ITS helped the University transition to a truely web-centric institution during the past five years. Having invested heavily in the core infrastructure as well as structuring budgets to accommodate investments in new technologies, ITS focused its efforts primarily in supporting the academic mission of the institution rather than worrying about the robustness and uptimes of core infrastructure. Our focus in the next few years will be “From Webcentricity to Web Simplicity.” We have done an excellent job in helping to move many of our activities to the web. However, we find that there is a lot of room for improvement in terms of usability, especially when it comes to students.
The Electronic Portfolio (EP) has become a core infrastructure of the institution and provides a unified, secure means of accessing all institutional data and conduct many of the institution's business. EP, originally designed for use by students and faculty, has been implemented for use by the staff as well as alumni. In addition, COFHE leadership have adapted a version of EP (hosted at Wesleyan) for use by the member institutions for data exchange. Usage statistics show that over 80% of the students and faculty use the EP on a daily basis while the semester is in progress. EP creation and management is fully web-based and the responsibility is distributed. Functional offices are responsible for managing the access control and security and various groups within ITS who use different systems for application development can all easily tie into EP using common APIs. There are at least 12 different active portfolios with over 500 applications accessible from EP. We have also managed to tie the EP security to many third party software such as Blackboard, so EP has essentially become an institutional portal.
We provide below a few key EP applications:
Academic Computing Services was responsible for implementing the ITS mission of enhancing the support for teaching, research and scholarly communication. Collaboration with the Library strengthened tremendously and many successful joint initiatives resulted from this.
Course Management System - ITS in collaboration with a group of faculty members chose Blackboard as our course management system and implemented it for use in Spring '04. There were 142 courses using Blackboard during Spring '04 and the use grew to 248 courses during Fall '06 (about 40% of all courses offered). It is also the case that over time, faculty are using a much larger feature set from Blackboard.
Academic Media Studio - We have recently formed an Academic Media Studio that will provide support for faculty for teaching, research, and scholarly communication. Formed out of four separate service points, this unit's services will include photography, digitization, poster printing, multimedia development, and website creation. Digitization Services, which ITS began offering in 2005, has grown into a popular service for faculty to use in support of integrating digital media into their teaching. The service will digitize print, stills, slides, and video, and then place the digital files onto a server for faculty to then use in their courses. We have over 1 TB of multimedia content hosted on our servers and in anticipation of explosive growth in this area, we have acquired a large disk system. Our Media Database – a collection of digital images for use both in teaching and for multimedia projects – has grown to over 10,000 records, allowing faculty and students access to a wide array of materials.
Learning Objects - We work with faculty to develop interactive learning tools and animations that help students understand difficult concepts. These modules are shared across campus, with faculty at other institutions and are used both inside and outside of the classroom. Our projects range from animations of biological processes such as neurulation (embryonic development of the neural tube), to a simulated Indian village, where students can explore the complex interfaces and interactions among North Indians and their social and cultural lives by way of a series of interconnected maps, images, audio, and video segments. We seek to enhance the liberal arts experience by providing content in modes not usually available by traditional means. Listen to the brief interviews below to hear what faculty have to say about developing these materials. Over the past five years, we have developed 110 learning objects, several of which continue to receive several thousands of hits from both the Wesleyan network and outside.
Academic Department Websites - In recognition of the growing importance of the web as a vehicle for communicating to prospective students, to enrolled students, and internally as a platform for keeping faculty and staff informed, we re-designed all of the academic department websites to give them a consistent navigation and look and feel, and developed technologies to improve the quality of information contained on these sites. Faculty members can update their professional information on EP, which are then automatically fed to the department websites. We are partnering with the Center for Faculty Career Development to extend this concept further by establishing a faculty achievements website.
QAC - Is this going to be discussed under ACAF?
