Academic Computing Committee
Annual Report, 2004-05

The Academic Computing Committee has held meetings four times during the 2004-2005 academic session so far. In addition the committee hosted two public forums for the committee’s departmental liaisons and other interested parties.  Several committee members have also served as members of the chief information officer search committee, on the working group on digital document/asset management and on the university’s classroom equipment task force.

The committee began the year with a review of the status of academic computing resources on campus.  Furman’s resource benchmarks are comparable to our peer institutions.  Network reliability is improving, classrooms are increasingly likely to be technologically mediated, and some important measures have been taken to reduce spam and maintain the integrity of the student residential network.  All of these areas still need improvement. Security issues are especially significant.  [Note: As of May 2005, the institution has hired a full time computing security specialist.]  User Services are “small and not deep,” but the use of new call tracking and management software, improved staff training, and modest increases in resources have produced faster response times and fewer lost calls.  They hope to become less reactive and more anticipatory of user problems.  

The issue of computer purchasing policies and equipment allocations came up in several meetings.  The equipment request and purchasing decisions are being revamped and new procedures should be in place by the beginning of the next fiscal year. Purchasing funds are being shifted from one major budgeting authority to another and until that process is complete the actual purchasing procedures are also in transition.  Equipment refresh cycles that are too long have put the institution at risk of digital security breaches.  Some users are under-equipped and others are over-equipped.  Maintenance and replacement of equipment purchased by grants is also an issue.  New inventory control procedures should greatly improve all of these issues.  For those users whose needs are beyond the standard desktop configuration there will be a formal request proposal procedure established.  

The committee gave extensive discussion this year to the issue of increased use of presentation technologies and digital documents on campus and the impact this will have on the campus’s computing infrastructure.  The committee agreed to set up a working group comprised of one committee member from each academic division plus the library representative and the CIO to explore a proposal for the creation of a central digital document/clip database.  After preliminary research into software solutions as well as  organizational models at other institutions, the working group hosted a session for faculty liaisons and other interested parties.  The faculty present expressed strong and enthusiastic support for a digital center that would assist with the digitization, storage, cataloging, and delivery of images, clips, and other useful files for academic activities.  Delegates from the committee will continue to work on this project during the summer.

The committee devoted one full session to the question of the relationship between technology and teaching/learning on campus.  At this meeting Dean Kazee also presented information on the new Center for Teaching, Engagement, and Learning.  This center will have four instructional designers (one for each academic division.)  Each instructional designer will have a Ph.D. in a relevant area and will work with faculty on technology-related projects.  It is likely that these individuals will be hired during the 2005-06 academic year.  The committee also explored the possibility of a joint session with the Faculty Development Committee to continue our discussions of teaching and learning on campus but scheduling conflicts prevented this session.  We would encourage next year’s committees to consider future joint sessions, perhaps in conjunction with the CTEL director.

Among the issues remaining on the table from previous committees or on the horizon for future committees include the question of a laptop requirement for students, growing support for the adoption of open source software where possible, questions of ownership of digital materials produced by Furman faculty and staff, other digital rights, copyright and fair use issues, and the evolving problem of training and support for faculty.

The committee would like to thank the faculty departmental liaisons, Susan Dunnavant, Cort Haldaman, Wade Shepherd, and Jean Childress of C&IS, and Maggie Strickland in Academic Affairs, for their assistance and guidance this year.

Respectfully Submitted,

The Academic Computing Committee:
Bryan Bibb, Mike Bressler, Tim Hanks, Dan Koppelman, Nick Schisler, Tom Kazee (ex officio), David Steinour (ex officio), Jane Love, Scott Salzman, Greg Rumsey (resource persons), Lloyd Benson (chair).

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