Community College of Rhode Island

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Steve Vieira
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IT News

April 2013

How the Academic Technology Advisory Committee Works

For the last three plus years, ATAC has been an integral piece of the IT Governance process.  Each year, proposals, requests and ideas “bubble” up from the membership of the three advisory committees, ITAC, ISAC and of course ATAC.  These suggestions come before each of the committees for their questions, review and ultimately for their rating against the existing list of IT-related projects.  In the past, technology such as new clickers, test question analysis software and Blackboard upgrades have all been adopted at CCRI based upon the input from the faculty population of the ATAC.

Learn This year, like every other, a number of initiatives are being reviewed based upon feedback from this committee.  The focus of this article concerns three that are in the research and development phase before formalizing a concrete solution for faculty review and rating.  It is important to point out that these began with faculty member questions and concerns and have now migrated to an Instructional Technology Media Services (ITMS) task for exploring possibilities and bringing them back to the committee for their assessment.

Video conferencing has been utilized at CCRI for many years and for the most part, the technology has been consistently good.  The growth of this technology has been phenomenal with not only classroom use but also employing video conferencing for meetings where committee membership comes from more than one campus.  Over the years, the delivery has been pretty good but clearly not ideal and the question was raised about whether the existing tools need to be improved, upgraded or replaced.  Coming from a faculty member, the inadequacy of the existing systems leads to frustration due in part to the audio challenges and the poor visual representation on the present screens.  ITMS has been tasked with evaluating video conferencing as it stands at CCRI today and developing plans to improve the current state.  Those plans will be brought back to ATAC for feedback, amendment and additions and then rated in conjunction with other IT-related projects.

The second initiative that has been offered for research and development and then a natural progression to rating is the idea of being able to control the computers in a classroom from the faculty desk computer either through power manipulation or actual display of controlled material.  In other words, being able to make sure that students are seeing what the faculty member wishes them to see when the faculty member wants them to be able to see it.  When classrooms are designed to make it difficult to view what students are doing during a lesson, the utility would be able to ensure that either the computers are turned off and kept off until they are to be used by students or the faculty member controls the displays on the individual computers.  Once again, IT will be researching available solutions, bringing them to ATAC and assisting with the selection of a tool for use in all technology-enhanced classrooms.

Finally, for several years, ITMS has been developing plans for monitoring classroom equipment in order to alert classroom support when a problem occurs.  Software exists that enables media services personnel to know when a lamp in a projector is ready to go or when a connection has been disabled or re-connected incorrectly.  This would allow the staff to correct problems before class begins, reducing the number of emergency calls when technology doesn’t work in the classroom.  At this juncture, IT is building a list of potential solutions that will guarantee a level of reliability and dependability for technology in the classroom that has not been attainable in the past.  This plan will also be vetted through the ATAC to allow them to ask questions, assess the value and select the option which works best for the classroom instructor.

ATAC is a valuable generator of ideas, a significant partner in bringing excellent solutions to the classroom and an appropriate advisor when research and development efforts result in a variety of resolutions that can be implemented.

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May 19th Planned Service Improvements

serviceThe first Sunday of the month is our usual patch, update, bug fix time as allocated by the President’s Council last year.  With this being so close to the end of the semester and knowing that people are finishing up and time is of the essence, the Department of Information Technology requested and was granted a change of this date to May 19th, the Sunday after Commencement.  We have a lot of things that have to be accomplished and anticipate that we’ll be having various services down throughout a good portion of the day.  Estimates right now total about a ten to twelve hour window when we need to take a collection of systems down though not all at the same time.  The web site will be available all day and so we can alert everyone through that medium which services are being worked on at any given moment.  The task list includes a lot of essential work that needs to be done in order to improve our service levels and deliver a more reliable and dependable set of applications to the college.

  • The Solaris servers need some configuration changes and patching resulting in Banner, MyCCRI portal, Self-serve functions being down for a four to six hour period. 
  • The Blackboard database server needs to be patched and re-configured resulting in a three to five hour interruption in service for all Blackboard users.
  • IT is moving a number of VMware servers and virtualizing several applications that have never been virtualized before including Office Communicator, the Art Catalog server and the Huntington Controls server for Physical Plant.  This will result in a two hour downtime. 
  • The Microsoft Exchange server environment needs a service pack install dictated by our vendor resulting in three to four hours of service downtime. 
  • Finally the IronPort Operating System (responsible for filtering much of the spam and bad email that attacks the college every day) needs an upgrade which will result in five to six hours of service.

All in all, the systems requiring work will be unavailable for about ten to twelve hours in total.  IT is trying to be sensitive to the timing of this work and its impact on the college.  We have collected this task list over time to ensure that the interruption is controlled and not excessive week after week, month after month.  Hopefully we have selected a timeframe that works for everyone and doesn’t invasively prevent anyone from accomplishing essential responsibilities or planned events that would use these resources.

