the team’s activities in the 2015-2016 academic year in the areas of support and outreach, projects and pilots, instructional design, and research computing. You can pick up a print copy of the report at the CIS Help Desk or read it on our website on the IT Matters page.

Research Computing Growth: HMC is the first and only institution in the Claremont Colleges to support advanced, high-performance computing for student and faculty research projects through XSEDE. This year, several HMC math and engineering students utilized XSEDE Campus Champions supercomputer allocation for research, including senior thesis and clinic projects. HMC also hosted several well-attended  XSEDE Big Data, MATLAB, and R workshops. All workshops HMC offers are open to students, faculty, and staff in the Claremont Colleges. For more information, contact the Help Desk or Dr. Jeho Park.

Lingk: We have started investigating the use of Lingk to deliver data via a standardized application programming interface (API).  Through the use of Common Education Data Standards (CEDS), college course information is readily available in a format that matches that of other institutions that utilize this same standard. Students can easily search for courses, see who is teaching, and plan their schedules with this information. In fact, several students created a portal project that allows students to browse the HMC course catalog and plan a schedule for upcoming semesters. It even allows students to see a visual representation of what their schedule may look like based on selected courses. (You can find it here: http://portal2.yancey.io/). Standardized data can make it easier for HMC to work with new vendors and integrate new products. While the partnership with Lingk has provided us with immediate benefit, it has also set us up to more easily extract and migrate data in the future.

Single Sign-On for HMC Applicants: At the request of Admission, we started this project to allow for single sign on single sign-on to Slate and NetPartner, the two applications used by applicants. It automates the creation of Slate accounts and the creation of CX records. Additionally, it also automates the process of removing CX records for applicants who do not become students as well as the provisioning/deprovisioning of accounts in NetPartner/PowerFAIDS.

Educational Technology Project Program: This year, the Educational Technology Services team began a formal program of accepting and supporting faculty projects in instructional design and technology. The team has supported twelve faculty projects, including designing lesson plans and workshops, creating customized technology solutions, and consulting on useful classroom tools. We’re excited to continue our project program in 2017 – please feel free to email project ideas to ets-l@g.hmc.edu.

Upgrades to Portal: Several areas of the Portal were upgraded in June with the implementation of System Maintenance Order (SMO) 13000.  The SMO software provided by Jenzabar allowed our campus to work toward resolving many long-standing issues and requests for enhancements.  Since the upgrade, we have been able to make progress on issues and requests that included information presented and formatted on official and unofficial transcripts, display of GPA and sessions, GPA field for student degree audit, wait-list functionality, cross-listed courses, email notifications, and student biographical information.

These projects represent only a fraction of the work completed by CIS this year. We’re already gearing up for 2017 with numerous projects well underway and other proposals in the works. If you have any ideas for future projects or collaborations, you can reach us any time through the Help Desk by calling extension 77777 or writing an email to helpdesk@g.hmc.edu. Even if you’d just like to share feedback with us on something we’ve implemented, we’d love to hear from you!

We look forward to continuing great work with the Claremont Colleges in 2017! Enjoy your break – we’ll see you next year!

Who sees your posts in Google Groups?

When yousurprisedface write an email to a list that runs on Google Groups, do you know who gets to see that message?  “The people on the list, in their email” would be a natural response.  That’s correct, but did you know that Google Groups also keeps a web archive of list postings as well? And that the default is to allow “all organization members” to browse the web archive?   In our case “all organization members” means all faculty, students and staff as well as most alumni.   This may not be what you desire, so please make sure to check your configuration options when you create a new group.  It is the very first option in basic permissions on the group creation page. Unfortunately, Google staff tell us that it is not possible to change the default to something more restrictive than “all organization members”. So please be careful when you are creating a new list.

We recently audited the permissions on Google Groups and contacted the owners of lists that were set to be viewable by all organization members. We will do this from time to time in the future too.

You may also want to consider turning off web archiving completely. This is especially the case if sensitive information is distributed and perhaps should not be seen by future list members. To do so, you can delete all the current messages and then, on the configuration page, go to “Information->Advanced”.

There are several advantages to web archives: easy access to all messages together in one place, ability to link to a particular message (rather than forwarding it) and an easily searchable archive of all postings.




Need access to College data to build an app?

If you are interested in getting access to some of the data in our student information system, such as course scheduling data or catalog data, then we are interested in hearing from you.  We’re running a beta program that allows for access to some of the data via a standardized and (near) real time REST API.   If that seems interesting then read on…

For this beta program we are making Harvey Mudd course catalog data available via REST APIs.  Using the HMC course roster APIs (which we have built using a product from Lingk.io), you can build web and mobile applications that could help your fellow students.   With HMC course roster data, you could build course planning tools, course alerting, mobile scheduling and more.

