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Notes from February 7, 2007 ITPAC Meeting:

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    notes by Steve Lasley

    Streaming Audio from the meeting. (Note: streaming began about 5 minutes after the meeting began.)

    The meeting was run by ITPAC chairman, Pete Vergot, District Extension Director of the NW District. Jim Syvertsen and Russ Rouseff joined us from the Citrus REC via Polycom. Jim Selph, County Extension Director, DeSoto County, participated remotely via Polycom as well.

    ICC Updates

    ICC recommendation for IFAS course website structure

    Steve Lasley was out sick, but Dennis Brown represented the ICC. Dennis presented the ICC recommendation for IFAS course website structure.

    Fedro Zazueta was at the ITPAC meeting and he discussed what is being done at the UF level to organize and support distance education. A new committee is being formed and Dr. Mark Rieger, Associate Dean of CALS will be the IFAS representative. Fedro said there is a conflict between "on-book" and "off-book" courses currently. Departments like the "off-book" model because the revenue comes directly to them. The problem with that, however, is that this reduces UF's overall budget. He mentioned that the planning is taking place for formal education only and would not include extension at this time. The problem there has to do with funding due to the licensing arrangement with WebCT. The cost of that is currently tied to FTE count. If the license is opened up to extension then the FTE count changes. The problem is how to handle that. One idea is that we could charge a minimal fee for people such as those in the Master Gardener program and they would then become students officially.

    David Palmer, South Central District Instructional Media Agent, believes that WebCT is too complicated and is ill-suited to their clientele. Mark Ross said that he had heard the same thing from his faculty. Barring a policy that said IFAS course sites must use WebCT, Mark needs the authority to reorganize the current IFAS course websites so they are maintainable. Al Wysocki and Ashley Wood presented a different side, both believing that WebCT had good central support and that all IFAS courses needed a web presence should be encouraged to use that instead of the IFAS webserver.

    The narrow intent of the ICC recommendation quickly grew into a broader discussion of the use of WebCT for course websites. It was decided that ITPAC would pass the matter on to Dr. Barrick, the IFAS Dean of CALS, as to whether there should be a policy that IFAS class websites use WebCT rather than IFAS web resources. The more narrow focus of the ICC recommendation was left as a procedural matter with the consensus being that the IFAS IT web administrator could implement whatever structure they felt necessary to best maintain current and future websites housed there.

    Note from future: Dan Cromer has asked Mark to revise the Web page implementation for class accounts so that they are organized in a directory structure that will simplify management and increase security. He also directed Mark that, before setting up a new page or revising an old one, he should ask the requestor if he/she is aware that WebCT Vista is recommended for all academic class accounts. Mark was asked to refer them to http://lss.at.ufl.edu/services/webct if they asked about it. In addition, Dan asked that Mark please coordinate the addition of the following text to the IFAS IT "Request a Website" form:

    Note that WebCT Vista is recommended for all academic class Web 
    pages, see http://lss.at.ufl.edu/services/webct/ for more 

    Fedro capped off the discussion by mentioning that there will eventually be more portions of all academic processes incorporated into WebCT and there will likely come a day when each instructor will need to be involved with that in some fashion or another--offering grade submission as one likely candidate. Centralized management is being considered for such matters for reasons relating to security and disaster recovery as well; this is the direction where the university is headed. At the same time, the issue of what faculty need is the most important focus. We are not in the business of running a content management system; we are in the business of education. These services should respond to the needs of our faculty.

    IT Strategic Planning

    Web Content Management

    The IT Taskforce had recommended looking into a Content Management System (CMS) for IFAS. Dan Cromer had recommended looking closely at Sharepoint to see if it might meet our needs and recently, Ben Beach and Mark Ross from IFAS IT, along with Diana Hagan and Marion Douglas from ICS, were sent to a conference on Sharepoint. The news back from that seems quite positive.

    Ashley Wood mentioned that small steps have been taken in the direction of CMS. One of those was to purchase Contribute for each CEO and to create training for that. There will be a training session for up to 30 individuals Februrary 8th in G001; there is also a plan to make a training video stream available for folks who cannot directly attend training. Other training opportunities will be available as well. Pete Vergot urged Ashley to include templates pertinent to extension work as part of the training. While Contribute isn't truly a CMS, it does lead people toward the concepts of properly managing contents, via templates if nothing else. Ashley mentioned that we still need to learn from what has been done at other schools, including LSU, Texas A&M and Kansas State in regard to CMS. Ashley added that, should we decide to move towards Sharepoint, we need some people to thoroughly test this within our organization prior to a full roll-out.