As always we appreciate your feedback and support as we attempt to provide the best and most secure environment in which to work.  Thanks.

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What Does Email Archiving mean to you?

archivingSo the hot topic seems to be email archiving.  Hopefully we can shed more light on why email archiving is so important and how it affects you.  Currently CCRI has no retention schedule for email and as part of the records management responsibilities of the college, digital messaging needs to be included.  In order to guarantee that the college is protected in cases of litigation meeting regulatory compliance, long term email archiving and storage are necessary.  Email messages are subject to e-discovery (the practice of discovery, during civil litigation, surrounding the exchange of information in electronic format), which means colleges are required to keep them in the event they are requested for legal proceedings. But the effort to comply with e-discovery requests is very time consuming and can entail searching through years' and years' worth of email, which is why this technology solution has been adopted.  Email can be indexed and archived, including all email messages and related attachments --and do it instantly, offering the ability to search across widespread data repositories from a single location.

Automatically archiving email messages is very popular today. It allows institutions to simplify the process of protecting and accessing email data, and provides an easy and automatic way to ensure that efficient and adequate liability and e-discovery protection is in place.

How long should email be retained? 

The daily volume of email entering and exiting each person’s mailbox, multiplied across the entire college, necessitates a solution to clean up the amount of email, the attachments and the manner in which they are stored.  The answer depends upon the individual mailbox owner and their preference.  With the new archiving system, NO email is removed from the individual mailbox unless you delete it or move it yourself for the designated period of time agreed upon by the college.  There will be continued dialog in the IT Governance Advisory Committees on the length of time that email should remain in Microsoft Exchange (the mailbox) and that will be well communicated with rationale given for the decisions made by the committees.  This will obviously also go through the governance process of the college and eventually to the President’s Council for vetting and approval.  Today, CCRI has NO retention policy for email.

Who sets the email retention policy? 

IT can manage and create the complex nature of an email retention policy but it is unrealistic to expect the technical staff to create the functional policies surrounding this application.  This is NOT an IT decision or policy to make.  An email retention policy becomes a part of the college’s overall records management program with its own retention policies and procedures.  The scope of the policy considers all employees who create, send or receive email messages and attachments.

How private is my email account and mailbox? 

CCRI staff should have no expectation of privacy when using the college email resources which could be subject to discovery proceedings and legal actions.  Different regulations apply to different departments within CCRI and thus it makes sense to target the email archiving solution in order align it with record retention regulations.

So, then why archiving? 

Archiving protects the college in the event of litigation.  Subpoenas and other court orders are the legal documents issued by courts that require the college to produce certain records.  When litigation against the college or its employees is filed or threatened, the law imposes a duty on the college to preserve all documents and records that pertain to the issues.  A litigation hold directive overrides all college email retention policies calling for the transfer, disposal or destruction of relevant records.  Email and computer accounts of employees that have been placed on litigation will be maintained by the Department of Information Technology until the hold is released.  No employees may alter or delete an electronic record (email as well) that falls within the scope of that hold.  Civil or criminal sanctions for personal liability could be imposed for violation of this hold.  The email archiving application does not allow anyone to delete email from that storage area and aids in the e-discovery process.

If I don’t want my email to be part of the archive, what do I do?  

too much emailFor years, the mailbox has been a favorite storage area for every email message, both personal and college-related.  The number of email messages amassed has multiplied continually with no end in sight.  The new archiving system gives you a choice to move required email messages to other locations before they are copied into the regulation-compliant archive.  By moving personal email to a location outside of your mailbox, you protect yourself from having those stored in the archive and open for litigation review.  By deleting no longer necessary email, you enable your mailbox to function more efficiently and once again keep them from unwanted readers.  IT will have lots of communication and best practices concerning email handling and personal storage techniques for those who are interested.

Why is email archiving coming? 

It protects the college.  It eliminates the need for periodic manual archiving to be done by each mailbox owner.  It encourages mailbox owners to clean up and enables Microsoft Exchange to work more efficiently.  It enables records management of vital digital records.  It ensures that the college, in the event of litigation, might avoid some of the costly expense of email discovery.  It establishes a workable solution for email retention and disposition over time as designated by the college community.  It makes backup of the email system and recoverability for individual email messages possible.

There is much discussion to be had concerning email retention and archiving.  We look forward to gathering constructive feedback, collecting innovative solutions and amassing a database of public opinion and concerns.  We anticipate that this new application will be viewed with a level of skepticism since it has never been implemented at CCRI.  We hope that you will understand the regulatory compliance issues under which the college must abide and know that these are external influences that impact the college and its record management program, still in development.

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Last Updated: 5/6/13