Scientific Computing Cluster - In order to avoid the propagation of departmental computing clusters ITS agreed to host a central high performance computing cluster. This brings tremendous efficiencies to several areas - e.g. the reduction in facilities costs can be invested in keeping the central cluster current and more efficient, and the faculty members and their research groups do not have to worry about the maintenance. Science faculty and ITS received a NSF grant for $190,000 and purchased the first HPC with 288 nodes, which will be operational in April '07. A group of NSM faculty and ITS staff submitted a Fund for Innovation grant which requests funding for a half-time staff member to run a pedagogical program related to cluster use. A tutorial program, along the lines of the Writing Workshop and Math Workshop, would employ talented undergraduates and provide tutorial support to courses using the cluster or other computationally-intensive activities. Also proposed is a summer program to give undergraduates experience working with faculty on related research topics, and a series of workshops and lunchtime seminars for Wesleyan faculty and other nearby institutions.
PeopleSoft Human Resources Implementation - A team that included staff from user offices, Finance and Administration and ITS implemented PeopleSoft’s Human Resources Management System (HRMS) which includes position management, benefit plans and in-house payroll calculations. We have implemented several employee self-service with applications such as benefits open enrollment, 403B, personal data and life insurance web enrollments. Our surround-systems approach to PeopleSoft has resulted in many EP applications mentioned earlier, which bring tremendous administrative efficiencies to the business processes. We also formed a Data and Network Security Advisory group consisting primarily of administrators and one faculty member to help us protect data against theft and misuse. The group has established Gramm-Leach-Bliley Guidelines, identified areas of vulnerability for SSN and credit cards and established best practices which are being implemented.
Financial Reporting & Budget Development - Wesleyan continues to use FRS, a system that runs on OpenVMS operating system. We have built a powerful web based Financial Inquiry System and Data Warehouse that provides easy access to financial account, budget and payroll data. It has effectively extended the usability and life of our financial system. We will launch a major project to implement a new financial system this fall. In collaboration with Finance and Administration, ITS has created a Budget Development and Management System called B-Maps.
Network - We invested over $600K in 2004 to upgrade our core network infrastructure to provide 100 Mb connectivity to the desktop and a Gigabit backbone with very highly redundant and reliable hardware. In addition, we introduced wireless to campus in 2004 and now blanket over 95% of the campus with wireless connectivity using 270 wireless access points. Woodframe houses, where about 1100 upperclass and graduate students live, have been a source of major network connection problems. We invested significant resources during the summer of 2006 to re-engineer the woodframe house networking whcih has resulted in a much more usable network. We have connections to both the internet and internet2 and our total connectivity is 45 Mb, with the connection peaking at times at 60Mb. With such speeds, we are now able to support webcasting of many of our events. We will be implementing the Cisco Clean Access system during the sumemr of 2007 that will ensure that the computers connecting to the Wesleyan network are virus-free and compliant with our other requirements for software versions. In addition, it will detect who is logging in to the network and place them in the appropriate network. So a faculty member will experience the same exact network access regardless of whether he/she is logging in from his/her office or in a classroom.
Backups - Our investments in Tivoli Storage Manager and large tape silos have resulted in very reliable and robust backups of all data. We offer a service to backup faculty and staff desktops and over 600 desktop/laptops are backed up every day.
E-mail - We have implemented very innovative ways to combat SPAM and viruses while delivering excellent E-mail performance through both the clients as well as web. We will be introducing more efficiencies to the email infrastructure by migrating all administrative users to Microsoft Exchange. In addition, we will use Google Apps for Education to direct emails for the students who sign up for this service to Google.
Linux Support - With increasing number of science faculty opting to use Linux based desktops, we have formally announced Redhat Linux as fully supported.
Classrooms - We completed our multi-year classroom improvement program renovating over 80 classrooms. We now have over 50 multimedia classrooms, and a process and budget for supporting their use, and for maintaining the equipment within. We added two new computer classrooms, one for the arts and one for the social sciences, in order to address increasing demand by the faculty for spaces where students would all have access to computers during class-time.
Labs - We continue to maintain seven computer labs located throughout the campus. Our most notable improvement to these labs was the relocation of the arts computing lab to a new and larger space, and, in collaboration with the library, the creation of an Information Commons in Olin Library.
