Academic Computing Committee
Annual Report, 2007-2008
The academic computing committee met three times this year (once each academic term).
The committee had several discussions regarding the recent transition to McAfee Antivirus software and the switch from Blackboard to Moodle. Although the committee agreed that the transition to McAfee was relatively smooth, some concern was expressed about the timing and abruptness of the change. Committee members were concerned that less-experienced computer-users could have found the change somewhat daunting since they were expected to remove and install their own software upon returning to campus from their summer break. Another concern with the switch to Moodle was the poor advertising of the workshops. To these ends, the committee has requested that C&IS provide much better notice of any and all upcoming changes with suitable lead time for faculty. Simply posting notices on the C&IS website or the “Tech Talk” discussion site was deemed as inadequate for most faculty members. It was also determined that ACC could serve as a useful advisor to C&IS in these matters. More specifically, when developing a transition plan, C&IS should consult ACC as to the best means for making faculty aware of impending changes. ACC is also currently developing a survey instrument to poll faculty members on their Moodle experiences. This survey will allow faculty to voice suggestions for improvement and modification of the existing Moodle features.
The committee was also actively involved in the proposal by C&IS to adopt a university web portal and to change the university e-mail system from FirstClass to Microsoft Outlook and Exchange Server. After holding extensive discussions on the issue last year, the committee developed a series of recommendations concerning the change (See the "Interim Report on the C&IS Portal and Email Proposal", posted to faculty notices on 11/13/2006). C&IS has provided ACC with assurances that these recommendations are now under serious consideration. Consequently, the committee is still supportive of the portal concept and the switch from FirstClass to Exchange
Faculty should be aware that implementation of the new email system can not move forward until C&IS receives approval for funding. Due to the budgetary uncertainty created by the current economic climate, funding is still pending approval (and may be for some time). C&IS informs ACC that, once funded, the project will be implemented over about a year's time. Although C&IS cannot provide information on the exact timing of the switch in the future, Susan Dunnavant guarantees us that “no one in the user community [will be] caught by surprise, and [C&IS] will stay in touch with ACC and other primary stakeholder representatives as any information [becomes] known.” For now Furman will retain the existing FirstClass email system and no changes will be made during the Fall term of 2008.
The committee is also proposing the development of a pilot fund that would cover software upgrades for those departments with special software needs. As part of the proposal, the committee is requesting that C&IS be charged with providing regular upgrades for departments that require core software. Ideally, such departments would be on a 3-year software replacement cycle (much like the current departmental computer replacement cycle) so that they would not have to keep going back to the Dean’s office asking for replacement money. In addition the ACC has requested that C&IS conduct a regular periodic review of all lab software and have funding for necessary upgrades. At this time, the initial draft of this proposal is still under consideration.
The committee can also report some progress on the operational development of the Furman Digicenter. As you may recall, the Digicenter will serve as a central location for helping faculty create, manage and present digital images, audio, video, and other digital learning objects. The Digicenter steering committee (under the direction of Nick Schisler) has continued to define tasks and duties, while the alumni fellow who is overseeing the technical implementation of the center has been in place since the summer of 2007. At this time, however, the Digicenter is still quite limited in its functionality.
The chair wishes to thank the committee members for their diligent efforts this year, as well as our resource members and others who contributed to these initiatives, including Susan Dunnavant, Jane Love, Maggie Milat, and Jean Childress. We also wish to thank the departmental liaisons and the faculty as a whole for their generous response to our many queries, forums, and other demands.
The Academic Computing Committee:
Chris Healy, Ross McClain, Pat Pecoy, Renita Schmidt, Alfons Teipen, Jeff Yankow (chair)