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How To Help With a University ICT Strategy?

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 4 years ago | from the trying-not-to-screw-up-from-day-one dept.

149

An anonymous reader writes "I have been asked to contribute to my university's revised ICT (Information and Communication Technology) strategy and I am curious what fellow Slashdot members consider to be the main advice in this context. What are the major mistakes that organizations like universities make? Given the complexity of the different participants in a university, how does one have a coherent strategy that fulfills the needs of such a wide audience? How does one promote open source in a managerial culture? How does one deal with the curse of the virtual learning environment?"

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149 comments

What are the mistakes that universities make? (4, Funny)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 4 years ago | (#28841947)

I saw askslashdot in the tag line and thought it answered this question.

First rule of thumb (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28842589)

First rule of thumb: zero tolerance on M$ products, formats and protocols.

Re:First rule of thumb (3, Interesting)

Magic5Ball (188725) | more than 4 years ago | (#28845205)

Yes, zero tolerance on those specifications (or, really, anything not otherwise illegal) would be a mistake since that would make the university non-interoperable with students, faculty, other researchers, industry, government, and the rest of the world. University IT departments (really, all IT departments) should have at least the purpose and goal of enabling the organization to meet its business objectives (efficient output of high quality teaching, research, advocacy, other products) through the effective management and provision of ICT tools. IT departments, like accounting departments and the loading dock, are means to informing and fulfilling other broader strategic objectives, and should rarely be ends unto themselves. More sophisticated IT departments should certainly form strategy around their own operations and aspire to become more than a supporting department, but not at the expense of achieving the organization's regular business objectives.

At one university in which I participate, the CIO decided that nightly six-hour backups of 13 different legacy mainframe systems was inefficient, and increasingly costly as upkeep and replacement parts became increasingly expensive. However, the systems had co-evolved with the business operating procedures of the entire 40-year-old institution, providing great efficiencies at the human business administrator level, such that processing was swift, accurate, and responsive to the needs of the students, faculties and other customers. Everyone on campus had two credentials: the library card and the IT (AIX) login. IT signed with [that system that Oracle bought] on the understanding that the business logic and VT interfaces from all of the legacy systems would be ported over to the new web-based system in two years, such that the data would be seamlessly carried through and users would require minimal retraining on business processes. The vendor-supplied consultants, it was thought, would be able to magically absorb decades of institutional knowledge about the university's documented business processes, without any consideration for the many more legitimate but undocumented exceptions. They did no meaningful consulting with the users of the proposed new system. Oddly at the time, the management faculty applied enough pressure to largely not participate in this migration on the grounds that their system (which replicated the functions of the central system on recent platforms) would not be made more efficient by this plan.

Three years after, data from two of the silos were ported, the interfaces and business logic were completely new, and average administrative processing time in many customer-facing units rose from hours to weeks. Some of the more experienced administrators left in frustration, taking valuable intra- and extra-institutional knowledge with them. Others stayed and became "[platform] translators" who would take old paper forms completed by faculty, staff and students, and manually key them into the various parts of the new system (the system also assigned new terminology to things like "semester", "term", "quarter", "credit hour", etc. which had different meanings elsewhere in hardcopy and departmental regulations). IT deployed a new helpdesk specific to the new platform, and customer-facing staffing for faculty and students (and the queuing area at the registrar's office) had to be more than doubled to deal with the increased volume of exception handling required. This $35 million migration was already $10 million over budget, and perhaps 15 per cent complete. At this time, elsewhere in IT, people were implementing different SSO systems for students, faculty and administrative staff, and yet a different system for wireless access.

Over the next five years, they migrated the remaining silos, disappearing probably over $50 million in various kinds of internal accounts in the process, including federal funding, some of the smaller endowed chairs, etc. (For three years, our relatively small research group couldn't access around $2 million in funding we had received because not all of the previous account types were implemented in the new system.) The purchasing department had to send notes around to all of their vendors and contractors to please re-supply basic contact and capabilities information because the legacy information wouldn't migrate for various territorial reasons. Last year, the system was finally able to reimburse expenses incurred in Euros. Given the 6-18 month processing time for anything that's not a pre-filled expensible item (and the three weeks required to get anything in the system altered), I find that I get my money back sooner by processing it through another university with which I'm affiliated, and letting the inter-university accounting take as long as it needs.

This year, after most of the businesses on campus had been migrated into the new system (or were obsoleted), administration decided that it would be a good time to review internal operating and business practices to see where it could become more efficient. My account finally lost some of the status flags which business logic and the bargaining units prohibited in combination (external contractor AND internal contractor AND trust employee AND staff AND student AND graduate student). Also, students, staff and researchers are back down to having to remember four different sets of credentials per role for the SSO system. The unions also realized that the business logic in the new system were leaking accrued benefits under various circumstances, resulting in interesting discussions. Separately, in the library (yes, it's a problem that IT not operationally affiliated with the largest information resource on campus), their IT people have just announced that they have begun work on the third generation of middle-ware to access the legacy ILS system (which they just "upgraded" to something that supports the newer versions of the VT protocols).

With respect to Open Source, it's available in parallel to the usual Windows stack, but offered at the discretion of the unit in which the computers are situated (responds to the demand from students and instructors for software that's actually used). In CS and engineering it's mostly RHEL. Elsewhere, there's a lot of Windows XP and some OS X on the desktop. It was decided that appropriate Open Source apps (Firefox, gs, octave, putty, and various VPN clients) would be available on desktop machines, but that apps which had a record of causing significant data loss grief for students and faculty in the CS and engineering departments (specifically Open Office and Gimp) would not be made available for direct download. (Previously, there was some success with several individual instructors deploying Open Source groupware, but they couldn't get traction from IT since the internal training department, the continuing education department, and the educational psychologists in the teacher school found that none of the administrative interfaces were trainable for the masses.) On the back end, managed Windows XP, 2003, 2008, RHEL and some other virtual servers are almost free to provision and have equal access to authentication, accounts and network resources. We have access to the same kinds of managed metal servers through Citrix and X, but the Linux servers are largely unused (I don't really mind being one of six users in total on the two quad-core Xeon servers provided...). Last fall, one of the core IT communications interns got preachy about Open Source software in an IT bulletin to 30,000 students and faculty and was slapped hard by faculty IT departments who were not advised ahead of time that users could be asking about such things, even though the internal IT administrators mailing list could only identify less than a dozen inquires across the entire campus.

IT learned the hard way not to politely ignore what the faculty want on multiple occasions when some unauthorised buggy D-Link edge hardware did fun things with DHCP broadcasts and ARP tables for the entire /16; when IT received support calls about web apps hosted by individual departments which became more popular than the inferior analogues offered by IT; and when most faculty and staff went with external Blackberry plans over the discounted corporate plan which lacked some essential e-mailing and scheduling access features. (Of course, now that the central procurement system has been migrated, finance is hell bent on forcing IT to try the Blackberry thing again but on the Microsoft stack, with an expensive external consultant, starting out with testing at the medical school where failure in the messaging could have life or death consequences.)

Around six years ago, the central IT director decided to become clueful about ITIL, but they started with their front-line staff (undergraduate students), such that no one had both the authority and awareness to do the single handoff effectively. We're now back to the phone tree system, whether the support contact is made by phone, e-mail, or walk-in. This is likely for the best since, like some other bureaucratic institutions I've worked with, central IT had decided to make the departmental HR managers also the IT contact person for the various departments (and thus, the target of the single handoff), without first telling the HR managers of this. The logic was that the departmental HR managers may as well hand out IT credentials and software installation media and computers as part of the business credentials for which they were already responsible.

This post is fast becoming an onion belt story, so I'll end here by pointing out the importance of accommodating diversity in users and their computing needs, which is only achievable through good internal and external communication.