In the past decade, Wesleyan has made significant technological advances as described above. During this same period, outside the confines of Wesleyan, we've seen the emergence of a broad array of new technologies and behaviors. Google, Amazon, cell phones, ipods, myspace, youtube, wikipedia, the blogosphere, and broadband connectivity to the home have all changed our culture's relationship to information. The students and new faculty who arrive on our campus have come of age during a time when the primary mode of finding and working with information is the web. While some lament and others celebrate these changes, Wesleyan needs to prepare itself for this new reality. In order to do this, we have during the course of this year undertaken a series of evaluative projects that we think will allow us to incorporate many new approaches to information systems in ways appropriate for our institution.
Web 2.0 is the rubric that has come into fashion to describe a wide array of technologies and social practices that shift the work of creating and vetting content from the traditional top-down authoritative model to a radically decentralized model where anyone with a web browser and something to say can get their message out in a variety of complex forms: text, audio, and video. Our evaluation process will focuses on a critical subset of the dizzying array of possibilities and how best to connect them to our own strategic goals and implement them. We will specifically look at Blogs, Wikis, Podcasting, Social Bookmarking, Webtop productivity tools and web authoring.
Annual senior surveys regularly rank Wesleyan Library information access, collections, and services over 95%. Always an integral component of the overall campus mission and strategy, the Wesleyan Library provides access to information from around the world. The library’s collections have a depth and breadth seldom found in an institution of this size, and we collaborate in a number of consortial arrangements for obtaining access to even more collections. The Wesleyan Library and Information Technology Services have partnered on a number of successful initiatives, and will continue to do so.
In keeping with the campuswide efforts in planning and evaluation, the Library has created a budgeting planning process involving all unit heads. It has created a policies and procedures manual, which is regularly updated. The librarians have drafted a Librarians Status document to clarify our administrative and instructional role on campus. We now have an annual retreat, goal setting, and evaluation processes, all directly linked to the campus wide goals and mission. Librarians regularly attend regional and national meetings and workshops in order to keep current with the dramatic changes in library services and technology. At the same time, many Wesleyan librarians are leaders in the field and have made significant contributions to the library profession in such areas as teaching undergraduates how to use primary resources in special collections; and library technology and privacy issues in a global context.
One of the ten essential capabilities adopted by the faculty is information literacy. Wesleyan students learn how to access, interpret, and use the vast amount of traditional and Internet content available to them. Wesleyan’s information literacy librarian was selected to participate in a one-week American Library Association workshop on how to implement and assess a comprehensive library instruction program. The library’s regular information literacy sessions are tailored for individual courses and the feedback from students and faculty is very positive. The University Librarian has participated in an American Library Association program for information literacy assessment and will continue to work with the librarians to ensure that the program remains an important component of the essential capabilities. Specifically, we are looking for ways to integrate information literacy into the FYI courses for frosh and into the junior seminars for majors, so that students learn to evaluate the scholarly tools for their research agenda in a specialty field.
Academic libraries of the 21st century are increasingly used for communication and collaboration, and Wesleyan’s libraries are no exception. The Library and ITS collaborated on a prototype Information Commons area in the Campbell Reading Room. This space provides “one stop shopping” for students looking for reference service, technology consultation, and writing assistance. The space is heavily used by students. The library has developed assessment tools for continual improvement in Information Commons services.
The recently completed renovation of the Science Library ground floor and the installation of compact shelving enabled the library to move large collections from off-site storage back to campus, increasing access and providing an environment conducive to long-term preservation of materials. Study space in the area has been updated with improved lighting and a variety of seating and work areas.
Through a successful grant from NITLE, we have also developed in-house expertise in using ethnographic and participatory design techniques that we now use in all of our space design activities.
The Library and ITS have developed an innovative planning process for identifying types of content the library will purchase; the types of hardware and software necessary to support each type of content; and prioritizing and budgeting for the above. This process has enhanced the overall campus planning and budgeting process, so that the Library and ITS can move into such new initiatives as an institutional repository and the creation of digital content.
