University of Maine at Augusta

AugustaBangorOnlineCenters Statewide

UMA Technology Plan

Acknowledgements

The Draft Technology Plan was developed by Lauren DuBois, Director of IT for UMA and University College. The Draft Technology Plan was reviewed by the Technology Advisory and Planning Committees (TAPC) Augusta and Bangor campuses, Provost’s Staff, Center Directors, University College IT Advisory Committee and then by the President’s Cabinet. After discussion, the Draft Technology Plan was reviewed by the UMA campus community. Once review by the UMA community is completed, the draft is forwarded to the President’s Executive Committee for approval.

To develop this Technology Plan multiple options were considered for the University’s technology and business needs, while striving to align with UMA’s strategic plan priorities.

Technology Advisory Planning Committee members are:

Augusta Committee:
Lauren DuBois, Chair
Claudia Quintal – Enrollment Services
Robert Marden – Administrative Services
Tricia Dyer – Advising
Tom Abbott – Library
Jo-Ann Cole – Faculty, College of Professional Studies
Henry Felch – Faculty, College of Professional Studies
Ronald Norton – Faculty, College of Professional Studies
Frank Bean – Faculty, College of Professional Studies
Peter Milligan – Faculty, College of Arts & Sciences
Eric Stark – Faculty, College of Arts & Sciences
Richard Nelson – Faculty, College of Arts & Sciences

Bangor Committee:

Lauren DuBois, Ex-officio
Bryon Sibley, Chair
Gillian Jordan, Bangor Campus Dean
Diane Blanchette, Faculty, College of Professional Studies
Diana Kokoska, Faculty, College of Professional Studies
Rob Roper, Faculty, College of Professional Studies

Executive Summary of the UMA Technology Plan:

Planning for Future IT Challenges and Opportunities

Aside from enhancements driven by changing business needs, technology changes and end-user requests, there are two significant factors influencing Information Technology planning for UMA: the UMS IT Administrative Review and the UMA Strategic Plan.   Additionally, a random sample of UMA students, faculty and staff recently responded to a TechQual survey to gauge their perception of campus technology and technology support services. Each area is discussed below

 

UMA IT Objectives

Innovation:

UMA is partnering with Maine Instrument Flight (MIF) to offer a Bachelor of Science in Aviation in an innovative public private partnership. UMA IT will provide networking, consultation services, and technology support to MIF in support of this venture.

Pedagogy:

Due to challenges related to Adobe Connect desktop conferencing, IT is investigating alternate applications. Blackboard Collaborate, which is integrated with the Blackboard LMS is a primary contender. Initial impressions indicate that the interface is straightforward to use, which will be appreciated by faculty end-users. Additionally, the design of the application is oriented toward educational use.

Services:

Investigate software that enables faculty and support staff to identify at risk students who are falling behind and require intervention as soon as possible.

 

UMS IT Administrative Review

Information technology is in a transformational period in the University of Maine System. The way services are delivered, the costs and reimbursement of those services, and the way decisions are made about the services offered are being evaluated. Over the last decade highly valued services such as email, the internet, data storage, servers, workstations, and productivity tools have become standardized and can be managed efficiently from a distance, but our service, funding, delivery, and governing models remain much the same as they did a decade or more ago.

In order to meet the increasing demands for more and stronger technology to address the needs of the institution, we believe it is time to join many of our colleagues in higher education and evaluate identify the adjustments we must make to become leaner, more agile, and more highly skilled at our job of providing high quality IT support at an acceptable cost.

To this end, UMS is currently performing an Administrative Review of Information Technology (IT) within the System and is working toward transforming many aspects of how Information Technology is treated and applied within the system. The objective of the Administrative Review is to perform a self-evaluation of IT systems and processes, with the product/outcome being a set of recommendations that enhance system quality, improve efficiency, and realize savings while maintaining or improving IT service. The review consists of nine recommendations most of which will affect UMA’s technology offerings. The effect of the recommendations on UMA IT is listed below.