Idealism blows when the rubber meets the road (2, Informative)

opec (755488) | more than 4 years ago | (#28841963)

I am almost finished with my undergrad at a large public university. I worked in several of the branch libraries during my years here, including a full-time stint this summer. The computers in our library allow anyone to use one application: IE7. We have no time limit on computer usage or have any web filtering. The problems that arise from misuse of these computers from non-university community members are astounding. In just one branch library here this year alone, several incidents have been reported of non-university people masturbating to Internet porn. All incidents were reported to staff by young female co-eds, who were visibly traumatized by the experience. These kinds of folks have also brought along other problems for us to deal with: drug use and selling, theft of personal property, theft of library materials (including computer peripherals), etc etc.

With incidents like these in mind, don't let idealism confound your tech policies. Think of the people who are going to interact with the public that are using university technology. It is maddening to have your hands tied by some lofty IT person's idealistic vision of free data access for all when you're trying to deal with serious breaches of public safety.

Re:Idealism blows when the rubber meets the road (0, Flamebait)

lukas84 (912874) | more than 4 years ago | (#28842079)

Someone in a university gets _TRAUMATIZED_ from seeing someone masturbating?

Have they been living in a fucking cave?

Re:Idealism blows when the rubber meets the road (1, Funny)

bugnuts (94678) | more than 4 years ago | (#28842183)

I'm traumatized just thinking about touching the keyboard.

Re:Idealism blows when the rubber meets the road (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28842895)

Someone in a university gets _TRAUMATIZED_ from seeing someone masturbating?

Have they been living in a fucking cave?

I suspect the cave they were in was fuck-free.

Re:Idealism blows when the rubber meets the road (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28842093)

...several incidents have been reported of non-university people masturbating to Internet porn.

Sorry 'bout that. I'll try to keep it down next time.

Re:Idealism blows when the rubber meets the road (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28842113)

Why do you feel the need to point out that these were young, female co-eds? Does that make it worse somehow?

Because I'm a man, am I supposed to be LESS traumatized?

Drug use and selling? Theft of property? you're sure these were the SAME people that were masturbating?

Let me guess, you vote Republican. Fucking scumbag. I wouldn't let your ilk in my library.
 

Re:Idealism blows when the rubber meets the road (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28842413)

Can someone explain to me why name calling is considered trolling?

Re:Idealism blows when the rubber meets the road (0, Offtopic)

timster (32400) | more than 4 years ago | (#28842561)

Slashdot doesn't really have a mod for "uncivil discourse" though there is a pretty broad consensus that such antics should be modded down. So "Troll" tends to be used for disruptive comments in general. I think these are supposed to be hit as "Flamebait" but the difference between trolling and flame-baiting is not well understood. Honestly I don't think the "Flamebait" option gets used too much anymore.

Re:Idealism blows when the rubber meets the road (0, Offtopic)

drakaan (688386) | more than 4 years ago | (#28842709)

I'm still waiting for the much-needed "-1, Asshat" and "-1, Incorrect" mods. Call me an idealist, but I believe that you need the right tools for the job when moderating.

Re:Idealism blows when the rubber meets the road (1)

gnapster (1401889) | more than 4 years ago | (#28843343)

...I believe that you need the right tools for the job when moderating.

Especially when moderating from a publicly-usable university library computer with IE7.

Re:Idealism blows when the rubber meets the road (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28842705)

Why do you feel the need to point out that these were young, female co-eds? Does that make it worse somehow?

Yes, it called chivalry it may be mostly dead but not entirely. Among the heterosexual male population the desire to protect and shelter females is ingrained into the genetic code.

Because I'm a man, am I supposed to be LESS traumatized?

I damn well hope so. Fairy.

Drug use and selling? Theft of property? you're sure these were the SAME people that were masturbating?

It is certainly possible that these are to different groups and there are public mastrubators who are not selling drugs and druggies who are not publicly masturbating but I think the point is I don't want either in my library or on my network.

Let me guess, you vote Republican. Fucking scumbag. I wouldn't let your ilk in my library.

I missed it when the DNC endorsed public mastrubators or when the ACLU came out to declare this First Amendment free expression. I'm more worried about being the next one to use the terminal. It gives new meaning to sticky keys.

Re:Idealism blows when the rubber meets the road (2, Insightful)

BForrester (946915) | more than 4 years ago | (#28842255)

Serious breaches of public safety should be dealt with by security and/or the police. There's no sense in crippling technology that is necessary to the greater student body in order to make things difficult for a few stray pervs.

Re:Idealism blows when the rubber meets the road (2, Interesting)

opec (755488) | more than 4 years ago | (#28842591)

I'm complaining about IT overreach in power. As it stands now, one over-zealous IT guy at the top is preventing the librarians from taking any steps toward rectifying misuse of technology. For example, it would help us out tremendously to switch the computers that are in unsupervised corners of the library to authenticated log-in use only (like WiFi) and allow free public access in areas that can be surveyed by library workers at all times. We want to protect the safety of our real patrons while still welcoming the general public to surf safely on the web for free. The idealistic jerk at the top is preventing us from changing anything.

Re:Idealism blows when the rubber meets the road (1)

TheCarp (96830) | more than 4 years ago | (#28843369)

Why would it help tremendously?

How many incidents are we talking about here? I mean really. Are there THAT many people who go and jerk off in "out of the way spots" in the library? I mean, I could see it being a bit more in a university, mostly because of the number of teenage boys who are notorious risk takers but.... still. It just doesn't seem like something more than a small number of people would engage in.

Also, there are ways to get around technology. However, nothing stops crime like increasing the likelyhood of getting caught. Shit, put up some fake camera domes and see who jerks off in the corner with a visible "camera" that might be pointed at them.... is that so hard?

Hell, put up real cameras! Be really progressive and post that there is a policy of overwriting the tapes every few days, so there is no danger of film of you picking up a controversial book haunting you years down the road. The vast majority of complaints will come in fast enough to put the appropriate tapes aside for evidence. The rest well... its not intended to be a panecea, just to make public pud pullers go elsewhere.

Then consider well... I mean.... its a bit of a shock to catch someone polishing their knob, and a surporize in the library but... traumatizing? Um.... whats wrong with these girls? No seriously.... theres nothing there aside from the fact that its in a library that should be so shocking really. I mean, the vast majority of men they know, and many women, engage in this act every single day... just not in a library.

-Steve

Re:Idealism blows when the rubber meets the road (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28843985)

If you re-read his initial comment, you'll notice he said that the people causing problems were non-university community members. It's not students sneaking off into a corner for the thrill of it. The lack of any authentication mechanisms in the libraries is likely encouraging people without computers to use the ones provided by the university. This probably extends beyond the incidents that get reported...there are probably plenty of other non-university users that use the facilities in a manner that is not disruptive enough to get reported.

Still, if that use is by people not contributing to the upkeep of the facilities, it does a disservice to those that do. The university should step in to ensure that students never have to wait to use a resource that's being used by a non-university user. It's not hard to require authentication prior to using those resources, it just sounds like the IT head believes that people shouldn't be required to authenticate and hasn't fully thought through the consequences of that decision.

Re:Idealism blows when the rubber meets the road (1)

Zerth (26112) | more than 4 years ago | (#28843895)

How's about instead of relying on IT to handle of physical security, take all the computers in back corners and put them in central locations visible to the staff and public. Locking everything down won't prevent your pervs from shoulder surfing.

I'm suprised you haven't had a problem with people nicking the ram/mice/etc.