    Fedro added that the Health Center has done considerable research into CMS via a formal HSC Web Project and he suggested that we contact Jan van der Aa to find out more about that investigation. Fedro said that such large software purchases will have to go through a central approval process and that we may want to begin conversations with UF about what will be needed there as justification. Dan Cromer said that he has already had conversations with Marc Hoit regarding joining a central UF Sharepoint system, should we go that route.

    Mark reported that it was pretty interesting to see what Sharepoint can do and envision how it could help us here--not just with CMS, but with other collaboration issues as well. For example, Mark said that the FAA had virtually removed the need for email attachments within their organization by instead sending links to documents stored within Sharepoint. This has tremendously reduced their email storage requirements, and it also encourages maintenance of shared copies of spreadsheets and documents and removes the common issue of updating when such documents are distributed via email instead.

    A spare server has been cleared for use as a test Sharepoint server and Ben Beach has taken the lead on that project. Ben believes that tying Sharepoint into Groove may offer additional collaborative options for our extension folks. Sharepoint would allow authentication with UFAD; it also supports the capability to create separate user accounts or invite users to collaborate on a Web site where existing domain accounts for those users do not already exist. That feature could be very useful in supporting our extension efforts and other outside collaboration. Dan wanted to mention that a production Sharepoint system would require an additional FTE to operate and maintain it.

    High-level Planning

    It was announced that Fedro Zazueta has been asked to head the development of a strategic plan for the direction which IFAS should take regarding IT. This is a three month long, 25% appointment and will focus specifically on the Software group within IFAS IT. The goal is to improve the level of buy-in from administration towards supporting IT as a means of delivering the information that our employees and clients require. From Dr. Cheek's viewpoint, it comes down to how to allocate our scarce resources to bring the best results for our programs.

    IT Updates

    UF Oracle license

    Dan pointed out that IFAS had previously standardized on Microsoft SQL Server. We need to look at the advantages and disadvantages of moving to Oracle for future and possibly certain current projects. It may be the case that it would be more expensive to move than to stay with what we know and understand, but the savings which the UF Oracle contact might provide will be considered in that. Oracle has extensive search capabilities which Diana Hagan is investigating the potential utility of for EDIS.

    Personnel changes

    Andrew Carey has been hired to fill the position vacated by Chris Hughes. Andrew begins this Friday. Dan also mentioned that the position formerly held by Richard Lee, our SQL database administrator/software developer, has been advertised and is closing this Friday. We hope to get that position filled as soon as possible.

    Mailbox retention policies

    Dwight Jesseman raised the issue of exit procedures and how they relate to mailbox handling. There are currently 381 orphaned mailboxes using about 30GB of storage and Dwight would like a policy that specified how to handle those. There is a more general problem of how we handle email quotas as well. Our storage needs are growing daily and Dwight feels it wise to consider policies which might control that. Some discussion occurred, but little resolution. It may be the case that we will have to develop robust and flexible procedures which can adapt to whatever policies might eventually be developed.

    Computer Purchasing

    State contract being negotiated

    Jim Selph raised the issue of a multi-university contract which is being negotiated for computer and printer purchases. He heard about this from a talk at the Faculty Senate by Marc Hoit. Jim wanted to point out that extension folks generally must use county credit cards and he was concerned that extension be considered for inclusion for access to any program that was negotiated. Dan Cromer said that he would put in a word on behalf of extension in this regard. More details will be forthcoming as they become available.

    Membership Changes

    Pete reported that our student representative is graduating, so he will have to be replaced. He also mentioned that Dave Palmer is now an official member of ITPAC. There was some confusion as to whether Jim Syvertsen's tenure with us is ending as well; Jim said that he was more than willing for that to be the case.

    Next Meeting

    Our next ITPAC meeting is to be announced, but likely will be scheduled for sometime in May.

last edited 8 February 2007 by Steve Lasley