 

Recommendation 1:

Implement alternative leadership and governance structure-

Individual campus IT departments have been absorbed into a new operating unit known as University Services. Of particular note, part of the IT Redesign has included the merger (the only merger to occur to date) of the UMA and University College IT departments, with the selection of Lauren DuBois as the Director of the new unit.

 

Recommendation 2:

Establish policies and practices to provide management oversight and inform leaders, administrators, tech staff and innovators-

Efforts are underway to create a culture of information sharing between traditional campus departments with the goal of informing management of activities in order to prevent duplication of efforts and work efficiently.

 

Recommendation 3:

Actively pursue cloud or ‘software as a service” sourcing of enterprise systems-

UMS is already using cloud functionality with Google Apps. Blackboard Collaborate, which is integrated with the Blackboard LMS is a primary contender and is only available as Software as a Service.

 

Recommendation 4:

Investigate and implement a new funding strategy to record and recover costs of shared and centralized services-

 

Recommendation 5:

Consolidate management and delivery of campus and system support and help desk services-

The merged UMA /UC IT department is piloted the integrated Help Desk initiative, proving the concept of a proposed system-wide Helpdesk in order to proactively measure, manage, and respond to customer service requirements for sysrem-wide IT support. UMA merged its student run Help Desk with the professionally managed UMS ITS Help Desk. Policies and procedures were developed and refined. The IT staff are learning to support customers throughout the state using remote tools and a centralized knowledge base so that IT staff regardless of geographic location, staff are able to support faculty, staff, or students customers at any campus.

 

Recommendation 6:

Consolidate Data Center locations, management and operations-

This initiative will likely result in servers being physically moved from the UMA campus to a central Data Center location. This strategy allows dedicated data center personnel to specialize on the connectivity, maintenance, etc of servers while housing them in a specialized and environmentally controlled space, with UMA System Administrators still being responsible for the applications and documents hosted on the servers.

 

Recommendation 7:

Unify communications systems under one management structure by a single campus entity-

UMA’s phone system, having recently undergone transition to the systemwide Cisco VoIP, is easily integrated into a system wide phone system.

 

Recommendation 8:

Restructure delivery of end user technology-

One of the recommendations is to standardize end-user device purchasing, configuration, and deployment, and to expand Virtual Desktop delivery; UMA is already using Virtualization for CIS classes. There is also a directive, which is a reaction to the trend of students bringing their own devices (BYOD), to reduce the number of computer lab units by 10% per year.

 

Recommendation 9:

Systematically identify, review and organize IT services into a shared services model with campus IT management-

An instance of this which will affect UMA is the current initiative to transition all campuses to using a unified instance of Active Directory, which is used to grant or restrict access to network resources such as software applications, files, printers, etc. UMA has been using Novell for this functionality and will migrate to Active Directory. UMA staff, Lauren DuBois Kim Tran, and Tod Detre are part of a system-wide team developing and implementing Active Directory for UMS.

 

Additionally, the IT redesign is also focused on establishing a consistent educational development model that provides faculty, staff, and students with baseline IT knowledge, and includes IT training and professional development opportunities that support innovation.

 

UMA Strategic Plan

The second factor influencing UMA IT planning is the UMA Strategic Plan. The Technology Plan attempts to address the goals of the UMA Strategic Plan through the use of technology. For the purposes of the Technology Plan, UMA embraces a very broad definition of information technology: the combination of hardware and software systems used by employees, students and clients of UMA to gather, store, disseminate and manage information in an efficient and easily accessible format. Information technology is also used to assist UMA management with sound decision making. The institution’s primary IT goals are to create an appropriate match between users and the technology they need to enhance teaching and learning, and to enhance efficient management in each specific situation. IT has been leveraged over the years at UMA as a strategic resource and is a resource that will be essential in the future. Key Goals from the UMA Strategic Plan that will affect UMA IT are noted below.

 

UMA Strategic Plan Key Goal #2:

Further develop and extend the campus’ student centered philosophy to increase student retention, provide opportunities for students to be part of a community of learners, and improve students’ abilities to graduate with a degree or certificate in their chosen fields.

