Blog from September, 2009

Instructional Technology Services wishes you a successful Fall Semester 2009! Here are a few announcements about some changes made over the summer. As always, ITS is here to meet technology training and equipment needs for your classes and events on campus.
Technology Enhanced Classrooms
As part of on-going capitol projects, 5 TECs had major overhauls this summer with significant improvements to both aesthetics and the technological functionality. When you go upstairs in BC, you will see that four classrooms have been dramatically improved.  BC 201, 202, 203 and 216 have all been redone aesthetically and upgraded to new Tier 3 classrooms.
In addition to new paint, carpeting and student seating, LC 28 is now a Tier 3 classroom that will support HD projection, Surround Sound audio, and has wired power and data in the seating to support student laptop use. 
If you have specific questions about individual rooms, please see http://www.drew.edu/depts/its/tec/grid.php.  The grid gives you an overview of the equipment in each room, and you can click on the room number on the left column for more information.
Introduction of New A/V Systems Specialist
We are pleased to announce that Steve Paddack, formerly of Telecom, joined ITS in July as our new A/V Systems Specialist. His primary duties will be A/V Systems installations, faculty assistance and maintenance in the Technology Enhanced Classrooms, but Steve will also be handling evening MRC setups, and answering both 1ITS and the MRC Event Support Line (973.665.2100) in the evenings during the week (Monday - Thursday). Please join us in welcoming Steve!
Faculty Lab
Moodle
We are happy to introduce our new design for https://moodle.drew.edu/. We hope it will make your experience easier and that you can find everything you need quickly.
As we enter the second full year of Moodle for Drew, we are glad to see that more and more faculty are taking advantage of the system and its features! Please let us know if you need a refresher. Workshops are posted at http://www.drew.edu/depts/its/training/calendar.php, or please let Sarah or Gamin know if you would like an individual appointment. Remember that all courses are unavailable by default, so make sure you make them available to your students. Instructions to do this are located here: https://moodle.drew.edu/mod/resource/view.php?id=26920
Laptop Loaners
The laptop loaner pool has been streamlined, and older machines that were no longer working very well have been removed. This is good news, of course, because it means the computers we will be loaning out are more reliable and will meet your needs. Although the computers are better, we now have fewer, so we need to emphasize that all loaner requests must be made online and in advance. Our student assistants will not be authorized to approve loans, so please be sure to plan ahead and fill out the form at: http://www.drew.edu/depts/its/loaners/loaners.php. Please see that link for further information about new criteria for loans of laptop computers.
Media Resource Center
Because we know that student club and other budgets have been cut, the MRC has updated its fee schedule. Some charges are lower than in the past, and we hope this will help you hold events this academic year. Please take the time to review our pricing categories as you plan your events for the year. The categories and the new price list can be found at http://www.drew.edu/depts/its.aspx?id=17351.
Additions to MRC Equipment
Digital Cameras
Digital cameras (for still pictures) that used to be housed in the FacLab/Staff Lab have been moved to the MRC.
Speaker phones
Speaker phones have been moved from Telecom to the MRC. You may want to arrange a phone meeting on campus with several people in one room. In such cases, it is often useful to rent a teleconference/speaker phone unit specially designed for this purpose. To arrange to rent a speaker phone, contact the Media Resource Center at x3342.
Please check the MRC web site for more new equipment!
theBoard
The MRC will be using a new reservation system this fall. Based on software that is custom-designed and written by our staff, this system will help streamline MRC requests and provide more efficient service to our customers. Each reservation that you make will be given a unique order number, and we ask that you make a point of using that order number when making any changes or have questions about the order. Please stop by to see theBoard in action at the MRC!
Scheduling Films on Drew TV
Just a reminder to schedule films for your classes early to ensure best viewing times. Please contact Jeannie Kosakowski at x3521.
Video Collection
We will continue converting the Drew film collection to DVD and match funds for new films on DVD for your courses. Please contact Jeannie Kosakowski at x3521 for more information.
Should you have any questions about items listed in this email, or anything relating to Instructional Technology Services, please write me at gbartle@drew.edu or call me at x3160.

Thanks for reading, and have a great semester! 
Gamin Bartle
Director
Instructional Technology Services
973 408-3160
gbartle@drew.edu

Welcome to U-KNOW!

