Center for Information Technology Services



UMB Campus-wide Information Technology Priorities

October 1, 2004 Update

1) Technology Security

Through the collective work and collaboration of the Schools, Administrative Departments, HS/HSL, CITS, UMMS and UPI, and the contributions from representatives on the IT Security Workgroup, IT security has been strengthened across the enterprise.  A layered, quilt-like approach has been used to address the many areas and components of IT security.  CITS has implemented a campus firewall and other enterprise-wide IT security technologies, as well as procured tools to assist the IT professional in the daily monitoring of systems and the network.  Other security technologies have been implemented at the schools or within the sub-networks of the schools, departments, hospital, and practice plan operation, e.g., firewalls and separate “network zones.”  The cross-organizational communication and work of the IT Security Workgroup has lead to the development of common policies and practices, and the collective enforcement of those policies.  By sharing expertise, knowledge, and resources, mutual benefits and success with information technology security have been achieved within, and across, organizational boundaries. 

The focus for the coming months will be to continue to develop polices and common practices and to prepare for the HIPAA Security Rule, which will be in effect in April 2005.  The following webpage has more information regarding IT security:
http://www.umaryland.edu/cits/security/index.html

2) Administrative Systems

eUMB

The post-implementation tasks, related the HR-Payroll system, are nearly complete.  The latest new feature is the Direct Retro, which takes the place of the old Payroll Transfer process.  The final major task will be the implementation of Encumbrances.  This will occur in late fall of this year.

The Financials/Grants project is rolling into high gear.  Many of the business rules and business processes are defined. A new chart of accounts has been developed and Budget and Finance will soon begin working with schools and departments to map old FAS accounts to the new financial system.  Interfaces between the new system and the State are being developed and testing will begin in October.  The biggest advantage to the new system will be the availability of data we have never had before.  Because of this, a considerable amount of time is being devoted to defining reporting requirements and how to deliver them. Major improvements in the way we manage grants will be another noticeable change.  We will be engaging research administrators and central office personnel in defining these new business practices shortly. The dramatic impact of upgrading from a 1970’s system to a state-of-the-art 21st century application will require a lot of training for everyone.  We are busy planning how to best deliver that training to ensure that the campus can take advantage of the benefits of the new system.  We are planning to “go live” in July of 2005.

SIMS

Recent accomplishments include adding the ability for students to apply for admission via the web for Nursing, Social Work, and Physical Therapy.  The Graduate School will initiate this capability on October 15.  Pharmacy, LAW, and SoM have automated admissions interface programs from national admissions databases into SIMS.  Many additional features have been added to SURFS to allow students to manage personal data and view, accept, and reject financial aid offerings. They may also see what documents or outstanding requirements need to be met to their financial aid file.

Technically, SIMS has been patched for compliance, upgraded to a new version, migrated to more modern database and operating systems, and is moving to an all web interface over the next year.  This will require several more sequential steps.  The Student ID number will be changing from social security number to an assigned number by the early Spring ’05.  Finally, reporting will be dramatically improved by moving to an enterprise Crystal reporting environment, which will allow users to generate reports by clicking on a web link.

COMPCO MySoft Telephone Billing

CITS is engaged in upgrading our telephone billing system.  The new system will allow us to keep an accurate and current inventory of all equipment and services maintained by the Telecommunications Office.  It will also signal the end of the paper bill!  All invoices will be generated electronically and will be accessible through a web browser.

3) Electronic Communications

Along with improved IT security, a new technology for filtering e-mail for SPAM has been deployed.  CITS has begun a phased implementation of the Meridius Anti-SPAM system to assist in identifying SPAM e-mail.  To date, seven schools and departments are having their e-mail filtered through the use of this technology.  The plans are to continue to implement technology for additional UMB schools and departments.  For more details regarding the implementation timeframes, please contact Fred Smith at 6-8337.

4) Off-Campus Access

Secure access to the campus network and school and department information resources is now available via a Virtual Private Network.  A VPN (Virtual Private Network) allows users to securely connect to the campus via the Internet by using encryption technologies.  A VPN can be described as a system used to let users connect securely through the campus firewall which is configured to keep thwart unwanted traffic.  A VPN typically uses the Internet and tunneling protocols to send encrypted data from a remote computer through the “tunnel” to a system or application located on the campus. It is implemented through software called the VPN client on the remote computer and a VPN gateway, or it can be implemented on the firewall device, which is the method used by UMB.  It is important to note that a VPN software client user should also be running an up-to-date anti-virus program and a personal firewall on their client, remote system.

