Notes from initial meeting of the Sciences Group

Categories: Sciences

The Sciences Advisory Group met on February 27, 2009. The agenda included an introduction to the group, a review of last year’s Academic Technology Assessments, and suggestions for future meeting topics. 

A. Attending:

Carrie Macfarlane, Matt Landis, Matt Dickerson, Frank Swenton (for Bill Peterson), Dave West, Bill Hegman, Tom Root, Matt Dickerson, Shel Sax, Bryan Carson, Roger Sandwick

B. Introduction to Sciences Advisory Group:

Five new divisional advisory groups for LIS have been formed. Purpose is to provide advice and feedback to LIS and the existing Faculty LIS Advisory Committee (FLAC). The new groups do not replace existing departmental liaisons. The sciences group: Biology, Chem, Computer Science, Geography, Geology, Math, MBBC, Neuroscience, Physics.

Matt Landis and Carrie = co-conveners. Matt Dickerson = FLAC rep. All faculty members of this group are departmental representatives, should share information with their departments.

We’ll meet 2-3 times per year. If a rep can’t make a meeting then s/he is welcome to send a substitute. We’ll always send out an agenda in advance. Our notes will be posted on the blog. Issues and progress updates will be tracked on blog.

C. Meeting topic: Update on Academic Technology Assessments

What are “academic technology assessments”? Begun last year and included surveys and meetings with departments and programs. Some departments sent representatives, others met with LIS as a group. 20 completed, 14 not (yet?). All of the sciences are completed.

Common issues from tech assessments:

1) Classrooms and computer labs

Issues identified in tech assessments:

Need more smart classrooms. Need more writing spaces: projection screens cover many of the writing spaces. Labs often have machines down, leaving full classes without a computer.

Updates and suggestions for faculty:

Classrooms committee was formed and then suspended. New rooms are set up as ‘smart’, but there probably won’t be any new rooms this year. LIS is working with Sched Office to alert us to maxed-out computer classrooms so that LIS will know to place a higher priority on reports of malfunctioning computers in those rooms. Computers change, sometimes overnight, so there’s a limit to what LIS can do. For now: be specific when stating teaching/presentation needs in scheduling request; consult go/scheduling (links to master location schedule AND facilities guide) and go/software (shows the software in each lab); invite students to bring laptops; report problems to helpdesk immediately.

Discussion:

a) Another issue is the uniformity of classrooms.  If you know how to use one classroom should be able to figure out how to use the others (Future discussion topic)
b) Dave West commended the redo of classrooms on the 4th floor of BiHall (403 and 417): Geology is pleased with the setup, which includes side projection. (Carrie shared this comment with Adam Dobucki.)
c) Matt Landis wants to know if there are portable solutions, eg, a portable smartboard which provides projection & writing surface (Item for consideration:  Are there such things?  If so, how much do they cost?  If feasible, then this will be a Future discussion topic)  — See Sciences Items for Consideration for progress.
d) Matt Dickerson recommended a Wacom tablet. (Item for consideration: investigate Wacom tablets rather than tablet pc’s.) — See Sciences Items for Consideration for progress.
e) Warner 202, or 203, Frank said that in 3 of 4 classrooms in Warner, switching to a non-computer source produces a black(blank) screen so that you can then raise the screen and write on the board.  In the other room (202 or 203), you get a bright blue screen. (Item for consideration.) — See Sciences Items for Consideration for progress.
f) Nwftp looks like an advertisement for netware and one of the links gets you to netstorage (Item for consideration)  — See Sciences Items for Consideration for progress.
g) Fix certificate issue (Item for consideration)
h) Faculty report that often, most of the people in a room cannot get into midd_secure with their laptops and end up on midd_unplugged. (Item for consideration) — See Sciences Items for Consideration for progress.
i) In response to questions about midd_secure, Helpdesk should problem-solve in addition to asking if midd_unplugged will suffice.  (Item for consideration) — See Sciences Items for Consideration for progress.
j) BiHall 220, 216 are the biggest and best classrooms in the building. These rooms should allow side projection of PowerPoint (Future discussion topic)
k) BiHall 438 is side projected but 538 projected front and center as is 104 and 219 and all but one of the Warner classrooms (Future discussion topic)
l) Consider surveying all faculty to find out which classroom configurations are most preferred.  Could list 4-5 configurations and ask faculty to rank their preferences (Future discussion topic)
m) Idea of a button on the touchpad that raises screen, kills video source and turns on the chalkboard lights would be most welcome (Future discussion topic.)
m)  After the meeting, Matt Landis asked:  We (biology) had a request for a few classrooms on the 4th floor of BiHall to be converted to smart rooms.  Might these rooms be converted next year? Or are they out of the queue for good? (Item for consideration) — See Sciences Items for Consideration for progress.

2) Data storage

Issues identified in tech assessments:

Quotas on Tigercat: some faculty have stopped using Tigercat because of this quota. File deletion on Muskrat: must files be deleted at the end of every semester?

Updates and suggestions for faculty:

You may increase your Tigercat quota; call the HelpDesk. Muskrat is “scratch space”. Now we have middmedia for more permanent storage. Important to back up files. Recovery, when it can be done, is expensive.