U-KNOW is Drew University's new Knowledge Platform, based on the Atlassian Confluence Software . Confluence is a great tool in use by dozens of other colleges and universities including:

  • British Library
  • Brown University
  • Cardiff University
  • Cornell University
  • Duke University
  • Harvard Business School
  • Johns Hopkins University
  • Macquarie University
  • MIT
  • New York University
  • Queensland University of Technology
  • Stanford University
  • Stockholm University
  • University of Bath
  • University of California
  • University of Hawaii
  • University of Melbourne
  • University of Oslo
  • University of Southern California
  • Yale University

What these other institutions have realized is that we can leverage the power of social networking, distributed knowledge, and community collaboration to provide previously unavailable clarity and understanding into what we do and how we do it. By using some of the features that come with Confluence we can make U-KNOW into a powerful tool that can benefit the entire Drew Community.

U-KNOW As Knowledge Repository

With its very easy to learn and use interface, U-KNOW provides a really low barrier to entry so that all members of the University Community can participate fully in the knowledge sharing. The simple Rich Text Editor provides all of the tools needed to get up and running with U-KNOW right away and the fine grained access control/uLogin integration means that any sensitive information can be protected against unauthorized editing or viewing. Some other great features of the U-KNOW Platform include:

  • Easy reorganization of content within U-KNOW
    U-KNOW allows your space and content to just grow organically. You don't have to delay putting content into the system because you're not sure where it belongs. You can quickly reorganize the information later when patterns of information naturally emerge
  • Integration with Microsoft Office Products.
    U-KNOW allows you to attach any files to a page, and with documents like Word, Excel or PowerPoint, you can even display the content of the document right in-line with the page.
  • Space/Page Watching
    U-KNOW provides tools to allow you to "watch" a space or a page to see when ever new content is added or edited. This can help you keep up to date on any changes going on in the policies and procedures within a department.

U-KNOW As Collaboration Tool

Currently the editing of a communal document involves either emailing around a copy of the document or working with that document within a shared network drive. Both of these systems have issues and limitations, and frequently, it can be hard to know which version is the latest copy. By authoring the entire document within the U-KNOW system, departments and committees can take advantage of several features of U-KNOW such as:

  • Concurrent Editing
    Even with multiple authors working on the same page at the same time, U-KNOW can seamlessly merge the revisions together as long as the changes don't overlap and conflict with each other. Even when they do, U-KNOW will provide a quick interface for users to decide which changes should be preserved.
  • Revision tracking
    As an enterprise wiki tool, U-KNOW keeps a complete history of all changes to a page and allows you to revert to previous versions.
  • Page Commenting
    Got an idea for a document, but don't want to edit the page yet? Add a comment to the page. Everyone who can access the page can see your comments and you can engage in a discussion about the topic.

So how do I get Started with U-KNOW?

  1. Either attend one of the Training Workshops scheduled for U-KNOW here
  2. Explore the documentation on U-KNOW in the technology guides
  3. Contact the Staff Lab for one-on-one training/consultation at x3043.

During the summer, University Technology changed. Working quietly behind the scenes, we have reorganized the departments of Administrative Computing, the Staff Lab, and the Enterprise Applications arm of Computing and Network Services into a new unified department. Today, we are pleased to introduce you to this new endeavor, the Enterprise Technology Center.

The new University Technology, now consisting of Computing and Network Services (CNS), Instructional Technology Services (ITS), and the Enterprise Technology Center (ETC) has been redesigned to address the most pressing technology challenges we face today and also to prepare for Drew's technology future, in particular the forthcoming migration of Drew's administrative system, AIMS and CampusWeb, into a new integrated Enterprise Resource Planning system. The Administrative Technology Committee which is spearheading this migration project has been making steady progress on the selection process for Drew's new system and you will be hearing more from them in the coming weeks and months.

The new Enterprise Technology Center (ETC) works in concert with CNS and ITS and maintains University applications and databases by providing consulting and training services and custom software development when needed. This, of course, includes AIMS and CampusWeb, but also includes a variety of specialized applications used by University offices. ETC works with ITS in supporting academic systems such as Moodle, Drew's learning management system. ETC provides the behind the scenes maintenance and software development for these systems in support of the instructional services provided by ITS.

ETC brings together the staff you already know and have been working with for years on enterprise technology projects and puts them under one roof. With a customer-centric philosophy focused on empowering the user, being transparent in our methods and practices, and using agile tools and techniques, ETC is ready and able to help you with your technology needs.

