Notes from initial meeting of the Social Science Group

Categories: Social Sciences

The Social Science Advisory Group met on February 23rd.  The agenda included a review of the departmental technology assessments and suggestions for future meeting topics.

Attending: Co-Chairs Brenda Ellis (LIS) and Bert Johnson (Political Science); Anne Knowles (Geography/FLAC rep.); Claudia Cooper (Teacher Education); Ellen Oxfeld (Women and Gender Studies); Thierry Warin (Int’l Studies and sub for Economics); Carlos Velez (Psychology); Kathy Morse (Environmental Studies); Shel Sax (LIS/CTLR); Bryan Carson (LIS); Jean Simmons (LIS); Andy Wentink (LIS); Carrie Macfarlane (LIS).

Introductions

Briefly discussed the role of the group and how it relates to the smaller Faculty LIS Advisory Committee (FLAC) and how the group supplements (not replaces) the individual liaison program for departments.

Review of departmental  technology assessments

22 departments had reviews (with whole dept. or representatives), including from SS group: Economics, Psychology, Environmental Studies, Geography, Teacher Ed.
14 departtments did not have a review, including from SS group: Political Science, Soc/Anthro, WAGS, Int’l Studies.

Discussion re: Broad Themes from reviews

Classrooms, labs

Note: Classrooms Committee was formed (Deans, LIS, faculty, scheduling office) but suspended because there is no $ for upgrades.

  • Need more writing spaces in classrooms.  Common complaint that the projection screen covers most of the writing spaces.
    Suggestion to LIS:
    also need blackboards – preferred by many.  Chalk easier to erase. Don’t have problems with markers running out of ink.
  • There are not enough “smart “classrooms on campus and the setups vary.
    Suggestion to faculty:
    list any key equipment needed when requesting a room.  Be willing to use a room that matches their needs rather than expect (in these budget times) that their favorite room can be modified.
    Suggestion to faculty:
    See go/mls to see room schedules.  See go/classrooms to see a guide to academic facilities that shows equipment in each room. See go/software to see a chart of software in each lab. See go/smartguides to see smart classroom user guides. See go/scheduling to get to the room request form.
    Discussion about difficulty of finding certain pages on our web site
    – talked about tagging (such as del.i.cious) and the go menu system. go.middlebury.edu
    Suggestion to faculty:
    Faculty should visit room they will teach in at beginning of semester to become familiar with setup.
    Discussion: how define “smart”?

    Suggestion to LIS:
    equip more rooms with only a simple computer (could be older model) and projector so faculty could easily just bring zip/usb/thumb drive and/or connect via network to needed files.  Often DVD’s could be shown from the computer rather than using an additional DVD player.  Such lower tech smart rooms wouldn’t need touchpads, monitors, DVD/VHS players, etc. so less expensive/ more rooms could be equipped and faculty wouldn’t have to hassle with connecting their laptops (common helpdesk call according to call logs).
  • Computer labs often have one or two machines down, leaving full classes (20 students or more) without a computer. There will always be the possibility that not all of the computers will be functioning at 8:00, even if they were checked and verified as fine the night before. So realistically we should assume 18 is the maximum number of computers available. (Problem because sometimes are using specialized software not on student laptops). Report all problems to helpdesk x2200.
    Suggestion to LIS:
    more preventative maintenance (check bulbs, software licenses, etc.)

Software (topic for future meeting with more in-depth discussion)

  • LIS needs to coordinate software upgrades in labs/classrooms in conjunction with faculty machines to assure compatibility between students and faculty.  Timing can’t please everyone (dif. needs).  Typcially don’t upgrade mid-semester but Language/summer school support provides challenges in summer and now there are additional programs to support).  Faculty would like to see web list of software available & be able to click for delivery or upgrade (self-service). Group supported this idea.
  • LIS is investigating software delivery via server (vs. application on hard drive).  Virtualization could enable students to bring laptops and access applications not installed on their computer (would help with lab problems mentioned earlier). Pilot project now.  Not all software licenses allow this.  Expect several years for conversion of those programs that are feasible.
  • LIS can’t support all software (ex. too many stats pkgs; presentation pkgs) so need to id. those that are most used.
    Suggestion to LIS: Use more open-source software rather than always relying on commercial software.  Advantages: save huge amounts of money, often more up-to-date. Thierry gave lots of examples, including ubuntu.  Great publicity opportunity if are first school to implement. Much more to discuss and would be helpful to do demos of open-source software for faculty.
    Suggestion to LIS: topic broader than just Social Science group.  Have a LIS technology lunch focused on open-source software.  Also possible topic for CTLR workshops during summer.

Data storage

  • Some faculty have stopped using Tigercat or other servers – partly because the space is not big enough (quota issues).  Faculty are not aware that they can request additional storage/server space if needed.  Critical that faculty use a source that is backed up.  We can’t always recover lost data on individual computers and its very expensive (outsourced).
    Suggestion to faculty: call helpdesk x2200 or email helpdesk to request quota increase if needed.  Consult with liaison if have special needs.
  • Student or other video work is removed from Muskrat server every semester (not all faculty were aware this was only temp. storage space).
    Suggestion to faculty:
    Use new Middmedia system: middmedia.middlebury.edu (no cutoff at this time).
  • VHS Films – a number of heavily used anthropology films on VHS are wearing out.  Discussion re: copyright limitations for streaming or making duplicate archival copy (can’t if commercially available).
    Suggestion to LIS:
    work with Soc/Anthro dept. to identify films in need of preservation/replacement or which can be streamed indefinitely.

Support in Bi Hall

  • Almost every department located in Bicentennial Hall would like to see LIS tech support in-house.
    LIS staff regularly go to MBH as needed.  No new staff in this budget environment.

Training opportunities

  • LIS training classes aren’t always offered at times convenient for all faculty. They are usually scheduled during peak teach times, making attendance for faculty difficult (also times of day can be difficult).  However attendance has been low when scheduled during breaks.  Seems to be faculty-specific.
    Suggestion to faculty:
    faculty can request training for their class or for a department or subset at a time that suits their needs.  Contact helpdesk or liaison.
    Suggestion to LIS: Need better Segue support at helpdesk.  Support not always timely – too few people are knowledgeable – most helpdesk students aren’t.

Future Meetings

Topics:

  • Software updates and open source (continue discussion with key LIS personnel)
  • Classrooms – define what really is necessary for “smart”; consider creative solutions
  • Streaming Video / Middmedia; archiving; copyright issues
  • Segue
  • Library resources (once know next FY budget situation)
  • Research expectations for students

Timing: meet before semester ends (exam time would be good).

Action Items

Faculty reps check with their departments (which haven’t yet had reviews) to see if their department would like a review (with whole department or select representatives).  Using a survey instead is a possibility.

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