March 1, 2006


Erindale College

REPORT OF THE COMPUTING COMMITTEE meeting of Erindale College Council held on Wednesday, March 1, 2006 at 3:10 p.m. in Room 3138, South Building.

Present: J. Lim (in the Chair), R. deSouza, C. Mejia, J. Seel, J. Tran, Z. Baig, J. Hu, A. Wensley
Regrets: N. Collins, S. Bancheri, A. Vyas, J. Sills
In attendance: R. Bashre (student), R. Mazar (Library), D. Mesch (T-card coordinator)

1. Adoption of the Agenda

The agenda was approved (Z. Baig/J. Hu)

2. Minutes of the Previous Meeting (November 30, 2005)

The report of the last meeting was approved. (J. Tran/J. Hu)

3. New Business

i. Update on the Learning Management System – Rochelle Mazar, Instructional Technology Liaison Librarian, UTM Library

Ms. Mazar reported that the University of Toronto chose Blackboard as its Learning Management System (LMS), the largest such system available. Blackboard is the choice of 40% of colleges and universities in the United States and has recently merged with WebCT. She noted that a core group of staff have already been trained on the system, who in turn would conduct larger scale training.

She continued to report on the system’s features and the implementation plan. The system replicates many of the features of other systems currently in use, such as WebCT and CCNet, but has additional features. Blackboard also has a good track record of accepting plug-ins and modifications from users.

The implementation of the system will be over a three-year period, starting with a small number of users. There will be some training of faculty starting this spring, with a focus on WEbCT users. Pilot implementation projects are also being considered for some courses in the summer.

Ms. Mazar remarked that the university’s CCNet license was valid until September of 2007, so all users will be trained and moved to Blackboard by that time. She stressed that during this period of change, faculty will have access to their courses ideally several months prior to the time they are expected to use it.

The Chair opened the floor to questions.

In response to a member’s query, Ms. Mazar noted that Storm users would also be shifted to the new system. She added that part of University’s agreement with Blackboard was to stagger the implementation of the system, so that the first phase would have no more than 10,000 users across all three campuses, the second phase would have 30,000 users and the third year would see across-the -board implementation.

ii. FIPPA (Freedom of Information, Privacy Protection Act) – Joe Lim, Manager, Computing Services

Mr. Lim began his presentation by talking about the requirements of the Freedom of Information, Privacy Protection Act (FIPPA) and its effects on the University of Toronto. He explained that the Act imposes certain administrative obligations on universities to provide for a general right of access by members of the public to the university’s recorded information. The Act also regulates the collection, use and disclosure of personal information by universities and establishes minimum retention periods of personal information in the custody and control of universities. It also requires that universities keep records of personal information accurate and imposes obligations on universities to maintain certain data banks. He added that under the Act, most universities would be subject to oversight by the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario. As it applies to universities, FIPPA would take effect in May of 2006.

With respect to access to information requests as follows, Mr. Lim listed high risk issues as incorrectly providing information that is not permitted, not providing information within the required timeframe of 28 days and not providing all the information requested. Regarding the protection of personal information the high risk issues would be collecting more information than is needed, using information for something that the affected individual has not authorized and not controlling access to information properly.

Challenges for the university in meeting the requirement of FIPPA would include the administrative burden of meeting the 28-day deadline for response to access requests, frivolous requests that would cause unproductive work and expense to the University and risk to the University’s reputation if information becomes public that is embarrassing, or subject to misinterpretation.

Mr. Lim reported that implementation of the Act’s requirements at the University of Toronto is underway, with a deadline for readiness of July 1, 2006. He explained that a central office would be created, which would receive and process access to information requests. This office would be responsible for creating procedures to deal with requests, and other mechanisms by which to administer the requirements of the act. These would include establishing an index of personal information data banks and reviewing policies and procedures related to the retention and storage of information, destruction and backup of files and email privacy. This office would also develop communications and training plans to ensure that faculty and staff are aware of the requirements of the Act and accompanying responsibilities.

Mr. Lim noted that each division needed to identify a designate a staff that would be accountable for managing the response to all requests for information under the direction of the central office. The administration of FIPPA would be out of the Office of the Governing Council and UTM’s divisional coordinator would be the Director of Governance.

The Chair opened the floor to questions.

In answer to a member’s question, Mr. Lim confirmed that requests would be subject to a fee in order to discourage those that are frivolous. He noted that the university already publishes large amounts of information in the public domain that is available for free.

Mr. Lim also noted that there would be implications of this act on the university’s inventory of data and its retention period, for example with reference to medical information.

iii. Blackboard Transaction System - Diane Mesch, UTM T-Card Transaction Coordinator

Ms. Mesch explained that the Blackboard Transaction System (BTS) was introduced in 2005 with the primary focus on the student meal plan. However, the system is applicable to other areas, such as dining, commerce and access administration. She explained that the one campus card program, allows students to access a variety of services on campus with their ID cards.

She noted that the system allows for network communication, such that transaction data from its point of sale terminals are stored and processed on the blackboard transaction server. The Windows 2003 server houses Envision, Blackboard’s transaction management software, as well as Oracle 9i for data storage and services that work with the Envision software. With the implementation of the One Campus card system, students will be able to take advantage of self serve programs.

She reported that Food Services and the Blind Duck Pub incorporated these Point of Sale Terminals (POS) in the summer of 2005 and are functioning in such venues as Tim Horton’s, Mr. Sub and Spigel Hall. She explained that these terminals are connected to the network via IP technology. However, should there be a network failure, these POS terminals are able to continue operation with the ability for off-line transactions. These off-line transactions are then automatically updated to the server, when the server is functional. She added that each POS terminal is equipped with a magnetic stripe reader, allowing for students to use their ID cards.

Ms. Mesch continued her report with information on the use of the Blackboard transaction system on the student shuttle bus service, which was implemented in January of 2005. It utilizes the wireless reader from Sequoia Retail Systems with its hardware built on Symbol Technologies. She noted that durable Palm Powered PDA’s are presently being used on the UTM Shuttle buses. Each PDA is equipped with a magnetic stripe reader accessory for reading student ID cards as well as the latest version of the UTM student list. Software is then run to validate the UTM student, based on their student bar code, against the downloaded student list. She reported that UTM was presently working with Symbol Technologies to allow for the synchronization to occur over the wireless network, rather than through the cradles, in order to improve the efficiency.

The Blackboard system will also be used in the administration of the meal plan, and in many other areas, including laundry, food vending machines and printing facilities. Value Transfer Stations will also allow students to add money to their accounts using cash or credit cards. Parents will also have the opportunity to credit their child’s account through a web based application.

The Chair opened the floor to questions.

In response to a member’s question about the consequences of losing these cards, Ms. Mesch explained that they would be treated similar to a credit card: once reported lost or stolen, access would be blocked and a new card would be issued.

4. Other Business

There was no other business.

5. Next Meeting – Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The meeting adjourned at 4:30 p.m. (J. Seel/Z. Baig)

Secretary ___________________________ Chair __________________________________

March 20, 2006