Re:Idealism blows when the rubber meets the road (4, Insightful)

Kaboom13 (235759) | more than 4 years ago | (#28844127)

If someone is jerking off in public, call the cops. There are creeps and weirdos that come to any public place, ever been to a bus/train station? If someone is traumatized by seeing someone jerking off, they need counseling. Not for ther "trauma" of seeing someone jerking off, but because something so mundane made them feel "traumatized". It's gross, not traumatic. You call the cops, have the guy tossed out for indecent exposure, and move on with your life. Years of sexual abuse as a child? That's trauma. Being forcibly raped? That's trauma. Seeing a guy beat off in public? That's unpleasant. Your IT guy wisely realizes that not impeding the access of other, law abiding patrons of the library is more important then protecting some oversensitive co-ed's sensibilities. Briefly glimpsing a penis (I assume it would be brief, it's not like anyone is gonna hold them down and force them to look) is not the end of the world.

Personally, as long as they do it quietly and clean up after themselves, I would rather have guys jerking it in the corner then women at the next table over talking to their girlfriends about their periods and vaginal infections on their cellphone while I was studying. Yes, that has happened to me, more then once.

Furthermore, your admin is also helping prevent you from wasting university resources. Filtering systems DO NOT WORK. Keyword based systems block more legitimate content then illegitimate. Blacklist based systems block only a tiny fraction of sites, and anyone horny and frustrated enough to wank it in a library is going to keep looking until they find something, and will still cause plenty of false positives. A system that forces users to authenticate won't solve the problem because
A. The computers will hardly ever be used, because of the inconvenience, making them a waste of resources in the first place.
B. People will walk away and leave them logged in on a routine basis, making it easy for someone looking for an out of the way place to hop on and look at porn to jump on someones computer (assuming they don't just get their own account) and any evidence will be blamed to someone else.
C. It still requires someone to catch them "in the act", which is what this is all about preventing anyways.

Sounds like he's the pragmatist. He realizes trying to prevent people from looking at porn on library computers is an impossible task, and not worth the effort and inconvenience to the patrons. You are the idealist, with a lofty vision of a world where you can control everything, and people never accidentally see things they would rather not.

Is this Yale, by any chance? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28844841)

I went there and this sounds rather familiar.

Mod me down you liberal pantywaists! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28841981)

Niggers! Spics! Kikes!

Re:Mod me down you liberal pantywaists! (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28842035)

Niggers! Spics! Kikes!

Snickers! Pies! Kites!

There, fixed that for ya.

I don't know (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28841995)

but I don't care, either. Seriously, how about a fucking story that doesn't suck dick like CmdrTaco at a truckstop bathroom?

Me? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28842001)

If I don't know the answer - does still make me a troll?

Don't push it (4, Insightful)

Alarindris (1253418) | more than 4 years ago | (#28842025)

How does one promote open source in a managerial culture?

By using it only when it's the best solution. Don't push it if it's not the best tool for the job.

Re:Don't push it (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28842307)

How does one promote open source in a managerial culture?

By using it only when it's the best solution. Don't push it if it's not the best tool for the job.

\

So in other words never.

Ethical standpoints can be part of the criteria (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28842385)

By using it only when it's the best solution. Don't push it if it's not the best tool for the job.

While that is very valid view to take - choosing the best tool for the job - I don't quite agree with it here. Or well, I do agree but I think that "open source" is a very valid criteria in choosing the best tool.

No, tools aren't automatically superior in security, features or such because they are open source. In fact, deciding to prefer open source harms this because it leaves some of the competition out.

Depending on your political views, how you view Universities in the society might vary. However, if you think that they are supposed to promote freedom of information, openness, be as independent from corporate control as possible, embrace ethical choices, etc. etc... Choosing open source is part of it.

Some people don't believe that those are the reason we need to have universities or that open source helps in those things... I am sure we can all argue about that for dozens of posts and get nowhere. :)

Agreed (1)

mercutioviz (1350573) | more than 4 years ago | (#28842541)

There are times when OSS is the best choice and there are times when it is not. And be sure to let the powers-that-be know that FOSS software is almost never "free as in beer" - there are costs associated with it in all situations. Sometimes it's money, sometimes it's time, sometimes it's the learning curve, etc. Be ready to handle the pros and cons of OSS.

Re:Don't push it (2, Interesting)

psychodelicacy (1170611) | more than 4 years ago | (#28842627)

Give OSS as an option. At my university, most of the public computers run Windows, and have MS software as the only options. If I'm lucky, I get to use Firefox instead of IE. A lot of people are used to using this stuff, so fine by me if the University wants to have it there for them. But it doesn't cost anything to install some open source stuff alongside the Microsoft programs. The problem you'll have, I would guess, is persuading people that this isn't going to involve lots of support costs in terms of training IT staff. Yeah, I know, but people are funny like that. They assume that anything open source will be arcane, virus-ridden, and completely impossible for the average user to understand.

Re:Don't push it (0)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#28842853)

They assume that anything open source will be arcane, virus-ridden, and completely impossible for the average user to understand.

So, in other words, they think the open source software experience will be exactly the same as the non-free software experience?

Re:Don't push it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28843273)

They assume that anything open source will be arcane...and completely impossible for the average user to understand.

Sounds like the experience I had with The GIMP!

Re:Don't push it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28844281)

If I'm lucky, I get to use Firefox instead of IE. A lot of people are used to using this stuff, so fine by me if the University wants to have it there for them.

Does Firefox have an (official?) MSI so that updates can be pushed via corporate update systems?

I think this is the main thing that is a 'con' for Firefox in large installations.

Google (2, Informative)

sys.stdout.write (1551563) | more than 4 years ago | (#28842039)

Just outsource all the work to Google [businessinsider.com] and sneak out for a round of golf!

Re:Google (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28842623)

getting google to do everything for you in return for adsense eyeballs definitely seems to be the done thing these days. but ffs run your own damn email server. that is one thing definitely not worth outsourcing to google

How do I push my own agenda? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28842117)

"How does one promote open source in a managerial culture? How does one deal with the curse of the virtual learning environment?" The major mistake universities make is in finding poltically motivated people to develop their strategies. Promotion of Open Source should not be part of a strategy, that's for implementation, *if* it's appropriate. And what exactly is "the curse" of the VLE? In my institution it's having a profound effect on delivering learning.

Its simple. (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#28842127)

Given the complexity of the different participants in a university, how does one have a coherent strategy that fulfills the needs of such a wide audience?

It's simple: Relatively Unrestricted WiFi - (You can block off the obvious Battle.net and filter anything involving porn) and this allows any student with a laptop to research anything they want. Alot of kids today are getting laptops for the sake of college and university. Its almost a must.

Then you completely lockdown outter-access to anything within the physical domain of the Campus - being the plugs in the wall. Let them access their shared drives if they're in that kind of course - let them use the library printers, let them use outlook for email - (or your own campus built email). Other than that, they shouldn't need anything outside of the campus available to them on Campus computers.

  How does one promote open source in a managerial culture?

You tell them the benefits. How else do you promote Open source. (Rhetorical)

How does one deal with the curse of the virtual learning environment?"

Everything they NEED to use should be EASY to use. The things that most students use the University domain for are - Campus Library Book Tracking, Grades, and updates from teachers.

Thus if you can build those in-house and KISS, you won't have any problems. The LAST thing you need is a seperate piece of software that doesn't work fully with your current system. If a student has to remember more than one username or password - its not a good system.

Re:Its simple. (1)

Seakip18 (1106315) | more than 4 years ago | (#28842313)

It's simple: Relatively Unrestricted WiFi - (You can block off the obvious Battle.net and filter anything involving porn) and this allows any student with a laptop to research anything they want. Alot of kids today are getting laptops for the sake of college and university. Its almost a must.

Then you completely lockdown outter-access to anything within the physical domain of the Campus - being the plugs in the wall. Let them access their shared drives if they're in that kind of course - let them use the library printers, let them use outlook for email - (or your own campus built email). Other than that, they shouldn't need anything outside of the campus available to them on Campus computers.