5) Directory Services and Portal

The campus Directory is currently on schedule for a January 2005 implementation.  Novell Corporation eDirectory software is being used to build an identity management database that will be an up-to-date authoritative identity repository for people, organizational units, roles, groups, and other attributes.  The implementation of a Directory Service will solve the authentication and authorization issues of gaining access to multiple applications (initially eUMB HR/payroll, then financials and grants) through the use of one userid and password.

Production hardware for Directory Services has been ordered and should arrive shortly.  We have received data “feeds” from the Human Resources and Student Information Management System databases and have started to consolidate the data into the directory.  Data integrity is critical to an effective Directory Services, Identity Management database and thus, an edit checking system has been developed which checks the accuracy of the data being consolidated in the directory.  Current processes and procedures for creating and maintaining the data are being evaluated to determine if there are opportunities for improving the systems that “feed” data into the directory.  Programs have been written which have loaded data from the HR and SIMS databases to the directory.  Additional programs which will provide real-time dynamic “feeds” into the directory are in the process of being written. 

The campus Portal is also on schedule for a January 2005 implementation.  The production hardware for the Portal has been ordered and will arrive in the next few weeks.  The Portal format and presentation will adhere to the campus standards for color and images which were established by the Office of External Affairs.  A prototype Portal has been developed and fully functioning, with Directory Services providing authentication (sign-on).  The prototype provides single sign-on for gaining access to the development environments for the eUMB HR/Payroll application as well as the Financials and Grants system.  Web links for getting access to other campus web based applications will be added to the prototype Portal in the near future.  A Campus Portal Advisory Committee has been helpful in providing input and advice during the development of the Portal prototype.  The Committee’s full report and list of recommendations for the campus Portal will be prepared and submitted in the very near future.

6) Service Delivery

Assistance & Service Center (ASC)

The ASC Enterprise Training Group continues to provide documentation, training and support for campus users in the following enterprise application areas: Student Information Management System (SIMS) and eUMB.  The group also coordinates “on-demand” desktop office application classes for users who have contacted the HelpDesk with their training needs.

The ASC Enterprise Training Group and Human Resource Services are working together to develop plans for deploying a campus-wide e-Learning Program with SkillSoft Corporation software. Details on this program will be available in the next 30-60 days. 

The ASC HelpDesk continues to be a focal point for faculty, student and staff IT questions and requests.  The staff participated in numerous fall orientations for incoming students.  They also developed and announced at those orientations the new “Computing Information Resources for Students” website.  Each of the schools will be announcing the website to their returning students.  A similar website for faculty and staff will be completed in the next few months.

7) e-Teaching and e-Learning

Blackboard

On August 9, 2004, the campus’ Blackboard instructional technology system was upgraded from version 5 to version 6.  Many new features came with this upgrade as well as an improved technical architecture.  We hope faculty and students will find the new system easier to use with more useful features.  A comparison of the old capabilities to the new ones is in Appendix A.

e-Learning Committee

The e-Learning Committee is active, as evidenced by the recent e-Learning Seminar held on September 14, 2004 in the School of Social Work auditorium.  Over 50 people attended this seminar.  Presentations in the use of the new version 6 of the Blackboard software were made, as well as questions and discussions regarding e-Teaching techniques.  The Committee is evolving and growing and making progress in the efforts to connect with and engage with faculty throughout the University.  The Committee’s good work and persistence is paying-off as the needs and issues raised by faculty are being more widely communicated and understood.

Ideal Classrooms Committee

A campus-wide “Ideal Classroom Committee” is in the process of being formed.  The Committee will hopefully have broad representation and include individuals from the schools as well as central departments, e.g., facilities management, procurement services, and CITS.  Some of the objectives to be pursued by the Committee include: sharing inventories of classroom technologies; minimizing cost through leveraged procurements of classroom technologies; sharing needs; sharing personnel resources; sharing expertise; and, sharing lessons learned. 

8) Wireless

A representative group of School, Department, UPI, UMMS, and CITS networking specialists were formally asked to serve on a Wireless Advisory Committee.  The primary objectives of this advisory committee are to present recommendations regarding: 1) current and evolving industry technologies and standards, and 2) interoperability solutions, i.e., suggested ways in which a user could seamlessly and securely traverse the various wireless LANs within our enterprise; and 3) potential applications and uses of wireless technology.  They are in the process of gathering information regarding current uses of wireless in each school/department/unit as well as plans for wireless technology in the future.  They are also surveying vendors and other institutions to determine the status of the technology in the higher education industry and to document the approaches used in deploying wireless technology.  A report from this working group will be prepared in October 2004.

9) Bio-Park and Research Access to Internet2

CITS, in conjunction with the School of Medicine and Facilities Management, are planning to provide voice and data services to the occupants of the new Bio-Park.
High speed data connectivity back to the campus network as well as access to the public internet and Internet2 will be available.