Supporting UMA’s recruitment and retention efforts is the goal of providing access to student housing.

A perceived lack of quality housing in proximity to the campuses;

1) hampers the University’s ability to attract out-of-state students or meet the needs of potential international students,

2) is a deterrent to athletic recruitment, and

3) discourages potential applicants “from away” to UMA programs that are unique in the state and region.

Recognizing that learning communities are powerful retention tools, UMA seeks to foster a stronger sense of community for all students — commuting, telecommuting, and residential.

Because student housing/residence halls would be a new venture for UMA, we have the opportunity to investigate whether public or private partnerships are desirable. Whatever is decided, the IT staff expects to be a partner in the planning process in order to develop policies and procedures and implement the following:

If students will be living on-campus, extended student support services, i.e. extended hours for the student computer labs and the Helpdesk need to be provided. The hours for the computer lab might need to be extended to accommodate students needing to use specific resources such as software, printers, plotters, and scanners. The Helpdesk would probably need to extend hours to assist students with IT related problems.

Student Card access for dorms / housing would be essential. The current system used by UMA requires that each student’s ID “record” be entered manually for access to the Gannett Building in downtown Augusta. Based on the new UMS IT Goals and UMA’s desire for efficiency and cost reduction, it makes sense to investigate what other UMS campuses are using for Dorm access in the hopes to streamline / simplify and standardize the card access process.

Having students living on campus, could require the IT staff to repair and maintain student computers. The other UMS campuses see mostly viruses and malware problems. If the computer is still under warranty, they assist the student in obtaining warranty support. This could be an opportunity for the IT staff to offer CIS Internships so that the students pursuing the CIS degree could gain experience. The other UMS campuses charge a deterrent fee of around $10.00 if the repair is less than an hour and $15.00 per hour for anything else. This would probably not provide enough funding to hire a full time staff position; however, adding these responsibilities at current staffing levels is not feasible.

Whether students are living on campus or living in an off-campus arrangement where the University has supplied Internet access, the IT staff would need to create and manage a separate student Internet subnet separate from faculty/staff computers in order to help contain problems to the student network and protect regular University business.

Other campuses state that 60%-90% of bandwidth used in student living areas is used for entertainment such as watching Netflix, PlayStation, Wii, and downloading, etc. The IT staff would need to carefully manage student network traffic, and deter issues such as rogue servers that could create significant slowdowns on the rest of the network.

Historically within UMS, each residential student brings with him or her, a computer, a data phone, an iPad, a PlayStation or Wii. It is not uncommon for a student to register three to four devices and use all of these devices. Such high usage without appropriate planning could quickly max out the wired or wireless ports.

One of the issues with residential IT management is the decision on whether or not to wire jacks or to simply rely on wireless access for any type of student housing. Wired jacks would require IT staff to test and confirm all wired jacks during the summer break. Wireless access points would need to be large enough to cover student lounges, study areas and all common areas where students tend to congregate – including outdoor venues.

Move-in day would require IT staff to be on hand to have a port map with jacks/switches outlined and be ready to know which stations to activate. Students tend to come to campus and want to connect their technology before unpacking anything else.

The IT staff would need to develop an Automatic Registration webpage that details the student acceptable use policy and have the students confirm acknowledgement of the acceptable use policy before they can register their laptop or other type of technology.

Currently, the UMA IT staff receive one or two RIAA violations per week. These violations are known as “take down notices” from the Recording Industry because the student allegedly downloaded and appeared to share a copyrighted piece of work, usually a song or a movie. IT staff are required to investigate and confirm identity of the student. Once identified, the student’s access to the network is disabled. Information regarding the violation is sent to the IT Director and the IT Director sends an email to the student describing UMA’s policy. Having students in residence at UMA with access to our network 24/7 will require more work for the IT staff. On some of our sister campuses, students receiving a violation are referred to the Student Life Office, who then has the students perform community service. Community service could be making Ethernet cables to be used for the next move-in day, etc.