This becomes maddening to enforce. EBSCO Host, wikipedia, and countless other research websites that reference other summaries on other websites. Heck, even a blog might have a key reference to a paper you are searching for.

A simple response of "Sorry. Internal use only." to a student is tantamount to a slap in the face for trusting their ISP(the school) to provide them the tools to do their work.

Another thing is this: A friend and I would have never gotten as far into programming if we couldn't have the occasional C&C Generals game on our own computers. Same goes for facebook, etc. I understand that it's not entirely academic, but neither is the typical undergrad education. You learn some academics but it's not everything.

Re:Its simple. (1)

bugnuts (94678) | more than 4 years ago | (#28842353)

It's simple: Relatively Unrestricted WiFi - (You can block off the obvious Battle.net and filter anything involving porn) and this allows any student with a laptop to research anything they want. Alot of kids today are getting laptops for the sake of college and university. Its almost a must.

The moment you embark on the "block off the obvious ..." you've subverted the university network from a bastion of learning, to enforcing what YOU think students should learn. Would you like your university library refusing to carry banned books?

As an IT muckitymuck who makes policy, before you add any blocking that isn't strictly for technical issues (DOS, email virus filtering, spam filtering, QOS, etc) you better revisit your university's policy on censorship. If it's a state-sponsored institution, your hands might be tied on such blatant censorship. Blocking "the obvious Battle.net and anything involving porn" might land you in a heap o' trouble, depending on your state's laws.

Suddenly, unlike the title, it's not quite so simple. But I completely agree with the following:

Everything they NEED to use should be EASY to use.

Re:Its simple. (2, Insightful)

Dynedain (141758) | more than 4 years ago | (#28842975)

Not only that, but remember about a year ago there was a /. article about a university course discussing strategy as played through Starcraft? Now you need to make exceptions for the rules.

Or my university had a multimedia programming/game development track within the CS department. You bet your ass they need unrestricted access to online resources that would otherwise be seen as non-academic.

The IT department cannot be responsible for determining what is or isn't academically relevant or else they'll end up in a never ending escalation of blocking/bypassing wars that will monopolize time and funds better spent improving the resources available to students and staff.

Re:Its simple. (1)

psychodelicacy (1170611) | more than 4 years ago | (#28842671)

Filtering porn shouldn't really be the University's job, in my view. On their own machines, sure, but on private machines connected to the University network? Are they the thought police?

I'm lucky the College where I work isn't too restrictive. I was researching a paper on masculinity in modern film recently, and spent a while trawling for "gay barbarian porn" before it occurred to me that the IT guys might be wondering what the chick in Office 6/7 gets up to when she's working late...

Re:Its simple. (1)

BarryJacobsen (526926) | more than 4 years ago | (#28842777)

Given the complexity of the different participants in a university, how does one have a coherent strategy that fulfills the needs of such a wide audience?

It's simple: Relatively Unrestricted WiFi - (You can block off the obvious Battle.net and filter anything involving porn) and this allows any student with a laptop to research anything they want. Alot of kids today are getting laptops for the sake of college and university. Its almost a must.

Then you completely lockdown outter-access to anything within the physical domain of the Campus - being the plugs in the wall. Let them access their shared drives if they're in that kind of course - let them use the library printers, let them use outlook for email - (or your own campus built email). Other than that, they shouldn't need anything outside of the campus available to them on Campus computers.

How does one promote open source in a managerial culture?

You tell them the benefits. How else do you promote Open source. (Rhetorical)

How does one deal with the curse of the virtual learning environment?"

Everything they NEED to use should be EASY to use. The things that most students use the University domain for are - Campus Library Book Tracking, Grades, and updates from teachers.

Thus if you can build those in-house and KISS, you won't have any problems. The LAST thing you need is a seperate piece of software that doesn't work fully with your current system. If a student has to remember more than one username or password - its not a good system.

While blocking Battle.Net may seem like a given - it may actually interfere with what students need to do. I had a "Culture of the Internet" class in college, and one of the papers we had to write was about joining and participating in an MMO (you could use any MMO, free or pay to play) and actively playing the game for at least an hour a week was part of the coursework.

As a publicly funded university, I'd say if you're doing anything more than verifying the person is a student (at my college, after joining the wifi network you had to login using your student ID and your student e-mail password) and using QoS to keep the HTML and other priority traffic flowing freely, you're doing too much.

Re:Its simple. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28844503)

At my uni we do not block ANYTHING they are free to go wherever they want to they can even browse porn if they are so inclined, we only monitor usage we do not track which pages was visited as we believe tracking and blocking sites is not good for education. There may in fact be a valid reason why someone needs to research some material that is pornographic in nature. Just don't do it in public view and you will be fine. We do however implement bandwidth shaping to ensure that the core internet services have enough bandwidth to cater for all 40 000 people on campus. If you are in a lab late at night and you and two buddies install and connect to battle.net and there is enough bandwidth then by all means enjoy yourself, but try that during the day and you will find that you will hardly even be able to connect as it is shaped. And when you leave the lab we only ask that you restart the PC as we run DeepFreeze and all changes you made to the PC will be "undone" and it will be back to the state we imaged it in. And yes we do tell them this and have found that in general they are actually happy with this. We don't even implement any anti spam solution we simply follow the proper email RFCs and through this limit our spam problem to the absolute minimum. I can't remember when last we had a call logged regarding spam or when last I received the typical Viagra ads and stuff like that. If IT folk would spend more time reading RFCs and whitepapers they will be amazed at how much can be done with so little.

Re:Its simple. (1)

mkiwi (585287) | more than 4 years ago | (#28844733)

Require network registration with a captive portal/walled garden. I experimented with this when the technology was very young. It wasn't great back then, but it should be well established by now.

What you need is a captive portal that takes a MAC address (maybe some other details) from a computer and maps it to a user's university login. The user should be presented with a registration webpage when he or she tries to access the Internet. This generally prevents people outside the university from accessing your network. The user should not have to register each time they hook up to the network- it should be a one time deal. You might consider giving people access up to five devices without filling out special forms.

Although it's not perfect, it is a very practical way to do access control. Some people have privacy concerns with this method. I'm merely suggesting a practical alternative that has worked for many other universities. YMMV

freeswitch! (1)

gmaruzz (1100761) | more than 4 years ago | (#28842157)

www.freeswitch.org

FreeSWITCH is an open source telephony platform designed to facilitate the creation of voice and chat driven products scaling from a soft-phone up to a soft-switch. It can be used as a simple switching engine, a PBX, a media gateway or a media server to host IVR applications using simple scripts or XML to control the callflow. We support various communication technologies such as Skype, SIP, H.323, IAX2 and GoogleTalk making it easy to interface with other open source PBX systems such as sipXecs, Call Weaver, Bayonne, YATE or Asterisk. FreeSWITCH supports many advanced SIP features such as presence/BLF/SLA as well as TCP TLS and sRTP. It also can be used as a transparent proxy with and without media in the path to act as a SBC (session border controller) and proxy T.38 and other end to end protocols. FreeSWITCH supports both wide and narrow band codecs making it an ideal solution to bridge legacy devices to the future. The voice channels and the conference bridge module all can operate at 8, 16, 32 or 48 kilohertz and can bridge channels of different rates. FreeSWITCH builds natively and runs standalone on several operating systems including Windows, Max OS X, Linux, BSD and Solaris on both 32 and 64 bit platforms. Our developers are heavily involved in open source and have donated code and other resources to other telephony projects including openSER, sipXecs, The Asterisk Open Source PBX and Call Weaver.