The Wesleyan campus has become an active partner in the nationwide scholarly communication initiative supported by the Association of Research Libraries and the American Library Association. The library has long been a member of SPARC, the organization spearheading efforts of faculty, librarians, and administrators to change the current scholarly publishing models which many believe are too costly, restrict access, and obstruct creativity. A Wesleyan team (senior associate provost, librarian, and ITS professional) was selected for the First Institute on Scholarly Communication, held at UCLA in 2006. The team returned to campus with an action plan to create campus awareness and advocacy to support new models for faculty publishing and awareness of intellectual property issues.
The Library and ITS have met formally with faculty in all three divisions, have spoken at faculty meetings, and have worked with individual faculty who are interested in supporting open access journals. The Intellectual Property Committee has established a web site with information for faculty on how to use web content legally; for students on how to download music legally; and with encouragement for the campus community to use the fair use provisions of the copyright act. The committee has hosted guest speakers to assess the web site and to work with us to keep current with intellectual property policy issues.
The Library and ITS are working together with the Oberlin Group to create an institutional repository. We are using student theses as our pilot project.
No library can afford to buy all the content that faculty and students demand. The University Librarian has actively engaged the campus community in moving toward the access model of library service. This means that the library service mission will be “If we don’t have it, we can get it for you.” It is a “not just in case, but just in time” model of access to information, that has been adopted by most United States libraries as their strategy for the future.
The access model requires flexibility in budgeting, and the library administration has worked successfully with Academic Affairs and the Chief Financial Officer in this regard. The University Librarian is collaborating with the Oberlin Group library directors on projects to enhance resource sharing and to develop economic models for collections budgets in liberal arts colleges.
The access model also requires working with students and faculty to determine an acceptable turnaround time for receiving materials through Interlibrary Loan. The entire library staff is engaged in developing these criteria. The Access Services unit of the Library will continue to measure the costs of providing access in this way, and the consulting firm, R2 Associates is assisting the library in changing its workflow to better adopt the access model.
The University Librarian has worked intensively with her counterparts at Trinity College and Connecticut College during the past three years to reenergize and redirect the mission and goals of the CTW Consortium. This consortium is now working on a plan to coordinate monographic purchases, and will undertake a collections analysis project next year. The group is considering membership in other library consortia, and has already joined the Five Colleges Library Consortium program to share their storage facility for JSTOR journals.
CTW and Wesleyan’s ITS recognize that the next Integrated Library System (ILS) will differ dramatically from past products. Wesleyan’s Head of Cataloging is spearheading the effort to create models of new portals for library information retrieval—models that respond to the information seeking styles of millennials.
The University Librarian and the Director of Academic Computing Services have partnered with the Center for Faculty Career Development in creating this weekly lunch forum, which is regularly filled with at least 30 faculty, librarians, and academic staff. This roundtable has expanded its scope to include non-technology topics, such as discussion of the ten essential capabilities; pedagogical skills for teaching a small seminar; the USA PATRIOT Act; and characteristics of “millennial” students.
The Committee on Pedagogical Renewal coordinated the publication, and subsequent annual revision of “Teaching Matters,” a fifty-page booklet that both summarizes all of the resources available to faculty in support of their teaching, and provides faculty-authored briefs on how to approach some of the challenges facing both new and veteran professors.
Twenty-first century academic libraries will have a “brand” that is determined by their unique resources. Wesleyan’s Special Collections and Archives is one of the national leaders, not only for the breadth and depth of its collections, but especially for the innovative ways it engages undergraduates in using rare and primary resources. We partnered with Yale and other regional schools in a Teagle Foundation grant to engage faculty in using special collections as part of their undergraduate courses. Several senior theses have been written using special collections, and the library’s information literacy program includes special collections—a very unusual aspect of most programs in this country. The Head of Special Collections works closely with the campus on planning events to celebrate campus historical events. The recently acquired William Manchester collection will be the foundation of a planned focus on undergraduate engagement with primary resources in U.S. History. Special Collections and Archives, along with the World Music Archives, has begun to digitize its collections.