This is a beta program.  The Registrar’s Office and CIS are interested in exploring how best to make data securely and appropriately available outside of the HMC Portal.  We are also interested in hearing from you about other data to which you might like secure and authorized access in order to develop apps.

Want to take your project beyond HMC? The REST APIs that we can build using Lingk.io are standardized using the Common Education Data Standards (CEDS), enabling your project to easily consume data from other higher education institutions.

Have some ideas and want to get started?  Just contact the Help Desk (helpdesk@hmc.edu) and reference this article.

Goodbye Majordomo

We are rounding the final bend in our journey to decommission the old Majordomo mailing list system and move lists to Google Apps for Education (g.hmc.edu), now known as “G Suite for Education” (see https://cloud.googleblog.com/2016/09/all-together-now-introducing-G-Suite.html)

Lists related to departments (such as cis-staff@g.hmc.edu or bio-faculty@g.hmc.edu) have  been moved over to Google groups.  We are now sifting through the remaining lists and have begun asking list managers to identify which lists need to be recreated in Google Groups. Many of the majordomo lists are very old, appear to have been abandoned, and will probably not need to be moved.  Thanks in advance to the list managers for your help with this.

New Faces at CIS

As you may have noticed, our department has seen changes in the past few months. After four years of great work at HMC, Travis Gomez left us to pursue a new opportunity in which he could use his Engineering degree. Duke Vu, Senior Network Engineer, also left for a job with a utility company nearer his home. Given the fact that networking will transfer over to TCC IT, we will not be conducting a search to fill the position that Duke vacated.

In the past couple months, we’ve welcomed three new people to the team, some of whom you may have met already if you’ve stopped by Help Desk or submitted a ticket recently.

Brittany Oliver joined the team in August; Daniel Flores started in September, and Tim Ku started on October 3. This is the second time Tim’s followed Travis into a job, so we’re hoping Travis keeps his new job for a long time! All three are members of the User Services Team and you can find them at Help Desk or out-and-about supporting you in the field. If you’ve not had the chance to meet them yet, please feel free to visit them on the first floor of Sprague. We’d be happy to see you!


You can find a complete list of CIS staff here: https://www.hmc.edu/cis/about-cis/cis-staff/

Technology in the Shanahan Center – Fall 2016

Classroom in Shanahan CenterIn addition to the video projectors, LCD TVs (in the 12-person classrooms), speakers and screens, many rooms have resident document cameras, Blu-Ray/DVD or DVD/VHS players. You can find a full list of which rooms have what equipment at this link: http://goo.gl/4Mj1Nx.

Other technology available for use in the Shanahan Center includes:

  • Laptop carts
  • iClickers
  • Lecture capture
  • Video cameras for displaying experiments
  • Smartboard

More details on these other technologies can be found below:

We have three carts with 15 laptops each, which are stored on the second floor of the Shanahan Center for use throughout the building. Laptops are made available on a first come, first served basis so please let us know as soon as you can if you need laptops for your class. Also, consider carefully how many laptops you need or if at some point you realize that your class is using fewer laptops than you requested, please update your requests so that the systems can be made available for other classes. If you’d like more information about the laptops and how to reserve them, please visit https://www.hmc.edu/cis/services/laptop-cart-reservation/.

You can find a full list of the software that is included on the laptops and the CIS lab computers at this URL: https://goo.gl/d5uF4i.

There are six rooms in the Shanahan Center that are lecture capture-ready, including the Lecture Hall (1430), the Recital Hall (B480), the 85 person classroom (B460) and three rooms on the 2nd floor (2450, 2454 and 2460). All of those rooms have a video camera and microphone. You can visit the CIS web site for more information at https://www.hmc.edu/cis/services/lecture-capture/.

Clickers (personal response systems) are also available for loan. At this point all students have purchased iClickers so all you need is a wireless receiver and the iClicker software installed on your computer.  We have extra iClickers if you have non-HMC students in your class. More information about the iClickers can be found at https://www.hmc.edu/cis/services/iclickers/.

We have one Smartboard (interactive whiteboard) for faculty to try out. While the Smartboard is on a mobile stand, it is too big and heavy to move between classrooms, so we are currently keeping it in one of the technology-rich classrooms (Shanahan 2450). Use of the Smartboard is on a first come, first served basis so please let us know right away if you would like to try it out in your class, as we may need time to work with the Registrar to reschedule classrooms.