Contribute how? (5, Insightful)

Dynedain (141758) | more than 4 years ago | (#28842187)

You're being very vague. University IT policies have many many stakeholders (Provosts, Regents, President, Deans, department heads, just to name a few) and a lot of interdepartmental politicking needs to be taken into account. Is this a 30k+ student body with hundreds of staff in the IT department or is it student body of 1,000 with only 20 IT people? Is the IT department merged with the library system or is it independent? Does IT bill the other departments for services or do they operate with a predefined budget? Is the reason for getting your input to provide direction for overhauling the IT department's network and services, or is the goal to change the general technology culture of the staff and student body? Should IT be involved more directly with students or are they just a necessary service like janitorial and maintenance? Does IT set policies, or is that handed down by decree from on high? Is the head of IT respected at the same level as the dean of a specific school or is he fighting for attention? Do departments/schools manage their own IT resources does everything have to be centralized?

Perhaps if you were a bit more specific as to WHY the University is asking for your specific input, and WHAT kind of input they expect from you, /. readers could provide you with appropriate responses. The open/closed source debate should only be one tiny aspect of an overall IT strategy, especially in an organization with differing needs as complex as a university. For example, CS/CE departments will certainly need and want a lot of open source tools and systems, but Fine Arts is better left alone with OSX and Adobe CS.

As your question is phrased now, I think your respsonses are going to be mostly of the variety "use/avoid product X" or "push for open source" and not really of much help in providing specific input towards the strategy you are mentioning.

Re:Contribute how? (1)

Slicebo (221580) | more than 4 years ago | (#28842617)

You're right, but I can phase your response more succinct way:

Strategy flows from mission. If you think you understand your school's ICT mission, write it down. Stare at it.

If you agree with the mission, read the revised strategy document and see if it supports and advances that mission. If it does, say so.
If it doesn't, say what needs to change so it does.

If you don't agree with the mission, say so, but prepare to be ignored (unless you are a signifigant shareholder at your institution.)

If you don't understand what the mission is, tackle that before you contribute to strategy.

Re:Contribute how? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28842747)

Must be nice to live/work in la la land. I work at a university with 19+k students, 2000 pc's on campus and we do it all with 6 hardware techs, 3 network techs and 5 helpdesk staff. We don't work harder, just smarter. First rule is we supply the pc's with a standard software pack and if anything goes wrong, we wipe it and reload it. We have all student labs and access stations locked down with software to prevent anything from being loaded and they all get reset each night. We use remote access/support extensively to deal with user issues with a great deal of success. We do all hardware support in house including keeping 300 printers running, to boot.

The first thing. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28842191)

...revised ICT (Information and Communication Technology) strategy

Cut out the pretentious titles, buzzwords and acronyms that really have no meaning.

Exactly, in simple terms, WTF are you supposed to accomplish?

Because, I'll tell you exactly what's going to happen if you keep using ICT or whatever you want to call it, folks are going to keep asking you, WTF do you mean by an ICT strategy.

P.S. Slashdot's text entry field for comments still sucks ...geeze guys!

You are a service, not a policy-maker (0, Offtopic)

Vrallis (33290) | more than 4 years ago | (#28842193)

Universities should run IT the same as any business.

You are a service. You are a red line on the budget. Your only reason for existence is to provide IT services to your customers (your faculty and students). You don't make policy, you don't have an agenda, you don't enforce a strategy--you follow and obey.

People who spend their lives in academia lose touch with reality, so help bring some semblance of it back into their lives (this as close as you will get to having an 'agenda').

Let the individual divisions of the school give you their needs, and you meet them. You can certainly try to provide some real-world advice to promote where the real world stands, but you can't dictate anything.

Re:You are a service, not a policy-maker (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28842987)

Spoken like a true faculty member... ;-)

Re:You are a service, not a policy-maker (1)

Vrallis (33290) | more than 4 years ago | (#28843351)

I haven't stepped foot in a university in a decade.

I've been out in the real world. I spent a while in IT and had my 'idealistic' streak like most of the people in this thread, including, likely, the submitter.

However, since then, I've spent most of my time outside IT (though still closely related, I work in a software company). I've come to see the other side in the business world. IT, in the terms of infrastructure per the questions posed, is a cost point, not a profit center. I used to be the rabid Linux zealot, now I've 'seen the light' and realize how futile those efforts are, and how badly they can hamper business.

Re:You are a service, not a policy-maker (1)

diggitzz (615742) | more than 4 years ago | (#28843715)

Let the individual divisions of the school give you their needs, and you meet them.

Yes, the "meet them" part is the part where supposed "agendae" may fall. I believe the OP was asking how to gracefully meet the needs of the school while aligning himself with what he sees to be the ethics of his field, while at the same time dealing with other managers who are in equal-ish positions of decision (for instance on a committee) but possibly of opposite opinions regarding what constitutes a balance of ethics, or possibly in another field where there are altogether different considerations to be made.

Consumers of IT take for granted what a complicated (and often political) process this is in a large organization!

Even a sole-proprietor IT business consulting to a single other person with a technical need to be met faces these issues in deciding what meets the need for the client. In short, what meets the client's needs is what the client agrees meets his/her needs. "Agrees" implies more than just cutting and pasting a spec sheet -- there are arguments to be made based on such foggy things as user preferences, which the user might not even know beforehand, and long-term impact analysis of the various options, which, if the user could do, would negate the need for technical consultation services! Promoting FOSS is likely one of the OP's strategies for maximizing positive impact and minimizing risk, not just an "agenda", but a professional stance based in reason and ethics.

You don't imagine that this process somehow evaporates when the "IT business" and client are parts of the same large institution, do you?

Real meaning (0)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 4 years ago | (#28842251)

How does one promote open source in a managerial culture?

In other words the college has purchased some tools that do work for them. You want them to dump their investment and go with open source tools that can takes years to perfect.

Re:Real meaning (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28843815)

> In other words the college has purchased some tools that do work for them. You want them to dump their investment and go with open source tools that can takes years to perfect.

Oh takes years to perfect? that reminds me of something...
MacOSX was an incomplete OS until 10.2
Windows Vista (no need for explanation right?)
Kernel 2.6 worked since the beginning.

And i still have at work the windows xp sp3 laptop erratically forgetting how to mount a network share while working perfectly once booted into kubuntu (which i don't consider as a particularly robust distro)

Politely ignore the faculty. (3, Insightful)

e9th (652576) | more than 4 years ago | (#28842317)

Certainly you must determine their needs, but don't let them get involved in the solution. You will have a History professor who's a computer hobbyist (and whom the other liberal arts faculty consider an expert) offering you helpful suggestions based on a James Martin book he read a decade ago, some guy from Electrical Engineering pushing for end-to-end quantum crypto, deans trying to preserve their schools' autonomy, etc., with the end result looking like it was designed by a committee of monkeys.

Re:Politely ignore the faculty. (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#28842951)

with the end result looking like it was designed by a committee of monkeys

Get the students involved. At least the MIS-IT/CS students. That would be excellent real world experience.

Do the minimum, offer good advice (3, Insightful)

backwardMechanic (959818) | more than 4 years ago | (#28842335)

Give us (research groups) the freedom to set things up so they work for us, but offer help in achieving that. All research groups are different, and we all need different things. Often we know (almost) enough to do things ourselves, but a bit of central infrastructure is always helpful. We run a mixture of Windows, Linux and Solaris - I think this is quite common. What would be really useful would be a few webpages describing how to configure things (services like LDAP or SAMBA) so they work with the central university structure. And please, Windows only solutions don't work for some of us. I have known several people who keep two computers on their desk because of this. But most of all, don't lock it down unless you really need to.

Re:Do the minimum, offer good advice (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#28843101)

Give us (research groups) the freedom to set things up so they work for us, but offer help in achieving that.

But most of all, don't lock it down unless you really need to.

You need at least two classes of service.

