Faculty IT Updates October, 2011
Recently, a number of questions and concerns have been raised regarding both access to software commonly used by faculty and about major software updates that might affect faculty. In addition, there has been concern from faculty members about not knowing whether to go to IRT, ATCS, or local resources for IT support. In order to provide a timely response to those concerns, answers to the most frequently asked questions we’ve heard are provided below. Access the complete document in PDF form.
Q. What web development software is available for faculty use?
A. The following three software items for web development are available from IRT for faculty use at no cost:
SacCT: Our campus learning management system (LMS) provides the ability to create basic web pages optimized for organizing your course materials and course organization. These web pages in SacCT have the advantage and limitation of only being available to students enrolled in your specific classes. SacCT may also be used for other types of academic and administrative web functions (e.g. organizations, projects), with access limited to the groups you select. IRT provides SacCT to all faculty and staff for any academic purpose at no cost.
Web Content Management (WCM): for beginning to intermediate web development for university purposes, IRT provides a site license for Hannon Hill web content management software, also available to all faculty at no cost. Training in the use of the WCM is offered to faculty by IRT, in cooperation with ATCS training services. This web content management system has the advantage of providing templates for web development that ensure that web sites are both accessible and secure. The software also has very flexible user controls that allow for sites to be easily administered by even novice web developers. IRT is working with faculty members to develop templates for use in development of faculty-specific websites.
Dreamweaver: Advanced web developers who prefer use of a complete HTML web development tool can use Adobe’s Dreamweaver. IRT provides concurrent licenses for Dreamweaver to any faculty member who needs its advanced capabilities for university work, at no charge. ATCS offers workshops for faculty on the use of Dreamweaver. Faculty members are encouraged to explore the use of the aforementioned and easier-to-use LMS and WCM tools, prior to trying Dreamweaver. Dreamweaver can be installed by IRT staff upon request, or faculty members can bring their university owned laptops to the Faculty Staff Resource Center in AIRC 3012 by appointment during their operating hours of M – Th, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m and F, 10 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (278-6112).
Q. What PDF and forms development software is available for faculty use?
A. Adobe Acrobat is the preferred method for creating both accessible documents and complex online documents. For simple conversion of documents to the PDF format, newer Microsoft Office software provides conversion at no cost. In addition, other low-cost or no-cost tools for PDF conversion, such as Cute PDF Writer and PrimoPDF, can be provided by IRT’s Software Services. These PDF products are included at no charge in the standard computer ‘image’ available for any university owned computer, upon request from IRT.
Adobe Acrobat: Many faculty members have used Adobe Acrobat for instruction, to create complex PDF documents, or to develop fillable web forms. IRT provides concurrent licensing for Adobe Acrobat at no cost for any faculty member who needs it for development of academic materials. Acrobat Pro can be installed by IRT staff upon request or faculty members can bring their university owned laptops in to the Faculty Staff Resource Center during their operating hours, M – Th, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m and F, 10 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (AIRC 3012, 278-6112).
Q. What other Adobe products are available for faculty use?
A. The complete Adobe Creative Suite (Photoshop, Illustrator, etc.) is made available to all students and faculty in all campus computer labs. Faculty members may also access the complete Adobe Suite at the Faculty/Staff Resource Center in AIRC; your students can access and receive training on the use of Adobe products for assignments at IRT’s Student Technology Center in AIRC 3008 (278-2364). All Adobe licensing for campus use in the above facilities is provided by IRT. Licensing of other Adobe products for university-owned devices is done on an ad hoc basis by individual program centers, as no affordable campus-wide licensing agreement is currently available. IRT has been working with other CSU campuses over the last two years to try to develop a campus-wide agreement, but Adobe has not offered programs that are affordable for the university. IRT does provide access to preferential pricing for most Adobe products through the CSU Software Select program, which is utilized by many campus departments through IRT’s Software Services unit. University pricing is currently not available for either non-university devices or personal use, but faculty members may purchase Adobe software at the Sac State Bookstore.
Q. What happened to the Flashlight survey software and what other survey software is available for faculty use?
A. Academic Technology & Creative Services previously provided the Flashlight survey software tool to faculty through an agreement with a partner university. However, last year, that university announced that it was no longer providing or supporting Flashlight. IRT then collaborated with ATCS in identifying alternate survey software for faculty use. IRT purchasing the following software that is available to all faculty at no cost:
Select Survey: This basic Select Survey web tool allows for development of basic survey research instruments. This is the same software IRT has used to conduct its own campus surveys related to IT use. IRT provides access to this software to all faculty members at no cost and also provides basic support. However, this tool has only very basic survey capabilities without the flexibility, depth, or analysis needed by most faculty members. Concerted training in use of this tool is not available.
Class Climate: This Scantron product was purchased primarily to support faculty and class evaluations, due to the fact that it has the same look and feel of legacy Scantron paper processes. However, Class Climate also has significant survey research potential. The product was selected by ATCS based on consultation with the Faculty Senate, following the extensive discussion regarding use of electronic evaluations. A site license for Class Climate was purchased by IRT and is available at no charge for campus use by any faculty member. ATCS provides support for Class Climate, with primary emphasis on its use for faculty and class evaluations.
Snap Survey: During the search for electronic evaluation software, IRT and ATCS also reviewed Snap Survey. Although not optimized for electronic evaluations, this product proved to be a robust and affordable tool for campus survey research. IRT thus acquired a site license to Snap Survey over the summer and we are in the process of setting up the software and working with ATCS and faculty to develop training and support.
