By Philip Pecorino
The CUNY Committee on Academic Technology (CAT) is pursuing topics and projects I believe of great interest to faculty. I am providing a report from the May 18, 2018 meeting I attended and based on the notes of George Otte (University Director of Academic Technology). Faculty questions, comments and blog submissions regarding these topics are welcomed.
Ed Tech Events
We looked back at recent conferences – Bronx EdTech (4/27) which has video coverage on Bronxnet.org and the CUNY CUE Conference (5/11) – and ahead to the CUNY IT Conference (11/29/18 – 11/30/18). Lisa Brundage reported that the call for proposals for the CUNY IT Conference will circulate shortly. The theme: “Risks and Rewards” (an apt title for much of our discussion today).
Verification of Student Identity
The CAT statement of verification of student identity in online courses (required as part of Middles States’ Verification of Compliance with Accreditation-Relevant Federal Regulations) is now part of the material being given to campuses preparing for Middle States review.
The CUNY OER Initiative’s request for proposals (RFP) came on May 15th, with a proposal deadline of June 15th., noting that it is the corrected version sent out today. (The May 15th original misidentified the scope of work as running through Fall 2020, not Fall 2019.) Since the new period of funding gives more of an opening to faculty-created open educational resources, it was asked if there could be more funding to ensure accessibility, “homegrown” OERs may need some support. Wendy Lader, who is on a CUNY-wide committee supporting accessibility (though not one directly connected with the OER initiative), said she would raise the matter with that group.
Proposed CUNY Cloud Use Policy
There was discussion of the draft of the proposed CUNY Cloud Policy. Now in a second draft, circulated only to an advisory group while working to address the objections raised to the first draft. This second draft does focus, explicitly, on enabling pursuit of the University’s mission and not just restricting use of and access to cloud services. Prof. Phil Pecorino, co-chair of the advisory group (with Brian Cohen, University CIO), led off the discussion by saying he was “cautiously optimistic” after the advisory group’s first meeting. One reason to be optimistic is that the advisory group, totaling only 13 members, has 5 members of CAT – Chris Stein, Greet Van Belle, Matt Gold, Phil Pecorino and George Otte.
The discussion has moved beyond the idea that managing risk can be done by restricting or regulating access to technology services and platforms. Now under discussion is that, in addition to a data security policy for sensitive and non-public data, there should be guidelines and support for the management of data generally in teaching, research, and all other aspects of the University’s mission. There is also a greater awareness that the University is not a universe unto itself; its members need to connect and collaborate with the members of other institutions, especially in core activities like teaching and scholarship, and these entail different kinds of use and of responsibility. There are already rules and procedures in place for much of this, for example, the Institutional Review Board and Human Research Protection Program (IRB/HRPP). The vision of a single solution, one that manages risk by managing access, needs to be supplanted with a vision of disaggregated provisioning, education, and support for varied use and users within the University community. Users will still need choices beyond what the University sanctions or provides. Prof. Pecorino (I) hope we can have a draft worthy of sharing before December, 2018.
Since the first draft and the vetting process of a new version raised issues of governance around how technology use is supported and managed in the University, particularly at a time of turnover at the top. Here, too, there is no single solution; the goal has to be about managing collaboration among users and units, and that will always be an evolving process, just as the uses and technologies keep evolving and changing. (More than once, we referred to the GDPR [General Data Protection Regulation] put in place by the European Union this month and forcing a scramble to accommodate its provisions on both sides of the Atlantic.) This matter of securing both adequate access and appropriate data security/privacy will no doubt be a major focus of discussion next year.
Steve Powers on behalf of BbCAT noted that work is going forward to streamline the requesting-and-testing process for Blackboard plug-ins. We are also learning more (though not all that much) about the move from Blackboard Learn to Blackboard Ultra, which is also a move to more streamlined and less full-palette formats to address mobile access and ADA accessibility.
Stephen Francoeur, on behalf of the Office of Library Services, noted continuing work on the integration of CUNY LibGuides with Blackboard is proceeding, and that May 4th LACUNY held its spring event: “The Labor of Open: the Impact of OER and Scholarly Communications Initiatives on CUNY Libraries.”
Greg Gosselin, was meeting with the OER campus coordinators, sent news to CAT that the RFP process for a new cataloguing system to replace the sunsetting Aleph chose a vendor. The next steps require Procurement and Legal to conduct reviews.
CUNY Academic Commons
The CUNY Academic Commons unleashed its latest version, its premium feature the new onboarding process, which has made a single streamlined process of several separate ones. This is especially important as the Commons has become more integrated in the life of the University, now a collaborative hub for diverse research projects, administrative efforts like CUNY’s Office of Institutional & Policy Research Wiki blog, and an explosion of collaborative teaching projects and OER work. The next step is building a better site launch process, one that can, capture useful metadata about the purposes of sites being launched. That so much has been accomplished without much needed site redesign is worth noting especially as we moves closer to getting funding, since the user experience research is long done.
Another focus of needed funding may be emerging. Our open Institutional Repository (IR), Academic Works, rests on a platform bought by Elsevier, notorious for monetizing access to academic research. The developers of Academic Works had long planned to move from a hosted to a home-built IR; the issue is that open source software, not a cost in itself, requires people to do the set-up. There was also a plan to link the IR to the Commons (a plan supported by a Sloan planning grant), but the next steps need funding.
Ed Tech News is a UFS Blog series on educational technologies of interest to CUNY faculty. Colleagues are invited to weigh in.
Philip Pecorino is Professor of Philosophy at Queensborough Community College and serves on the UFS Executive Committee.
Please send submissions on this topic to Stasia Pasela, Assistant to the Chair, University Faculty Senate.