Extremely clearly written demarcation points agreed to by the highest levels in the organization. If you don't know what a demarc is, find an old (or young?) bell-head and ask them to explain the concept. On an experimental best effort basis, your department / research group / whatever does anything they want using equipment purchased and maintained by non-IT personnel. This ethernet jack and upstream is IT's responsibility and the cable you plug into it and downstream is all yours to do whatever you want.

Also provide full end-to-end service and support to other groups, with clearly written expectations for both sides.

This works pretty well in the fortune 500, not just at schools.

IT groups are usually pretty good at generic "office productivity tools" and usually pretty awful at specialized vertical integration solutions.

Re:Do the minimum, offer good advice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28844291)

I work in the IT department in a research university. Approximately 30 000 students a further 3 500 staff members. We use Identity management to automate provisioning of user accounts, mailboxes, disk space, adding you to the correct course groups providing physical door access via swipe cards, access to departmental drives everything you can think of that you need access to. If you are captured in our HR system or our student system everything will be automatically generated for you BEFORE your first day, you just walk in and it is all there. For this reason we do not even allow individual departments to run their own LDAP servers. If you require the use of an LDAP server we will gladly assist you in connecting your application to our LDAP servers. If you require some special field in LDAP added we will do it for you and populate that field for the entire campus. If you are developing some application or want to learn more and play around with LDAP we have a test environment replicating our production environment that we will give you access to. We have a network with multiple redundancy built into it running in two geographically different data centers so even in the event of a bomb in one data center we can very easily bring all services to the other data center very quickly. So why would do you need to run an LDAP server.

Why would your research group require their own SAMBA servers, we as the IT department have a massive SAN which we will gladly provide space on if it is required. We will manage the security of those files, we will also backup all your files and we store the tapes off site and have a well thought out and proven disaster recovery plan, your data is safe with us. We also offer a centrally managed printing solution all you have to do is log a call (which you can do on our department's website no need to phone helpdesk) and request printer XYZ be added on the network and we will secure that printer for you add it to the network and control who can print to it based on your requirements, we will also provide you with monthly reports indicating how much was printed and who printed it so that you can charge these users if your faculty wants to. So why do you need to run a SAMBA server. We also never restrict what OS you run we only demand that especially if it is Windows you have to run our centrally managed Anti Virus and you have to install the update from our update server. We officially support all three major operating systems namely Windows, Linux and Mac and will assist in resolving any problem you have that is OS related.

Every single call logged has a set KPI with us and we will do our best to resolve that call within the KPI. These KPIs are also well documented and published on our website and over the last two years we miss something like less than 4% of KPIs. Our performance reviews are based on how well we meet the KPIs and the availability of our services. We have an SLA that provides for 98% uptime of all services and we are well above that limit. We only ask one Sunday a month from 9 to 5 of downtime so that we can do our monthly maintenance.

And if there is a good business reason why you really need to run that one service or set of services yourself we will setup what we call a "special use network" for you allowing you to go wild but it will be separated from our network by a firewall which we will control so that you don't run some service on a port that causes a conflict with some service which we run for faculty ABC.

And yet everyday we have to hear about how draconian we are by not allowing some department to run their own LDAP server or that we kicked the idiot student that installed and ran his own DHCP server off our network. Users just read on our website that they are not allowed to run some service themselves and they throw their toys out of their cots, they don't read further to see that we actually offer that service already and if we don't (which to my knowledge has not happened yet) we will set it up for you FREE OF CHARGE and we will gladly assist you in connecting to and using this service for you needs.

Sorry for the rant but I have heard this in so many meetings and once we slowly explain to some manager that his research group only needs to contact us and we will assist them to our best ability then they come around and finally they understand and they are happy.

uPortal (1)

Verdagon (1532631) | more than 4 years ago | (#28842383)

uPortal is open source and allows for easy information access, and has groups and stuff built in. We use it in Cal Poly, it works quite nicely...

Assuming only technology does the job (1)

zildgulf (1116981) | more than 4 years ago | (#28842401)

I have found that, in all arenas, people assume that the individual technology is so good that an integrated plan is not needed.

The first step is to PLAN! Ask yourself these questions:

1. Will I have enough PCs, printer, Macs, whatever required to service the university?
2. Will I have enough labs of this stuff where it is needed?
3. How am I going to connect it all?
4. What kind of knowledge do I need to make this happen correctly?
5. Is my solution scalable? Can is adapt to new technologies (like WiFi or WiMax)?

Start with that and you can figure out the rest.

Beware of subsidizing one service with another (1)

seawall (549985) | more than 4 years ago | (#28842491)

Get the budget balanced and as rational as you can: every year.

An example: It is not uncommon to see one part of an operation (e.g. phone lines) subsidize another (e.g. networking). There can be great reasons to do that kind of thing but it tends to bite eventually.

People may abandon the expensive service (especially in a tough economy) and come to expect the cheap subsidized service as a right (understandably). In this particular example the cheap networking can replace the expensive phone lines and suddenly you are laying off dozens of people and seeing sarcastic plays written about IT management in the local University bookstore.

Not that this has ever happened.

Learn how to "manage" faculty (2)

goffster (1104287) | more than 4 years ago | (#28842545)

Figure out what their real needs are and meet them.
Learn who can be ignored and who can't.

In general, if they feel you are listening and understanding them,
you will get along ok.

Put your personal agenda on the shelf (1)

halligas (782561) | more than 4 years ago | (#28842599)

and recommend the best solution to the tasks at hand. You sound like you have a OSS agenda to push without regard at to what the issue that needs to be addressed is. I can tell you, as someone that has managed teams of engineers, that I will be convinced by a logical discussion of why software package A is preferred over software package B. If I hired a guy who had an agenda of pushing a particular software vendor over another due to personal agendas, I can tell you he wouldn't be around for long. Pushing OSS, just because it is OSS, is equally as pernicious as pushing BigSoftwareCoX's products. Right tool, right job. Of course $ is always a consideration, so OSS may have a good "Right Tool" argument, but you need to make the WHOLE argument.

Re:Put your personal agenda on the shelf (2, Insightful)

gdshaw (1015745) | more than 4 years ago | (#28843711)

Nonsense: there's a huge difference between promoting the public interest (OSS), versus the interests of a particular corporation or individual — especially when you are working for an organisation whose mission is to advance the public interest (academic/charitable/public sector). One is a virtue, the other is verging on corruption.

Granted it would be a mistake to elevate this above the task of actually getting the job done, but I see no shame in promoting OSS as a matter of policy provided there are no overriding practical considerations.

Re:Put your personal agenda on the shelf (1)

halligas (782561) | more than 4 years ago | (#28843901)

Granted it would be a mistake to elevate this above the task of actually getting the job done, but I see no shame in promoting OSS as a matter of policy provided there are no overriding practical considerations.

My point exactly. Anyone making recommendations with any sort of bias blinders on, whether is be (corruption) getting paid off by a corporate entity or personal agenda (being an OSS zealot), is inherently not to be trusted. Getting the job done is the key. In the best way, for the least money, and serving the public good. The OP suggested that he wanted to convince the powers that be that OSS was the way. The absense of any other reasoning suggests that he may have a personal agenda that is clouding his judgement. It is not and should not be OSS vs. Commercial software. It should be solution A vs solution B. With all the aspects of those solutions taken into consideration. If solution B is OSS, perhaps it gets a +1. But OSS is merely one of the factors, not all of them.

Universities and Newspapers (1)

xednieht (1117791) | more than 4 years ago | (#28842603)

Universities are well down the road to making the same mistakes printed newspapers made - trying to fit transformative technology into their outdated business models. Universities have a large investment in buildings and real estate that they are not likely to shed in the lifetimes of anyone reading /. today. They need to fill those buildings with warm bodies - students and profs to make them pay off.