Q. Do we have access to Microsoft software?
A. All Sacramento State faculty members have access to nearly the entire suite of Microsoft desktop products through a Campus License Agreement purchased by the CSU System and administered on campus by IRT. This includes Office 2010 for PCs and Office 2011 for Macs. Licensing is available for all applicable university-owned devices. Copies of Microsoft software are also available for personal use on non-university computers at heavily discounted prices through the Sac State Bookstore. IRT also provides free access to Sharepoint, Communicator, Lync, SQL, Windows Server, and several other Microsoft server products for use on campus-wide or department-owned servers . A small number of individual Microsoft software items are not available under the Campus License and must be purchased separately (e.g. Visio); however, IRT Software Services still provides access to heavily discounted educational versions of this Microsoft software for any university owned device. Most Microsoft products used on campus are listed on the IRT software portfolio site at www.software.csus.edu.
Q. Why did we recently upgrade to Exchange 2010? Did we test the upgrade for potential problems and announce the upgrade to the campus?
A. The Exchange 2007 email and calendaring system previously used by all faculty, students and staff had not been upgraded for several years and was causing numerous incompatibilities with modern computer devices, operating systems and browsers. The new 2010 version has a number of significant user advantages, including: 1) full compatibility with open, non-proprietary web standards for use of Outlook Web Access; 2) comprehensive and well-tested compatibility with a wide range of web browsers and computer devices (e.g. Safari, Firefox, Blackberry, iPhone, Android); 3) comprehensive consistency between the features of Outlook Web Access and the Exchange/Outlook native client used on most campus desktop computers; and 4) auto-detection and correction of many Outlook and OWA compatibility issues. In addition, use of Exchange 2010 will allow us to outsource student email services, saving the campus approximately $100,000 annually.
The upgrade was first thoroughly researched both with Microsoft and with campuses that have already completed a similar upgrade. Then IRT tested the software on testing/development systems and then spent several weeks doing comprehensive testing of the upgrade both throughout the entire IRT division and in volunteer campus departments. The newer software was tested on a wide variety of new and existing operating systems and devices (e.g. Mac, PC, smartphone). Several small problems were found and corrected, but no serious or unresolvable problems were encountered during testing.
The plans to upgrade to Exchange 2010 were announced to the campus on twenty-one occasions between April, 2011 and October 2011, starting with an open forum report to the Faculty Senate last April. In-person announcements were also made to AITC, department chairs, the Business Partners’ Roundtable, and college ITCs since that time. At least four announcements were posted in the campus Monday Bulletin and a broadcast email message regarding the impending upgrade was sent to all faculty members on September 30th.
Q. How did the Exchange 2010 upgrade go? Any problems?
A. Approximately 47,000 campus Exchange mailboxes have been upgraded to date; the Service Desk received trouble reports from seventy-one (71) users during that time period, for an error report rate of 0.15%. About twenty-five (25) of those reports came to the Service Desk from faculty. One half of those reported problems were resolved over the phone and the other half required intervention by either IRT or college desktop staff. The most common reported problems for faculty members were login timeouts and other incompatibilities with older Macintosh computers and older browsers used on Macs. Most such problems were corrected by upgrading the web browser or switching to a web browser that works with current open web standards, rather than with proprietary web standards from either Apple of Microsoft. The second most common problem was a small misconfiguration of computers and software that was easily corrected.
Q. Are we required to upgrade to Office 2010 and Windows 7?
A. No one is now required to upgrade to Office 2010 or Windows 7. However, anyone who purchases a new computer will likely receive those latest products as part of the purchase. Since the campus replaces about a quarter of its computers yearly, we are thus likely to have more than half of campus computers using Office 2010 and Windows 7 by the end of the coming year. We do recommend that users seriously consider using these latest products, as they are both easier to use and solve many long-standing problems that plagued earlier software. We expect that those who choose to upgrade will experience fewer problems than those who do not. In particular, Office 2010 and Windows 7, like Exchange 2010, are far more compatible with modern web services and mobile devices. Remember that we’ve been using Windows XP and a version of Office that are both more than four years old. A new version of Office has many enhanced features, but retains the basic interface we’re familiar with. Office 2011 is also available for campus owned Macintosh computers. Most student computer labs and classrooms were updated to use of Office 2010 and Windows 7 over the summer. However, prior to that IRT communicated directly with faculty teaching in those labs and classrooms to ensure that both faculty and students had continued access to older versions of the software needed for instruction.
Q. I’d like to load university software on my home computer and laptop I purchased for university related work. Is that OK?
A. Installation and use of university-purchased software on personal computers is prohibited by licensing agreements for most software, with exceptions including EndNote, Statgraphics and Mathematica. Individual licenses need to be purchased for use of other software on personally owned devices. The Bookstore offers work-at-home media for the popular Microsoft Office for just $15 and has a full range of other products at discounted rates. The university’s license for our McAfee anti-virus software does currently include work-at-home coverage for faculty and staff only; we are moving to a version of Microsoft anti-virus software in December that will be available to students too – for free. Look for the announcements on the transition to this free software soon.
Q. Why was the CMS Faculty Center upgrade done in the middle of the fall semester?
A. Unfortunately, we had little choice in the matter. The upgrade of the Student/HR PeopleSoft system was mandated for all CSU campuses this year. We did have a choice of several scheduling options and did pick the time period when there would be the least impact on faculty and students. In addition, the current PeopleSoft product on which CMS is based uses older technology that requires that the system be ‘brought down’ for upgrade. The good news is that one purpose of this upgrade is to allow for future upgrades to be made without inconvenient downtime.
Q. Are there any other software upgrades planned this year?
A. Yes. ATCS and IRT are working together with faculty members to begin a needed transition from WebCT to Bb 9.1 as our Learning Management System; all faculty members were recently sent comprehensive information on this transition. In addition, we are transitioning from our high cost McAfee anti-virus software to much lower cost Microsoft Forefront software. In the process, we are making free Microsoft antivirus protection available for personal use by all faculty, staff, and students.