Many faculty also like to be able to project a demonstration or experiment from the front of the room to one of the big screens. The document camera is capable of doing this or you can use a video camera, either one of the built-in video cameras available in the 6 rooms listed above, or CIS can set up one for you.

If you’re interested in using one of these technology services in a class, please submit a request to the CIS Help Desk. You can use our AV request form at http://www.formstack.com/forms/hmc-avrequest or send us an email at helpdesk@hmc.edu.

We ask that you give us at least 48 hours notice when submitting a request. Please do not wait until the last minute to submit requests.

Have a great Fall semester!

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.

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!



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.  This is a transition from a very old technology to a more modern (and more complex) one, and there will inevitably be growing pains.   Some of the key lists (course, major, faculty-l, staff-l, students-l) have been moved and we have introduced more automation, which means that the list membership will be kept complete, a task that was difficult before.  For example, faculty-l on majordomo was forwarded to other lists google-groupsthat were manually maintained, and it was sometimes uncertain whether someone was on the (underlying) departmental lists.   One saw evidence of these difficulties in the fact that a random set of individual email addresses was included in faculty-l, itself manually maintained.  Thanks to the Google API for groups, we now automatically add faculty to the faculty@g.hmc.edu list based on their status in the CX database.

There are thousands of lists left on majordomo and we don’t yet have a timeline for the final retirement of that system, but I will keep you updated.

We acknowledge that many people were used to Majordomo and had its commands and addresses in muscle memory. It would be worth your while to take ten minutes to get acquainted with Google Groups on the HMC google apps site at http://groups.g.hmc.edu.  Our Service Catalog page at https://www.hmc.edu/cis/services/google-groups-mailing-lists/ is a good jumping off point to learn more.

Some people have asked if we could simply have “@hmc.edu” addresses instead of “g.hmc.edu”.  For complicated reasons that is not possible at the moment, but that is our target and removing majordomo from our “mail central” system is a key step in that direction.

Moving Cores

Over the last few years, we have been improving the network Redundant-network-topologyinfrastructure on the HMC campus, at the CINE core (the network switches for all the Claremont Colleges) and beyond at our ISP, Los Nettos (a consortium of Southern California institutions based at USC).

The key concepts in network infrastructure are redundancy and diversity.  To increase network reliability, it is important to have at least two switches at the core, and that they not be in the same place.  Similarly, it is important to have redundant and diverse connections from the campus to the CINE core and from there to the ISP. In recent years, we have built conduit, pulled fiber and installed switches with the goal of ever greater redundancy and diversity.  In March and April we will take two more big steps in this direction.  First we will diversify the HMC cores by placing one of them in Drinkward dorm, and with new conduit and fiber we will have diversity and redundancy for the first time for many of the buildings on campus.  In April, we will follow up by separating the CINE core switches, placing one of them in the “phone office” on eighth street and one at the Administrative Campus Center (ACC) on first street, where a new fiber line from USC Health Sciences terminates in Claremont. At that point, the Claremont Colleges will have redundant and diverse core switches for the first time ever.

Annually, the Claremont Colleges budget just under $700,000 for networking, and HMC budgets an additional $200-$300k. These costs, and network operations, are often invisible, especially when they are working well.  So much so that I often run into people who think that our internet connectivity is free.

Cindy Abercrombie, Mitch Shacklett, Roger Wiechman and Duke Vu have all worked tirelessly on these projects.  Thank them when you see them!

Amazon Educate

Amazon recently announced a new Amazon Web Services (AWS) Educate program.  It is designed to let you learn to use AWS services by giving you free credits to get started as well as access to a large variety of courses and tutorials about cloud computing “shared by top educators from around the world and by AWS”.  If an institution joins the program, then students and faculty get almost three times the credits they would otherwise be granted.   HMC has joined!

If you ever wanted to get your feet wet setting up a Windows or Linux server,  delve into things like Hadoop or build web applications, this is a great opportunity to get started.

To sign up:

  1. sign up for AWS Educate at https://www.awseducate.com/Registration using your @hmc.edu address.
  2. While filling out the AWS Educate application,  input your own AWS account ID. If you do not have an AWS account, navigate to
    http://aws.amazon.com, click Create an AWS Account and follow the on-screen instructions.
  3. You will receive an AWS credit code in a Welcome Email after your AWS Educate application has been accepted. The code should be entered into your AWS account.
  4. You manage your own account, and can take it all with you if you leave HMC.