As such, look for ways to make miniscule improvements using simple technologies that tie students to the physical classroom. The Kindle is an excellent tool for making miniscule steps down the technology path while giving Universities control over the business of selling and trading eBooks.

Re:Universities and Newspapers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28845129)

Universities are well down the road to making the same mistakes printed newspapers made - trying to fit transformative technology into their outdated business models. Universities have a large investment in buildings and real estate that they are not likely to shed in the lifetimes of anyone reading /. today. They need to fill those buildings with warm bodies - students and profs to make them pay off.

As such, look for ways to make miniscule improvements using simple technologies that tie students to the physical classroom. The Kindle is an excellent tool for making miniscule steps down the technology path while giving Universities control over the business of selling and trading eBooks.

that is serious rubbish, some government run universities make LOADS of cash, which they funnel back in and make better and better.

Outdated business models, only the rubbish universities struggle in this day in age.

Every part of your post is rubbish, and I am utterly suprised I am writing this response.

IT strategy as a function of institution (1)

bbasgen (165297) | more than 4 years ago | (#28842669)

This question can't be asked without the context of the institutional strategy. The poster mentions open source, but open source is not a strategy. It is a means to a particular end. Most universities today are focused on increasing student services through technology. Thus, it seems likely that the IT strategy for your institution should dove tail with student services goals. A portion of IT strategy could be basic infrastructure questions if they are big and important enough -- e.g. you need a new data center, you've neglected your infrastructure for X years and a complete overhaul is necessary, etc. Simply stated: figure out what your institutional strategy is, and you'll be able to create a meaningful and coherent IT strategy.

Get Good Advice, then Act On It (3, Insightful)

EEBaum (520514) | more than 4 years ago | (#28842701)

My university was laying a bunch of new cable underground, and wanted to know what kind of cable to install that would be useful for the longest time. They asked the networking professor, probably one of the most knowledgeable people in the area on such matters. He told them that the cable type didn't matter, as long as it was installed with some sort of pull-through mechanism so that new cable could be easily installed at any time in the future without digging up the cables.

They ignored his suggestion, and installed whatever was good at the time despite his protests. I think they'll be due to re-trench a couple thousand yards in the not-too-distant future.

Re:Get Good Advice, then Act On It (1)

ImNotAtWork (1375933) | more than 4 years ago | (#28844403)

Mod parent up. Things like this and raised flooring are important on any new additions. Undergrads are power hungry (charging laptops/ smart phones etc) and lap up bandwidth like there is no tomorrow.

Need Real World Knowledge (1)

curmudgeon99 (1040054) | more than 4 years ago | (#28842729)

The most important thing is to give them a mix of technologies so they don't get this slice that isn't useful. If you teach Java, then Teach Hibernate, Spring and all the other associated technologies...

2 suggestions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28842779)

1) Wait for 2
2) Zimbra + DimDim

Why do they need a ICT Strategy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28842817)

Would most organizations benefit from a Building Maintenance strategy? A strategy for Safety and Security? Not really. These are just departments that support the main business of the organization. If the organization identifies a specific need, e.g. "reviewing all building foundations every 10 years," or "providing 24-hour outdoor security patrols," then these departments simply implement whatever changes are necessary to meet this need -- preferably within their existing budget and service levels, but with a higher budget or modified service level if necessary.

The strategy for running these departments should be as simple as "do our jobs."

Spending more than an hour talking about the overall strategy for these departments (including IT) is a waste of time that could be better used in the actual operations of the department.

Just say "no" to Bb (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28843027)

Push them far away from Blackboard (the software). I went back to school for a Masters and it was the single, most frustrating part of the experience.

Trinity University (San Antonio) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28843097)

Take a look at Trinity University (the one in Texas). I doubt you'll be able to find any policies helpful to you on their website, but internally the school is shifting towards open source. The CS department has been open source since forever (I believe they're using Fedora right now) but the IT department is moving in that direction as well. The students are being moved from an Exchange-based system to Google Apps for Eduction. Blackboard is being replaced by Moodle. The IT department gladly installs Firefox for faculty and supports Macs as well as it does Windows (Linux is supported but you're kinda on your own). About the only thing they use that really gets in the way is Cisco Clean Access.

Note that they aren't changing their solutions for political reasons, they are truly better, not just open source and not-Microsoft.

Re:Trinity University (San Antonio) (1)

diggitzz (615742) | more than 4 years ago | (#28843327)

Note that they aren't changing their solutions for political reasons, they are truly better, not just open source and not-Microsoft.

I think that it isn't just better software, FOSS is a better solution for large organizations because they can make custom "in-house" changes, as they like, whenever they like. Changes can mean feature updates or interlinking with other services on campus, security customizations, etc, for which the large organization doesn't have to remain tied to software manufacturers or through ongoing service contracts. It saves money for everyone in the organization, provides students and alums with programming projects and jobs (if even short-term), and contributes humanitarian effort to the free development of technology in the world. ;)

Mistakes (1)

esme (17526) | more than 4 years ago | (#28843111)

What are the major mistakes that organizations like universities make?

In my experience, two big mistakes that university IT shops often make are:

  • Centralizing services to reduce costs, without appreciating how much poorer the service is. I've seen this several times where departments were running their own email and/or file servers. They cost a lot of money (esp. the staff to maintain the servers). So the department switched to campus-managed email/storage to save money. Only later did they realize that campus wasn't really providing the same service. POP (or IMAP with a very small quota, which is basically the same) is not the same as shell access with basically unlimited storage.
  • Standardizing on one option (or a small number of options) when there is a huge diversity of users. I've seen hardware purchasing agreements where a few configurations that were perfectly good for general office use were heavily discounted, but anything else (rackmounted servers, workstations, etc.) were basically full price. I've seen other places negotiate for a good percentage discount across the board. So I think understanding that you can't generalize from students or "normal" office users is important -- you really need to talk to people from different disciplines (esp. engineering, medicine, etc.) because different people have different needs.

-Esme

Use Moodle instead of Blackboard or Desire2Learn (3, Informative)

Sparky9292 (320114) | more than 4 years ago | (#28843159)

When it comes to VLS (Virtual Learning Systems) please don't give into the Blackboard marketing machine. Moodle [moodle.org] is free and equivalent in just about everyway. It drives me nuts to see colleges and universities paying for crap like Desire2Learn and Blackboard when many of them are cutting back student services and laying off people these days. What's even worse is that both Blackboard and D2L have significant bugs and really bad customer support.

Our university (around 38,000 students) pays Blackboard $600,000 a year (yes there are five zeros after that six). Please try convince your PHBs to give Moodle [moodle.org] a look. The community is massive and helpful. You can find hundreds of great pluggins as well.

Re:Use Moodle instead of Blackboard or Desire2Lear (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28844529)

When it comes to VLS (Virtual Learning Systems) please don't give into the Blackboard marketing machine. Moodle [moodle.org] is free and equivalent in just about everyway. It drives me nuts to see colleges and universities paying for crap like Desire2Learn and Blackboard when many of them are cutting back student services and laying off people these days. What's even worse is that both Blackboard and D2L have significant bugs and really bad customer support.

Our university (around 38,000 students) pays Blackboard $600,000 a year (yes there are five zeros after that six). Please try convince your PHBs to give Moodle [moodle.org] a look. The community is massive and helpful. You can find hundreds of great pluggins as well.

The Devil "Blackboard" was aquired by "Angel" as it's replacement.... somehow this seems like collusion between the forces of darkness and light..... Time to get back to digging my bunker.....

