CIO Note to Faculty

January 26th, 2006 by Adam






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and welcome back. As we prepare for the spring semester, I thought it timely to
give you an ITS update.


there is a major WebCT upgrade occurring for the start of the spring
. Dan Bramer has been sending notes to the faculty list for the
past three months. Many of you have participated in his workshops that
highlight the changes and what you need to know. If you haven’t attended one of
those workshops, and if you use WebCT, you may be in for a
surprise come
the first week of classes. There are several enhancements,
coupled with a new look and feel. Don’t wait until the last minute to know
and understand those differences—there are still workshops this Thursday and
Please contact Dan at ext. 3025 or
if you have questions.




data from the annual Campus Computing Survey:  “Campus IT
officials identify network and data security as the single most important IT
affecting their institution over the next two-three years.” The same
is true for PSU. The challenge in this is that we’ve all grown accustomed to
our ‘personal’ computers, yet given advances of internet fraud, network
hacking, viruses, spam, phishing and a host of other
threats, gone are the days of flying toaster screen savers. What has become
more important than individual customization of your computer is its
functionality and protection. ITS is implementing more
and more network security enhancements that will keep your computers safe and
running. I don’t have to tell you that some of these precautions are, at times,
inconvenient. Then again, so is a computer that is infected with a virus or a
network that is not protected from cyber riff-raff. We all must do our part. ITS’s primary objective is to keep the lines clear so you
can perform your primary work.




you familiar with blogs and podcasts? Google them, or look them up in Wikipedia. Some of you may already be using these new tools.
Others may think these terms are the latest in a sea of techno-jargon.
Regardless, your millennial students—the NetGens—are
using these new technologies—along with the ubiquitous cell phone—more and
more. Google is a first step in most research and
you’ll be seeing more references and quotes from Wikipedia. They have more access to more technology than
our generations could have ever dreamed of… and more of it is coming right to
their cell phones! I’m not suggesting that you suddenly change your teaching
processes, but you should be aware of how this generation gets and interacts
with information. And to know them is to understand better how to work and
communicate with them. Help them to be discerning with the wealth of
information they have.


are lots of studies and research written on our students today. Here are some
of my own observations, as a parent and teacher.


  • Students’ span of
    attention may be short, but their capacity to absorb more information and
    multitask is significant.

  • Google is the first
    point in their research. Wikipedia is fast becoming a knowledge base of
  • This generation of
    students has vast amounts of information at their fingertips and phone,
    but they tend to trust too much of what they find as valid.
  • Students tend to
    spend more time on their phones and text messaging than they do in email.
  • Students walk to
    classes with their MP3 players in their ears. They walk out with cell
    phones dialed.
  • They spend
    significant time online and connected, yet they know or care little about
    the underlying technology.

  • They share personal
    information far more readily in blogs,
    and other web sites.
  • Sales of watches are
    declining because young people have clocks on their cell phones.
  • All the above are
    generalizations. Not all students are as ‘wired’ as we assume. We need to
    be mindful that some students come from homes where there is no internet,
    no computer and no cell phones.


Learning Commons, our integrated support team of Library and ITS professionals,
will be a source of information and demonstration for these new technologies.
If you’d like to learn more and how you may use these technologies to your
advantage, contact John




a completely different tack, I’d like you all to consider the following
scenario. You’re several weeks into the semester when you hear that there has
been a ‘network problem.’ You don’t know or understand anything about what has
happened, only that there will be no internet, email, WebCT or Banner for
several weeks, if not longer. Think about it…what will this mean for your
courses? Will you be able to carry on your classes?


may be asking why your CIO is asking what it means if the network goes down. Why,
isn’t that his job to see that it doesn’t happen? Yes it is, but there are some
situations that we cannot guarantee against. And the very question I am asking
you is being asked at the University System: How will we do our jobs if the
systems we use are suddenly unavailable? There were many lessons learned since
9/11 and Hurricane Katrina. First, we need to establish redundancies in our
major information systems (web and email). Second, we need to invest in
alternate sites our other systems, such as Banner and WebCT. And third, most
importantly, we need to train ourselves to have contingency plans in the
event that these systems are unavailable
. I am working with my colleague CIOs on the other USNH campuses to implement some new
safeguards. Meanwhile, if you have thoughts or impressions on what systems
downtime would mean to you, send me a note.




of contingency plans, when’s the last time you backed up the files on your
’s hard drive? Don’t be complacent, hard drives still crash every
so often. If you are not backing up your files to either your M drive or to
CDs, you are flying without a net. Call the Help Desk at 2929 if you need help
with backup strategies.


it’s important to you, back it up!




the course of the next semester, we have several other projects underway.
In addition to the WebCT upgrade, Joann Guilmett is going to assume a
leadership role in the Learning Commons. While we’re not moving the Help Desk
out of Hyde Hall until late in the summer, Joann will be working with our
library colleagues to develop the integrated service model at what is now the
Circulation Desk and soon to be the Information Desk, the heart of the new Lamson Learning Commons.
Additionally, we are working with the Office of Public Relations to reconstruct
our web pages
to reflect a greater emphasis on recruiting students,
improved distinction between internal and external pages, and a more streamline
method for keeping our pages current. Expect to hear more of this project
through the semester.


are also planning the rollout of a voice-activated directory system. In
the months ahead, you’ll be able to call a central number, speak the name of
the person to whom you want to call, and you’ll get to their phone directly.
The system is currently being tested and refined. More on
this soon.