ETC Consulting Services is your point of contact for ETC and is based in the Staff Lab in Brothers College. Staff may engage ETC Consulting Services for AIMS and other administrative software support, to provide standard or customized training, and for help on larger staff technology projects. If your project requires new software development or changes in AIMS or another University system, the consulting team will help you start the process. Once resources for your custom development project have been approved, ETC will work with you through every step of the process to ensure that the finished product meets your needs. Whether you need to create a query in AIMS, need to design an Access database or create a PowerPoint presentation, or need to incorporate a new business process or rule into the University's systems, ETC Consulting Services' mission is to empower you to take advantage of the technology Drew has to offer.

In addition to launching ETC today, we are excited to announce a new technology service: U-KNOW: The University Knowledge Platform. U-KNOW is a new collaboration tool that will help you create, organize, and share information. U-KNOW is part of our commitment to give departments easy to use tools to build a base of institutional knowledge – whether it be policies and procedures, project documentation, meeting notes, or any other knowledge tidbit. U-KNOW makes it easy for you to take these vital scraps of knowledge that exist today only in people's heads or email boxes and put it into a form that can be sustained and grown. U-KNOW is a significant new collaboration technology available at Drew and we believe it has the power to significantly enhance internal communication and knowledge management practices in offices as it is adopted. We encourage you to take a few minutes to learn more about the benefits of U-KNOW and look at our U-KNOW Guide. Training workshops on U-KNOW have been scheduled for September and will continue to be offered on a regular basis. When you are ready, you can also contact the Staff Lab to help you get started using U-KNOW in your office.

We are very excited about this change and hope that you will be too as you experience its benefits. The full realization of the ETC philosophy and methods will occur in phases over the coming year and we encourage you to give us feedback along the way! If at any time you have a question, comment, or suggestion please don't hesitate to contact us.

Thank you.

  • Marsha Huber, Database Manager and Director of the Enterprise Technology Center
  • Axel Larsson, Systems Architect and Director of the Enterprise Technology Center
  • Gamin Bartle, Director of Instructional Technology Services
  • Mike Richichi, Director of Computing and Network Services
  • Alan Candiotti, Assistant Vice President for University Technology

the Enterprise Technology Center
www.drew.edu/depts/etc.aspx

Introducing MI6

This past summer, Computing and Network Services in conjunction with the new Enterprise Technology Center and CLA Computer Science major Stephan Wozniak started the process of replacing the system we use to track trouble tickets and service requests at the CNS Helpdesk and other areas of University Technology with a new system we call MI6.

The MI6 system is currently in use at the CNS Helpdesk and we are in the process of expanding its use throughout University Technology to track projects and other service requests.

MI6 has already had a positive impact on the CNS Helpdesk and we are confident that the system's simplified workflows, tailored specially to Drew's needs, will help to reduce errors and improve customer service throughout University Technology. You can learn more about the MI6 system and its public face, the new Technology Support Portal, in our online guide.

A successful student partnership

The MI6 project continues a long tradition in University Technology of engaging Drew students in the development of important IT projects – both to the benefit of the University and to the students in providing the opportunity to learn through experience with real enterprise technology. CLA senior Computer Science major and Student Systems Administrator Stephan Wozniak is the lead developer for the MI6 system. In addition to developing the Technology Support Portal self-service site for MI6 and the Helpdesk's paperless signature system, Steve coordinated business process evaluation and design activities at the Helpdesk, ran development meetings, and trained employees on the new system.

Why MI6?

We have been using a commercial Helpdesk package called Supportworks since 2003. Supportworks was a capable product and has served us well, but since the beginning there were certain problems. Using the Supportworks system it was too easy for a mistake to be made and for a ticket to "fall through the cracks" because it was put somewhere in the system where it wouldn't be noticed. Because the workflow - the sequence of steps that an issue moves through from getting opened to being resolved - in Supportworks was fixed and generic, the system did not allow us to track specifically where something was at the Helpdesk. The system was too "open-ended". Most commonly, the issues with Supportworks deficiencies manifested themselves in the repair process for student laptops dropped off at the Helpdesk.

Supportworks, like most Helpdesk packages, is designed around a typical corporate Helpdesk. A typical corporate IT support department will employ a small number of full-time technicians who are assigned specific cases to work on through inception to completion. Systems like Supportworks are designed to work well with this model. Each technician can see the issues that the Helpdesk manager has assigned to them and post updates as they work on the ticket. Tickets can be assigned to other technicians as needed and the question of "where is this ticket in the Helpdesk?" is a simple matter of knowing which full-time technician it is assigned to.