Currently, security cameras are strategically placed on both the Augusta and Bangor campuses. With students living either on-campus or in a UMA facility off-campus, we would need many additional security cameras and more storage for the pictures and recordings. We would need to develop policies for use of the cameras and the data recorded. Also, there is the potential need for extra software licenses / new software to allow security officers access to view security camera footage. The ability to view these cameras remotely via Smartphone would be beneficial too.

 

UMA Strategic Plan Key Goal #3:

Continue to expand UMA’s online and hybrid programs and provide exceptional support services for faculty and students.

As faculty rely more on technology to develop and present their classes, the IT department must create and maintain a Business Services Catalog to help direct and guide faculty to technology resources that can support faculty teaching and course development. A Business Services Catalog establishes a comprehensive first‐stop resource that promotes awareness for and use of IT services and resources.

UMA offers varied technology choices for faculty to enhance their teaching.  Traditional classes have use of what UMA calls “smart classrooms”.  A smart classroom at UMA has an installed projector connected to a switch that allows the faculty to choose what media is displayed on the projector.  Technologies available in the smart classrooms for both faculty and student use include a document camera, DVD/VHS, and computer output using either a supplied classroom computer or a personal laptop. IT staff can remotely access most of the technology equipment in the smart classrooms to assist and troubleshoot for faculty. During the recent IT Review, UMA was recognized for having developed exceptional smart classroom technology. A next step is to consider piloting the use of smart board technology to enhance these as well as ITV classrooms, allowing faculty to capture the writing on the smart board for posting in BlackBoard. Especially in ITV classrooms using “standard definition” video capture, the advantag in capturing writing on a board in digital format would be a huge improvement for students who watch the class presentation after the actual date of the class.

Online classes generally have no class meetings.  Students participate using Blackboard, a web-based course management application featuring tools for faculty and students.  Online classes integrate a variety of instructional media and materials, including streaming audio and video.  Several different software choices are available for faculty use.  Faculty work with the Instructional Designers within UMA and University College or the IT Staff, to choose which technology best fits their needs.  Faculty training is available.

Hybrid (Blended) courses include a combination of required class meetings (either on campus or via ITV or compressed video) and online instruction.  In a blended course, typically 50 percent of instruction is online.

Panopto recording software allows the faculty to record and stream their course either live or later via a website. Faculty can stream an entire course, an entire class, or snippets of video to show an example, like how to use a microscope, or demonstrate a problem. Faculty either have the recording software installed on their office computer or laptop and use a small camera to record, or they use a classroom outfitted with the software and cameras. UMA’s Panopto software used in smart classrooms for several years now was designed for ease of use by the faculty and with just a few clicks the entire class is recorded, uploaded to a website or BlackBoard, and becomes available for students to view. As funds permit, cameras and the Panopto software are being installed in additional classrooms in Augusta and Bangor with the intention to eventually have every classroom outfitted with this technology.

Interactive Television (ITV) is a technology used by faculty since the early 1990’s. Faculty broadcast their class live from a campus and students receive the class live at a center or site. The student has the ability to call in via a cordless phone and ask a question. The faculty receive the phone call and can talk with the students. The students see the faculty; the faculty do not see the students. This so-called interactivity is not terribly functional and desires for improvement has led to some new explorations (See below) Some ITV courses are offered as class capture, where the students watch the classes at a later date.

UMA is entering into a pilot called ITV 2.0, where we are adding new and different technologies to enhance and upgrade the resources available through ITV. As we capture the ITV class for later viewing in standard definition video, it is evident that the TV signal causes the whiteboard image to be blurry and difficult for the students to read. During the Spring 2014 semester, we will pilot SmartBoard technology to try to solve the blurry whiteboard image. To increase student “live” participation in classes, we are performing “live” web streaming tests using our course capture software to test the load of streaming many live classes, while recording ITV classes, and testing the load of many students simultaneously viewing both live and recorded classes, all from the same server. Interest has been expressed by some ITV faculty in applying real time social media interactions such as Twitter to allow students and faculty and students and students to interact during a class. Once UMA has refined ITV 2.0, we will collaborate with the other campuses to offer them the enhanced technology resources.

