By Philip Pecorino
The CUNY Committee on Academic Technology met on Friday, September 21, 2018. The following is based on editing the committee notes of George Otte (University Director of Academic Technology). Faculty questions, comments and blog submissions regarding these topics are welcomed.
Ed Tech Events
Our look ahead to upcoming conferences began with the 17th Annual CUNY IT Conference 11/29-30. The conference chair Lisa Brundage reminded us that the keynote speakers are NPR’s Anya Kamenetz and longtime CAT member Steve Brier; she also noted that the call for proposals garnered 110 proposals for 40 slots. The conference committee members are rating the proposals independently, decisions will be announced to the proposal submitters in early October.
The CUNY Humanities Alliance Conference (“Community College and the Future of the Humanities”), is 10/18-19. Since the CUNY Humanities Alliance is a collaboration between LaGuardia Community College and the CUNY Graduate Center, the conference will be split between not just those days but those campuses.
The 15th Annual Open Education Conference in Niagara Falls, 10/10-12, while other CAT members will be at EAB’s “Connected” Conference in Washington, DC., 10/3-5. (Apparently, we’ll have a lot to talk about at the 10/19 CAT meeting.) And at least one of us (Olena Zhadko) is going to the OLC Accelerate Conference in Orlando, 11/14-16. (OLC stands for the Online Learning Consortium, formerly the Sloan Consortium.)
CUNY Cloud Policy Advisory Group (CCPAG)
Phil Pecorino, a UFS representative on CAT, gave an update on the CUNY Cloud Policy Advisory Group (CCPAG). (See last month’s blog for membership.) There is some question, of the enduring aptness of words like “Cloud” or even “Policy” (as opposed, say, to guidelines). Phil noted the interest was in academic technologies generally, though there is a trend toward reliance on cloud-based applications, including our own CUNYfirst. As we contemplate the possible migration from 9.0 to 9.2, likely to be piloted at a couple campuses we are looking at another and significant migration to the cloud. But the real issue, semantics and forms of access aside, is the provisioning of faculty and students with the rollout of the expanded Microsoft Office365 Suite, including Microsoft OneDrive. That step – particularly via that link – is representative of the new approach: not to focus on restrictions and requirements but to provide access and support. The document that is now the placeholder for this new approach (as opposed to the old draft) is not ready for circulation, but I think its title – “Statement to Support the Use of Current and Emerging Technologies” –notes an obvious change in tenor, from constraining to supportive.
To actualize support it needs three forms: one, to support means to inform, two, to evaluate and document, and three, to solicit input and feedback elements. It’s not unusual for someone (faculty) to request something that is already available – but how would they know? So one step is a catalog of services that Steve Walsh (Interim University Director of IT Service Delivery), who was with us today, is putting together. It’s not enough to know that something is in use; we also need to know what kind of use it is getting. So, for instance, a very preliminary overview of the use the Microsoft Office 365 Suite was distributed to the IT Steering Committee. Finally, we need to hear from the user community about needs unmet. Phil is looking for ways of doing this on an ongoing basis, perhaps a survey and later through a website. This website will only be as good as contributors can make it. Think about that as the group reaches out for ideas. In the meantime, more evidence that things have changed (not least of all in part because of the drafted CUNY Cloud Policy), both the IT Steering Committee and the CCPAG will be have presentations from Google and Dropbox by the time we have our next CAT meeting. We’re likely to have some interesting stuff to report on that.
Steve Powers, (QC), Chair of the CAT Committee on Blackboard, reported that all was quiet on the Blackboard front: there have been no reports of significant slowdowns, or significant downtime. What makes this remarkable is that use is higher than ever before. We have seen, as we always see at the start of the semester, traffic peaking for both Blackboard and CUNYfirst, but now the traffic is a good deal heavier than we have ever seen it. I know we have been hearing about what may seem like incremental upticks for a long time, but to take a look at how the numbers have almost doubled for Blackboard in the space of just a little more than a decade. (Remember that we have had an enterprise license for Blackboard since 2004.) Growth in unique logins (i.e., active users) over time – and also time in another sense: showing what the peak days are at the start of the term each term. Another report shows how many of the course sites that are created (basically the number of courses) are actually made available by the instructors. That’s about 50% for the University overall, however, in the breakdown among colleges, some striking differences by college.
Stephen Francoeur (User Experience Librarian, Baruch) reported an interesting new item in library access: the Gartner database. What makes this especially interesting (whether or not you’re a fan of Gartner) is that this database was one of the few remaining services still available only through the CUNY portal. No longer. It has come under the single sign-on, signaling the true sunset of the CUNY Portal. Stephen said he had not heard much addressing the sunsetting of Aleph with a new Library Services Platform procurement. Greg Gosselin (Interim University Dean for LIS) (away at a meeting with the Minnesota Open Textbook Network (OTN) by phone said the LSP procurement was seeing light at the end of a nightmarish tunnel and the contract negotiation with Ex Libris should be done by Tuesday.
Both November and OER are important to the CUNY Academic Commons (CAC). November (probably the 16th) will see the release of the next version of the Commons, OER-focused but also with an array of widgets for college logos, licensing options, and OneSearch support. In the meantime, OER and teaching sites on the Commons are responsible for dramatic growth. The Commons now has about 12,000 members, and about 1,500 of those are less than a year old. Whole programs (in OER use at Lehman and BCC, and portfolio use at CCNY) are staking out territory on the Commons. This is thrilling, though such growth in also raises challenges of support for a platform that is largely DYI, with mostly volunteer support and a smattering of paid facilitation. In that latter category, Matt Gold (Director, CAC) was happy to announce a new UX (user experience) specialist, Sonya Leix, with particular strengths in design and graphics, and so able to help with much needed design refresh short of the full redesign we do not yet have the budget for. But financial support can sometimes be had from elsewhere: NEH grant funding supported the development of the OpenLab version of Commons In A Box (aka CBOX). At Matt’s invitation, Jody Rosen (English, NYCCT) explained that OpenLab started at City Tech in 2010 with a vision of increasing engagement by allowing students to see into but also across courses, creating sites around clubs, projects, portfolios, and, yes, courses. The first big implementation of the OpenLab CBOX will be at BMCC, under Chris Stein (Media Arts & Technology, BMCC). That will be something to watch for and hear about. In the meantime, the Commons continues to develop, with a new template that is for something more than a profile, more than a site, maybe even more than a portfolio (so that the big question now is what to call it). We look forward to further developments.
Philip Pecorino is Professor of Philosophy at Queensborough Community College and serves on the UFS Executive Committee and is a UFS representative on CAT. Ed Tech News is a UFS Blog series on educational technologies. Colleagues are invited to weigh in.
Please send submissions on this topic to Stasia Pasela, Editor.