The CNS Helpdesk doesn't work that way. Being primarily student staffed and with the students working relatively short desk shifts (at most a few hours at a time), a single individual cannot "own" a ticket from the time a computer is dropped off at the Helpdesk to the time it is returned to the customer. During the lifetime of a ticket, it may be worked on in stages by a half dozen student employees. "Where is this ticket in the Helpdesk?" is not a question that can be simply answered based upon who currently "owns" it; rather, we need to know what step it is in the workflow. Is it waiting for additional software diagnostics? Hardware repair? Are we waiting for parts? Is it waiting for re-imaging? Are we waiting for something from the customer? Where the ticket is in the workflow will determine where the computer is physically in the Helpdesk, what the next step is, and where, when, and what priority it will be worked on.

In an environment like the CNS Helpdesk where an issue can change hands several times, and there is a large volume of issues, it is also critical that the software help the employees to avoid making mistakes. For instance, the workflow system should alert or prevent an employee from sending a customer computer to be reimaged if the customer has not consented to the reimaging.

Finally, the system needs to be adapted to handle the typical workload we see at Drew. At the CNS Helpdesk certain services, like re-imaging student computers, dominate the workload. Give the volume of re-imaging requests we see, we need a system that allows us to design a custom workflow just for this task and other common tasks, turning the process into an efficient "assembly line" style operation.

The critical realization that led us to the design of MI6 is that the Drew CNS Helpdesk is very much unlike a traditional corporate Helpdesk. Especially with regard to the student computing program, it is more akin to a retail operation. Upon understanding this, we were able to expand the scope of what we were looking for beyond the traditional realm of Helpdesk tools.

MI6 is not typical Helpdesk software

The MI6 system is not built on top of a traditional commercial Helpdesk package. In building MI6 we started with the very-powerful and cost effective JIRA issue tracker from Atlassian. JIRA is a project management tool and bug tracker designed for software development teams. Unlike many bug trackers (and Helpdesk packages for that matter) JIRA is extremely flexible, allowing us to customize - without programming - the issue types, fields, and even the workflows in the system. Using this capability, we were able to turn JIRA from a system designed to track bugs and enhancement requests for a software company into a system for tracking student computer repairs and house calls for the CNS Helpdesk.

Simply adopting JIRA isn't the end of the story though. Because JIRA was designed as a project management tool, it did lack certain features common to most Helpdesk systems, such as a robust customer self-service site. In order to address this need, Steve designed a custom web application – the Technology Support Portal – which provides self-service for JIRA as well as other internal support tools. Steve was also able to make the Helpdesk repair operation almost completely paperless. Combining low-cost consumer touch screen monitors with a custom web application within the Technology Support Portal, customers can now sign their computer intake and pickup receipts electronically.

We believe that the MI6 system represents an ideal combination of commercial software and home-grown tools. By leveraging the power of JIRA, we were able to minimize the complexity of the custom code we did have to develop for the self-service site. Since all of the workflows, fields, issue types, and other details are stored as configuration in JIRA rather than in code, we have a system that's easy to customize as our business needs change in the future.

By combing a powerful commercial product with "light weight" integration techniques and custom code, we were able to develop and deploy the MI6 system rapidly, over the course of a single summer. We were able to spend most of the time focusing on the business processes in the Helpdesk, rather than the programming. At weekly meetings, Steve led the team through the process of evaluating and designing the Helpdesk workflows. We were able to consider carefully the types of issues that come into the Helpdesk and think about the optimal progression of these issues through the Helpdesk and the other areas of User Services in CNS. The end result is a system which is a custom-fit for Drew's computing program, but with a minimum maintenance burden of custom software, and which can be easily altered in the future.

Moving forward

The CNS Helpdesk is the first area of University Technology using the MI6 system, but it is far from the last. We have just started designing the workflows for ITS and the new ETC department and hope to have all of University Technology migrated off of Supportworks by the end of the Fall semester.

Once University Technology is fully implemented on the system, the next step may be to take MI6 "on the road" to other areas of the University that have a need to track customer service requests and projects.

Please stay turned for more updates about the MI6 project in the future and let us know what we can do to make the system work for you.