During the Spring semester of 2014 UMA will also pilot the use of SmartBoard technology as an enhancement to the “smart classrooms”. If SmartBoard technology is adopted by the faculty, the IT department will work to upgrade existing “smart classrooms” with this technology.

Video Conferencing is used heavily by UMA and UMS. In 2010, UMA, in collaboration with UMS, was awarded a Rural Utility Services Grant from the US Department of Agriculture (RUS Grant). The objectives of the RUS Grant are to expand and modernize the video conferencing capacity for the University System and the many rural students we serve. An updated ‘bridge’ and additional small and large classrooms in thirteen University campuses and outreach centers will enable the University to meet the growing demand for distance classes, create efficiencies within the system as a whole, and directly benefit students in targeted areas. Increased cross-campus collaboration through video-conference technology will enable students at smaller institutions and outreach centers to benefit from broader availability of classes in the STEM disciplines, Foreign Languages, and Nursing courses.

UMA is collaborating with University of Maine at Farmington (UMF) to use UMF’s Online Course Evaluation program to replace the “pink” bubble sheets currently used and thereby allow online students to easily evaluate UMA courses and faculty to receive the result promptly. As part of this Online Course Evaluation UMA will have the ability to include outcomes based learning questions for each course. A pilot was tried for Architecture courses for the Fall 2013 semester, with the intent to pilot this for Architecture and the seven-week mini semester courses in the Spring semester of 2014.

 

UMA Strategic Plan Key Goal #7:

Support the institution’s academic goals with sound financial policies and practices, a supportive infrastructure of facilities and technology, appropriate staffing, and policies and procedures in place that are transparent and available to all members of the University community.

The University of Maine at Augusta is a complex organization with multiple locations and competing demands for its limited technological resources. In order to allocate its limited technological resources in a way that maximizes their use while supporting the diversity of needs, UMA has developed technology allocation processes that are clear and transparent. Financial planning, and maintaining and deploying technological resources, is being done in a thoughtful and prudent manner that supports the goals of UMA’s strategic plan.

The Technology plan is updated with input from campus stakeholders and shared with all members of the University community. This draft technology plan was reviewed by the Technology Advisory and Planning Committees (TAPC) Augusta and Bangor campuses, Provost’s Staff, Center Directors, University College IT Advisory Committee and then by the President’s Cabinet. After discussion, the Draft Technology Plan was reviewed by the UMA campus community. Once review by the UMA community is completed, the draft is forwarded to the President’s Executive Committee for approval.

Computer Allocation:

An annual plan for upgrading computers and related equipment in the student computer labs has been in place for many years and Computer Services has been able to upgrade most labs every three years. Computer Services tracks the date and location of all computer upgrades and uses this data to decide which equipment is updated. The actual equipment chosen to be upgraded is planned during the Spring semester and ordered on July 1, the start of the new fiscal year, with installation in August. Technology changes rapidly. By reviewing the data of past upgrades in correlation with requests for specific uses and software, the IT staff can decide to upgrade the equipment that would best serve the students. Funding for computer lab upgrades is provided by Technology Fee funds which are included as part of the Unified Fee assessed to all students. A portion of the allotted Unified Fee/Technology Fee is set aside for lab/classroom upgrades. As more labs/classrooms were built, the ability to upgrade every three years became four to five years. Additional funding would have been needed to continue to upgrade these labs/classrooms on a three year rotation.

VDI – Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, described below, will eliminate the need for expensive yearly hardware upgrades as well as avoid time consuming refresh of student and staff used hardware. (link to VDI paragraph)

Classroom and teaching equipment is upgraded in the same manner as the student computer labs. The IT staff review the data of which equipment was upgraded while reviewing the requests for new/or upgraded classroom equipment, and decide which equipment should be upgraded to best serve the student/faculty needs. Funding and scheduling replacement or upgrades for classrooms and teaching equipment is handled the same as the computer labs.

