TAG Update to Campus
By Dwight Fischer, Chief Information Officer
The Technical Advisory Group (TAG) covered a lot of ground in the fall
TAG sub-groups, each reporting up to TAG, were charged in the following
Standards: Recommendations are being developed that identify hardware, operating systems and software that will be centrally supported by ITS.
Allocations: The committee received more than $700,000 in requests for new and upgraded technology. Recommendations on how to spend the pool of $420,000 is due to TAG in February.
Security: Reviewing security threats, good practice and policy.
ITCC: The work of this group continues from last year. ITCC is reviewing best practices, policy, support issues and the mechanics of good online instruction.
Topics Discussed by TAG This Year
Rollout of Wireless Computing on Campus: As more students shift from desktop to laptop, and as the computer industry continues to develop wireless enabled devices, PSU is shifting resources to accommodate this growing trend. This past summer, wireless access points (a.k.a. Hotspots) were installed in the HUB and Lamson Library. Additional (and limited coverage) wireless access is available in some academic buildings (Hyde, Rounds, Boyd and Frost). The Network Services group in ITS is developing a plan that will provide strategic, secure and sustainable wireless access points elsewhere on campus. Until that plan is completed and funding identified, additional wireless expansion is limited.
Central Support for Macs: In an effort to standardize and control support and software costs, the President’s Cabinet made a decision this past summer to retire central support for Apple Macintosh computers after June 2006. This policy was based on the fact that Macs made up an increasingly lower percentage of campus computers (18%) and the need to prioritize limited support resources toward goals established in the LRTP (security, distributed IT support and burgeoning online coursework) In advance of that time, PSU is ordering no new Macs for faculty and staff. The only exceptions to this policy are the Graphic Design department and Music Technology. ITS is working with those departments to develop industry-specific support for their areas.
Information Commons: The library and ITS are reviewing the feasibility of combining the functions of Help Desk, multimedia support and academic technology into Lamson. Many schools are moving in similar directions and it would allow our IT support functions to meld with information, research and presentation needs of students and faculty. Elaine Allard and Dwight Fischer are conducting site visits to other schools and will present their findings to the President’s cabinet in February.
LanDesk (Remote Desktop Management): ITS has rolled out LanDesk, a remote desktop management tool, to nearly all staff and computer cluster computers. This tool allows them to maintain application upgrades, security updates and a host of diagnostic tools to help identify support issues. Users, in turn, worry far less about updating their major applications, software incompatibilities and virus threats. Plans are being discussed for rolling this software out to faculty in the upcoming year.
Use of Allemp: The use of this ‘all employee’ email tool was discussed. Some love it, some hate it. The fact that it is unmoderated is a concern to some. In the fall semester, there was an average of 3 allemp emails per day. They were categorized as campus discussions (Red Sox fracas), announcements (department and athletic events), lost items (keys, videos, etc) and ‘whoopsies’ (inadvertent ‘replies all,’ corrections to earlier posts). It is clear that our campus values this communication tool, yet for many the shear volume of allemp mails are akin to spam. The TAG recommends that the campus be alerted to other existingýand more appropriate email distribution lists and myPlymouthýand to continue to advise the campus to use allemp judiciously.
Laptop Requirement for Students? The TAG explored the notion of requiring laptops of students. Considering that most (95%) bring computers to campus already, and the recent trend of more being laptops, do we need to continue funding and replacing all of our 39 computer labs? On the other hand, why require laptops for all students? Some may not need a laptop, per se, but a desktop computer. And, a laptop requirement will not save money, only shift costs. Some faculty would welcome laptops (and mobile technology) in the classroom, many others fear computers in the classroom will pose a large distraction. This conversation may be moot in a few years as the hardware and input devices are changing. Nonetheless, it was felt that if laptop requirements were justified, it should be driven by the academic departments.
Comments, ideas or feedback on any of these topics? Please send them to
Dwight Fischer at firstname.lastname@example.org.