Discussion:

a) Frank Swenton and others: Do not get rid of the Classes server and course folders — Carrie forwarded this feedback to Jeff Rehbach, Mike Roy and Tom Cutter.
-it is the only place that is suitable for storing a bunch of different types of objects, including raw HTML files
-Matt Landis uses the share folder a lot within the course folders even though everything else is on Segue. Tom Root and Dave West find the course folders useful too.
b) Please retain simple, non-Segue solutions  — Carrie forwarded this feedback to Jeff Rehbach.
c) Shel talked about the distinction between Muskrat and MiddMedia and how MiddMedia will be the storage place for MiddTube
d) Frank mentioned that the speed of Tigercat is an issue as did Bill Hegman.  Students storing large data files to use with GIS programs cannot get the speed for read/writes that they need
e) After the meeting, Matt Landis wondered if it would be possible for LIS to provide automatic file backups, similar to what the backup server in BiHall does. For example, Matt would like to be able to bring a file down to his laptop, modify the file offline, and then, when he reconnects to the backup server, have the server detect the changes and upload the modified files. (Item for consideration.)– See Sciences Items for Consideration for progress.

3) Software

Issues identified in tech assessments:

Some faculty want upgrades during summer. Others want them as soon as they are available. Faculty and LIS have different rhythms so that one’s down time is not necessarily the other’s. Faculty would like to see web list of software available & click for delivery.

Updates and suggestions for faculty:

This is a complicated issue. Different people have different preferences. LIS also has to consider summer programs, licensing restrictions (eg, some licenses allow only one version to be in use at a time). LIS preference is intersessions. HelpDesk sends survey before each semester to anticipate and prioritize needs. LIS is hoping to go to server-based apps (but some apps won’t allow this).

Discussion:

a) Figure out what the latest versions of software that we support and add it to the LIS software page, inform faculty, solicit feed back and refine policy (Item for consideration)
b) Frank reported a case of college buying a new license for Maple which prevented the previous version of Maple from running in the labs, unbeknownst to faculty (Item for consideration: Confirm that steps have been taken to ensure this doesn’t happen again)
c) After the meeting, Steve Sontum asked: Did anyone raise the issue of network computer registration?  (Item for consideration: investigate this issue) — See Sciences Items for Consideration for progress.

4) Bicentennial Hall support

Issues identified in tech assessments:

Faculty wish that media support hadn’t left BiHall. Almost every department in Bicentennial Hall would like LIS tech support in-house. The needs range from high-end research computing, to classroom support, to discipline specific software expertise, to general computing help. Departments that have their own support (Computer Science and Geography) say their model works well

Updates and suggestions for faculty:

More staff is not on the horizon. Instead, HelpDesk is trying to provide increased on-the-spot assistance and followup after a problem is resolved.

Discussion:

a) Not having someone like Stewart in BiHall is a disadvantage, but tech and media support still is good
b) Can call and get assistance on the phone or in person

5) Training workshops

Issues identified in tech assessments:

Hard to attend; scheduled for times when already busy

Updates and suggestions for faculty:

We try to offer workshops throughout the year, at different times of the day. In addition, we can schedule training sessions for classes; contact your liaison to request.

Discussion:

a) Latek intro/support workshop for students would be useful. (maybe Dave Guertin) (Item for consideration.)
b) Faculty at meeting all felt strongly that first year students should have a mandatory tech and library orientation (Future discussion topic: Determine what should be included in first-year tech and library orientation, then request that tech and library orientation be mandatory.)

D. Topics to discuss in future meetings:

The group decided that we should compile a list of topics raised during the initial meeting, plus topics suggested in Mike Roy’s advisory groups proposal. Here’s the list, please rank your preferences for discussion at future meetings:

1. Research and technology instruction for students:

a. Determine what should be included in first-year tech and library orientation, then request that tech and library orientation be mandatory. Communicate with Katy Abbott and CTLR?
b. What research and technology skills should students possess upon graduation?

2. Classrooms:

a. Determine faculty preferences for classroom configurations:  For example, What options do you want on the touchpad?  Where do you want the screen?  Would you use a portable Smartboard?
b. Find low-cost solutions
c. List 4-5 configurations and invite all faculty to rank their preferences.
d. Make changes.

3. Create guidelines for management of student projects

a. Students are doing a lot of senior projects and Bill Hegman is noticing that it is becoming harder to track the projects.
b. Cataloguing, documenting, tagging/metadata, etc.
c. Store (and share?) files in institutional repository?

4. Software:

a. How can faculty experimenting with new software find others on campus who are using the same software? Opportunities to learn from one another should be explored.
b. Software distribution: How can timing and procedures be improved to suit needs of faculty (summer and school-year) and LIS?
c. Emerging computer support needs (cluster computing, imaging, support for media production)
d. Support for discipline-specific applications (eg, Mathematica, SPSS, Final Cut)
e. After the meeting, Shel suggested this topic: What graphing package do the sciences want LIS to support? There are several in use and budget constraints are likely to force us to choose one.

5. Course management systems (eg, Segue)

6. Trends in scholarly communication and institutional repositories

7. Library collections and budgets

E. When should we meet again?

It was decided that we should meet during the week after spring semester final exams. See you then!

About Carrie Macfarlane

Director of Research & Instruction.

2 Responses to Notes from initial meeting of the Sciences Group

  1. Tom Root says:

    Here are my rankings, (Root)
    1. Research and technology instruction for students
    2. Course management systems (eg, Segue)
    3. Library collections and budgets
    4. Software
    5. Create guidelines for management of student projects
    6. Trends in scholarly communication and institutional repositories
    7. Classrooms

  2. Matthew Landis says:

    Here are my rankings:
    1. Research and tech instruction
    5. Course management systems
    2. Classrooms
    6. Trends in scholarly communication and institutional repositories
    7. Library collections and budgets
    4. Software
    3. Create guidelines for management of student projects

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