UMA offers approximately 150 online course sections each semester. With more courses being taught online each year, many students are now doing all their coursework from off-campus and the reliance on the campus computer labs is decreasing. UMA is also noticing an increase in Bring Your Own Device (BYOD). BYOD is the recent trend among students and employees; bringing personally-owned mobile devices to campus, and using those devices to access privileged University resources such as email, file servers, and databases. Issues for IT staff with BYOD involve securing of data to prevent breaches, troubleshooting a multitude of different technologies, tracking and controlling access to secure campus networks, and managing damage liability when a personal device is physically damaged.

Successful BYOD is dependent on VDI – Virtual Desktop Infrastructure. VDI is a collection of technologies that work together to efficiently deliver virtual desktops to end users on everything from mobile devices, to old computers to new, low cost thin clients. Instead of having a newer complete computer, VDI is built around virtual machine technology centralized computing resources (CPU power, memory, and storage) onto groups of servers.  All of the computing “work” actually happens in the data center while the user experiences it on their client device. Since all of the actual computing is done on the server, the user’s device can be much less powerful than a standard desktop computer, reducing the expense of yearly refreshing of faculty, staff and student used computers.

If UMA and the University of Maine system can effectively run VDI by removing the sensitive data from the personal device, then BYOD becomes less of an issue. Housing desktop images in the data center increases the security of user files by ensuring regular backups and providing tighter access controls, as well as minimizing the risks of desktop or laptop data theft or loss. VDI would also allow UMA and UMS to purchase and maintain fewer licenses for software and leverage these fewer licenses amongst the campuses resulting in significant savings. This initiative would also improve access to common software for remote and mobile users, and improve license management. UMA had plans to develop and implement VDI, that were put on hold due to the IT Redesign. VDI is being studied and developed by Recommendation #8 of the IT Redesign.

Due to the increase of online classes and BYOD, the IT staff have experienced fewer students using the computer labs and less classes scheduled in the PC classrooms. IT staff ran statistics that documented the rationale for reducing computers in the labs, as well as the number of PC classrooms. Computers were moved from one lab and repurposed for use in the Library. A PC classroom was dismantled and the space was repurposed into a Visualization Lab. The planned visualization lab is a tiled display system that allows display of high-resolution visualizations on a wall of several large flat screen displays. This configuration allows for an exploration of visualizations at an extremely high level of detail and quality compared to a typical projector or single screen. This configuration enables the processing of datasets of a large scale with interactive visualization. The first visualization class was piloted in Fall 2013.

As part of the IT Administrative Review, Recommendation #8 recommends the reduction of the number of general purpose lab units by 10% per year and encourages and supports the BYOD strategy, along with piloting and then expanding virtual desktop delivery of tools and access to UMA and UMS software and data. The IT staff will study the possibility of cutting the number of University supplied computers in the Randall Student Center 253, 255, and the Eastport Hall 102 PC classrooms. Students are bringing their own laptops and the empty tables could be designated for use by students bringing their own device. The staff will need to evaluate whether students have the proper software installed to be able to use their personal laptops as a first step in determining whether UMA can actually reduce the number of University supplied computers.

The IT staff recommend that the funds previously used to upgrade and refresh labs and classrooms should be used to upgrade the wireless networks at the Augusta and Bangor campuses and the centers. The wireless networks were installed by UMS ITS and no funding was set aside for upgrades. There are dead spots on both campuses and the centers, and as well as the radio units themselves are old and out of date.

The IT staff, in collaboration with Facilities will soon survey faculty and study the possibility of replacing all chalkboards with whiteboards for the Augusta and Bangor campuses. The chalkboards are dusty, hard to read and the erasers leave smears that the Panopto cameras pick up causing blurry viewing for students. The intent would be to replace the chalk boards with the better magnetic whiteboards that have the guides for straight writing.