Re:Use Moodle instead of Blackboard or Desire2Lear (2, Informative)

Morbid Curiosity (156888) | more than 4 years ago | (#28845281)

I'm at a university that had WebCT, which then morphed into Blackboard and has just recently been replaced with Moodle. Having using those systems, both as a student and in teaching roles, I have to say that Moodle is just plain better. It's cheaper (TCO), more versatile and more usable. And much less prone to inducing rage :-)

Of course, that doesn't mean that it's invulnerable to screw-ups. If you lock it down from on high with One True Way of Using The System, then you're probably not going to suit the needs of different academic departments and their different kinds of students (CompSci versus English majors, for example). On the other hand, too little structure can lead to ongoing support problems in security, maintenance and training/helpdesk services. The trick is to find a balance that works across your institution.

Welcome to a whole new type of suck. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28843169)

Some things to remember from someone who has worked in Academia IT for a few years no...
1. Everyone there is smarter than you, and will go to great lengths to make sure that you know this.
2. As a follow up to 1, Everyone has a better idea.
3. Anything you do (even if it is necessary) that is in any way inconvenient will quickly become a "barrier to the educational process" and you will be ordered to remove it by the dean of whatever dept. whines loudest.
4.Keep your skills current. I don't mean networking, SAN's etc. I mean things like second life, facebook, and other equally horrible wastes of existence. These invariably come up and become instant Must Have's.
5.Anything that goes wrong is your fault and should have been prevented. It does not matter if the classroom is occupied 16 hours a day nonstop. You should have prevented whatever from happening, even if is a direct result of student/faculty actions. What's wrong with you IS people anyway?
6. There is no difference between plant staff (maintainence) and you. You will just keep getting calls about spilled drinks, new wall installations, problems with the HVAC, etc. There is nothing on earth that you can do about it. They will never pay enough attention to get the difference.
I could go on, but I'm sure you will find more as you go, so welcome to a new type of suck...
FWIW, I was not this bitter when I started, it took years to develop.

Well I guess I could tell things I like... (1)

Youngbull (1569599) | more than 4 years ago | (#28843179)

I study at UIB(norway) and I can tell you about the things I love about the IT department: - They have AD accounts for all users(students and employees) and the profile is avilable through ftp (that is if you want to use it at home) - they provide firefox and thunderbird (and thunderbird is even pre set to use your university e-mail account) on all machines - about 50% of the machines use Fedora and the rest is XP. - When you enroll you get your ID and that autmoatically set you up with an e-mail account, an AD account (probobly not real AD but that Samba flavor but who cares anyways), a log on for the wi-fi(just a password program on the proxy, or you could use VPN), an account on a schedual/classorganizer they use and they set all of this up pretty nicely(like the touch about thunderbird I mentioned earlier) -they got a really nice printer system (you can retrieve your documents at any printer you want)

Educause (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28843423)

Here's a great resource:

http://www.educause.edu/Resources/Browse/ICT/18086

Develop custom software (1)

FLoWCTRL (20442) | more than 4 years ago | (#28843543)

Dynedain's "Contribute How?" post hit the mark, and I have no idea what it is you're really asking. However, having worked in university IT for about a decade I can offer some advice that can be applied broadly: you have an amazing resource at your disposal - smart people - and you should exploit that by developing software to suit your needs.

A lot of universities spend millions on proprietary software like PeopleSoft when they could get much better value and results by hiring competent programmers, work-studies, grad students, postdocs, etc, in-house to create software that does exactly what your institution needs it to do. Your custom software will do whatever needs to be done, it will be infinitely flexible because you have complete control over what it does and how it does it, you will not be at the mercy of any external vendor for support, and the ongoing licensing costs will be $0.

Re:Develop custom software (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28844535)

True, but then you have no guarantee, and no one to blame when it doesn't work. Besides, auditors don't like unknowns.

Some thoughts (1)

UNKN (1225066) | more than 4 years ago | (#28843547)

CCA (Cisco Clean Access) if implemented well is a very useful tool. We mainly enforced it on the dorm networks since most students never update their computers, or when they call and ask about problems they lie and say they are updated. We're all human and lie to the tech or whoever is on the phone so we can get our issues resolved. CCA can do alot of the update work for you as far as getting those updates out and such. Sure the student still has to do some work but if they ignore it, off goes their internet. I concur with the Blackboard nay sayers, although I never had direct issues with the package it was very unwieldy and I knew plenty of folks who had issues with it. Back to the poster, you would have to give a little more background into what your current strategy/setup is. Are you wanting to work on remote/distance classwork? Is the campus wanting to go wireless? Are you using only windows and want to explore other options? Linux is nice but if it doesn't have a nice desktop and user friendly environment then there's no point in using it for someone walking into the lab wanting to write a paper. With that said some linux installs are perfect for that, most people wouldn't even know the difference unless they asked where the Windows XP logo went to. If you're looking at going forward options, then you need to lay down what the current issues are with the current infrastructure. Some universities have made mistakes with setups that others have done superb jobs with. Using CCA to require downloads but not making those downloads available on local servers seemed to me like a bad implementation of the utility. Granted the infrastructure might not have been in place to support internal traffic and large amounts of storage, they shouldn't have half assed it. What it comes down to is money. When I was working at the help desk, we had a new Director of IT get hired. He got turned the help desk into a student repair center and got us new PCs with dual monitors, which really does help when troubleshooting some stuff while working on a machine. Not one year later he was gone. He seemed to have shaken too many trees and in reality, spent money, which I guess was a ghastly thing to behold. So keep that in mind when coming up with ideas, if you're going to spend money be ready to show some possible positive impacts from the spending.

Gmail and Skype (3, Insightful)

cryfreedomlove (929828) | more than 4 years ago | (#28843593)

Seriously. No support needed. Start from there and make someone convince you to do anything different. Anyone who wants something different has to pay for it themselves. Tools like GMail and Skype are ever present and all around us. The analogy is to consider how Universities thought about electricity in 1900. I'll bet each University had it's own electricity generation and procurement department is its own hierarchy of management. Today they just get an electric bill from the same provider that services private homes near by. Someday soon, basic IT will be the same.

Keep the Internets FREE (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28843949)

Keep the internets FREE! Don't encyrpt any wireless and always create a guest account to login into machines. Your not going to prevent a real hacker by making the terminals a b*tch to use and will create major problems and setbacks for many people who are more important and busier than the network. If the network goes down from an open terminal, you screwed up yesterday and already have bigger problems. But take consolation; for the best of plans: sh*t happens. Remember: Accessibility with Reliablity (Redundancy and Backups) create great networks, not rules and passwords. And don't use any tech with the word Micro in it or no one will feel sympathy for when everything crashes.

Anonymous Coward (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28845031)

If your background is from the corporate sector, be wary of any strategy that does not fit in. Corporate easy wank strategies, such as consolidating systems, outsourcing, changing working hours - directly or indirectly. Will simply not work.

Consolidating systems: each department could be completely financially independant. Just because it has the same name, does not really mean it is. Thus meaning and consolation will not work. Your job title will mean jack, everyone knows that, so you will never be able to use that to force a department to do what you want. Tenure and research grants from just a couple people in a department can crush any poor IT strategy that.

Outsourcing: Some of the university unions are very powerful. A lot of the IT staff are in the same union as the academics. Piss on the IT staff, means angering the academics. If a strike is called, and where I am they are some what frequent, expect massive disruption beyond just the IT department and the head of the university blaming you! Bizarrely this is happening to my work, but the reality is, you can't outsource support for hundreds of bespoke programs on thousands of bespoke platforms. If Dell, Microsoft, IBM, Redhat, Sun, Google and HP (often in combination) can't handle one small project, how the heck will they handle a couple of a universities bespoke apps?

Indirectly changing working hours: Working at a university IT is a lifestyle choice. If you start messing with that lifestyle, which often comes at a significant loss of income, expect shit to hit the fan.

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