The recently established Baltimore Education Research Network (BERNET) will be a “touch point” for many university and research companies in Baltimore.  The hub of BERNET is located at 6 St. Paul St. in Baltimore City. 

10) Telephony Contract and Bid Solicitation

CITS, in conjunction with Procurement Services, has discovered a contract with AT&T wireless that provides discount pricing for wireless voice and data offerings (15% off the monthly rate and additional hardware discounts).  For more information regarding using this contract, please contact Joe Evans, Procurement Services (6-8501) or Paul Petroski, CITS (6-8338).

Plans are in the works to solicit vendors in the telephony arena to respond to a bid for new and enhanced voice services.  Using the buying power of the University and UMMS will hopefully provide a vendor the opportunity to offer additional services and features at a better rate to both organizations.  It is expected that the responses to this solicitation will be reviewed in the November/December 2004 timeframe.

11) Disaster Management and Business Continuity Plans

Disaster management and business continuity plans are currently being prepared by the IT leaders in the Schools, HS/HSL and CITS.  These plans are critical for maintaining the operation of computer networks and systems as well as minimizing disruptions when minor or major disasters occur at UMB.  These plans are also critical to fulfilling the HIPAA Security Rule requirements.  Input from academic and business process owners is important and needed for the completion of these plans.  The Schools, HS/HSL and CITS will be finalizing and sharing these plans among the IT groups during the next couple of months.  These plans will also be shared with the university-wide emergency preparedness and continuity of operations planning committees.  

Appendix A

Major changes from Blackboard 5.5 to Blackboard 6

Blackboard 5.5

Blackboard 6

Course navigation

Graphical buttons on left side of screen provide access to main areas of course

Can continue to have graphical buttons, or you can have text links instead

When naming buttons, instructors had to choose from pre-defined list

Can make up your own names for buttons (or for text links)
Recommended maximum length = 18 characters

Course menu frame occupied fixed space on left side of screen

Users can “collapse” course menu frame to make it temporarily disappear (thus gaining more screen real estate for viewing course content)

Course content

When adding course content, basic options were to add item or folder

 

In addition to items and folders, can also add:

• Links to external web sites
• Links to other sections of your course
• Links to tests/surveys
• Assignments (created through new Assignment Manager)
• and more!

No easy way to copy a content item from one area of course to another (had to recreate it)

With the handy new “copy” button (next to each content item and folder you’ve created), you can easily copy an item or an entire folder from one area of your course to another

Difficult to enter math and science symbols and equations

New math and science editor available in all content areas (including Assessments)

Assessments

Quizzes created in Assessments Manager

Quizzes created on new “Test Canvas” which can be accessed from Test Manager OR from any content area

To give students access to an assessment, have to make it “available”--which creates an announcement and a link to the assessment

To give students access to a quiz, must create a “test item” in content area of your choice

Once assessment was made “available”, it could not be changed (without losing grade data)

Can make some changes to assessments while they are “available”

To randomize test questions, had to import them from a pool

Can choose to randomize all questions on a test (without importing from pool)

Students had to answer all questions on the quiz, then click SUBMIT when finished.  If problem occurred before student clicked submit, all answers would be lost

Instructor can choose for student to see one question at a time.  This way, if problem occurs before test is submitted, many test answers are saved

Unless you allowed students to see correct answers as soon as they submitted the quiz, there was no way to show them this info later

You can allow students to see just their final score after they submit a quiz, and then later, make their detailed result (with correct answers) available

Gradebook

Gradebook could not make computations using letter grades

Can set up rubrics to convert numerical grades to letter grades (and vice versa).  Can display grades as raw scores, percentage, letter, or your own creations such as “Pass/Fail” or “Completed”

Limited options for choosing how items in gradebook are displayed

Instructors have more control over ordering and naming of columns in the gradebook

New Assignment Manager

Digital Drop Box was only way (besides email) for students to submit assignments

New Assignment Manager provides many enhancements over Digital Drop Box.  Instructors can create assignments and post them in any content area of the course.  Students click on the assignment to see what they are supposed to do and can attach their completed assignment to submit to instructor.

Note:  Old Digital Drop Box still available (unchanged).

Virtual Classroom

Virtual Classroom provided real-time “chat” (via third party TutorNet java app) along with limited whiteboard and browser capabilities.

 

Blackboard 6 offers enhanced “Collaboration Tools”:
• Lightweight Chat – provides simple text-based chat only (no web browser or whiteboard)
• Virtual Classroom – includes chat plus updated browser and whiteboard features.  For example, on whiteboard, instructors can now display content items from their Blackboard course, PowerPoint presentations, etc.

Note:  Instructors can schedule Virtual Classroom sessions to be available at certain day and time.

All chat sessions were archived automatically.

Instructors control archiving of chat sessions.