Staff have noticed that calling students and leaving messages is not as effective as texting students. When staff text a student, the student usually responds immediately. The IT staff will look into the possibility of using the UMA Alerts text system, or something similar, as a way for appropriately communicating with students. The “UMA Alerts” needs to be used sparingly so that when an “alert” is sent, it is recognized as an alert. The IT staff will pursue how to tailor this service for use by other offices.

Faculty, staff, and students propose new initiatives to Computer Services on a regular and on-going basis. As new ideas/projects are proposed, Computer Services must realistically decide which initiatives are a high priority and which can be funded and supported. Many great ideas that were accepted and put into regular use have developed from faculty, staff, or student requests.

UMA has a technology funding process that has been in place since early 1996. In January a website is turned on and anyone can fill out a form and request technology fee funding. Deadline for submitting requests is April 1, and the committees meet to discuss the requests in mid-April. A Technology Advisory Planning Committee is in place on each of the campuses and the technology fee requests are reviewed by each of the campus committees and recommendations are made to the Provost. The Provost has final approval on all requests. Decisions are reported back to the requester prior to the end of May, with funds available beginning July 1. Technology fees are received on a credit hour basis as part of the Unified Fee and the technology fee funds are distributed among UMA’s two campuses according to enrollment percentages. All purchases using Student Tech Fee Funds must benefit students. This process has been followed every year in order for faculty, staff, and students to have a chance to plan technology for the future.

In February 2012, UMA launched a portal for student, faculty, and staff use. The Portals provide one click, deep link access to the tools used on a daily basis – BlackBoard, MaineStreet, Gmail, etc. There are three separate portals designed specifically for students, or staff, or faculty. UMA now needs to plan and actively maintain the portal and begin to remove internal webpages from the main website and reposition them inside the portal. A new redesign of the Portal landing page is in development with a renewed interest in promoting the portal for use by specific groups, direct messaging, calendaring, file sharing, etc.   A pilot test of file sharing is being used for the current NEASC self-study.

In March 2012, UMA transitioned the Bangor campus phone system to a VoIP system managed by the University of Maine System ITS. In August 2012, UMA then transitioned the Augusta campus phone system. In addition to the advantages of VoIP, both campuses benefited from many new features such as incoming and outgoing caller ID, 4 digit dialing between campuses, and E911. Due to limited staffing, the basic features of this system were developed and the IT staff now needs to focus on refining services and advanced features to better serve the campus. A lot of work still remains. Recommendation #7 of the IT Redesign should improve shared resources that would assist UMA in improving features for telephony.

As UMA plans and develops technology, IT has the responsibility of ensuring that campus technology is accessible to everyone who needs it before we adopt it. By using technology, we can make our campuses more ADA accessible. The goal is planning ahead to make technology ADA accessible before adopting it – making much more sense than retrofitting it to meet student needs later. UMA checks for accessibility throughout its process of purchasing hardware and software.

 

TechQual Technology Survey

The TechQual survey is a third party application intended for use in Higher Education settings in order to gauge end-users perception of campus technology and technology support services. During the Fall of 2013, thirteen questions grouped within the three major areas of Connectivity and Access, Technology and Collaboration Services, Support and Training were asked in the survey. Each question asked end-users to provide three subjective, numerical measurements: Minimum Service Level, Desired Service Level and Perceived Service Performance.

Findings of greatest impact:

  • Blackboard, MaineStreet and UMA.edu are perceived as difficult to navigate and information is not easy to find
  • Internet speed is perceived as being too slow and connections (presumably WiFi) somewhat unreliable
  • Support staff customer service ratings tend toward ends of the spectrum– quite positive or negative
  • Mobile apps wanted for frequently used applications
  • Increased tech support hours and better timeliness of issue resolution wanted

UMA will consider the TechQual findings when considering IT planning.

 

University College technology initiatives – Expand IT support and collaboration for distance and online learning.

University College (UC) provides access for Maine’s rural and underserved communities to the programs and resources of the University of Maine System campuses. With a network of eight off-campus centers, a robust instructional development and media services department, a marketing department, and off-campus library services, University College supports UMS students and faculty teaching and learning at a distance.

University College is charged with a system-wide mission but it is an administrative unit of UMA. As such UC has very close working relationships with all departments of UMA and consequently the UC technology initiatives must align with the UMA plan but the UC initiatives must also reflect the work of serving distance students and faculty across the UMS campuses. The principles that guide this plan are:

  • Interaction with technology – training and support
  • Interaction with content to ensure technology fits the needs of students and intended learning outcomes
  • Universal design and access standards
  • Interaction with others – technology that flexibly and coherently facilitates social presence and collaboration

It is important that the Director of University College meet with the Director of UMA/UC IT to review the technology needs of University College to ensure alignment with UMA and UMS initiatives. In addition the Director of UMA/UC IT is a standing member of the UC IT Advisory Committee which meets regularly to review technology issues and develop plans for technology use by UC.

University College Centers are an invaluable source of community outreach and hubs that attract and support students and prospective adjuncts to the University of Maine System. As the critical mass of distance learning at the centers migrates from traditional ITV to more diversified distance learning modalities—including greater online and hybrid modalities – centers will transform to focal points for collaborative learning that require flexible footprints and ease of access for use of personal devices. Ideally the environment will be a “learning commons” where students and faculty are comfortable initiating interaction and reaching out for learning support.

As distance learning at the off-campus centers transforms, the technology infrastructure will focus more on learner-provided equipment. Emphasis on methods of collaboration may require unique hardware and software to which students may not have other access. Training and support must be available to all students and a reliable process by which to identify students who are struggling with the methodology and the technology will be a key component to success. With these trends and needs in mind, and with consideration for the proper and/or available funding, the UC technology initiatives will aim to achieve the following:

  1. Establish collaboration spaces at each center. Augmenting existing equipment (e.g. small web conference spaces that include web cams, document cameras, scanners, and pdf markup software etc.) to support collaboration.
  2. Closely monitor and manage the upgrade of cluster/lab computers at centers to accommodate essential needs. Computer labs will remain available for student use, however, during the refresh replacement cycle, statistics will be reviewed and lab sizes could shrink.
  3. VoIP phone systems should be installed at all university administered centers.
  4. Each center should have at least one “smart classroom” with smartboard technology. The intent would be to parallel the smart classrooms available on the UMA campus. (See UMA strategic goal #3: Traditional classes have use of what UMA calls “smart classrooms”. A smart classroom at UMA has an installed projector connected to a switch that allows the faculty to choose what media is displayed on the projector. Technologies available in the smart classrooms for both faculty and student use include a document camera, video, and computer output using either a supplied classroom computer or a personal laptop. IT Technical Support Staff can remotely access most of the technology equipment in the smart classrooms to assist and troubleshoot for faculty.)
  5. Groupware and other software used to inspire collaboration (e.g. Skype, Google Hangouts etc. Google Docs, Voicethread, Simulators) will be made available as needed to support learning. When appropriate, licenses will be purchased for use by the instructional development team to support their work with UMS faculty.
  6. Training for all UC staff and adjunct faculty at centers will be provided to help them integrate and support use of collaborative technologies.
  7. Create a plan to upgrade video-conferencing technology at the centers. The plan would be based on an assessment of the future needs for video-conferencing technology across the UMS (delivery of courses, student services, and business meetings) and a survey of alternative collaborative technologies (example smart-TVs, panopto, hangouts) that might meet some of the same requirements for future use.
  8. Assess the use of production technology and equipment used by UC staff to support faculty teaching online and ITV courses and develop a plan to refresh or replace same as appropriate to use and demand.
  9. Provide access to equipment that can be signed out at the center (to use on site or off site), such as laptops, digital cameras, audio recording equipment, etc. The list of useful equipment should be determined methodically by surveying instructional strategies across all courses.
  10. Provide training and support processes for faculty and students on universal design principles as they relate to technology use and access. Understanding principles of universal design in the use of technologies to collaborate enables students and instructors alike to develop real world skills.
University of Maine at Augusta