Minutes: January 24, 2007

Report: January 24, 2007.

Erindale College

Meeting of the COMPUTING COMMITTEE of Erindale College Council held on Wednesday, January 24, 2007 at 3.10 p.m. in the Ante-Room, #3129, South Building.

Present: J. Lim (in the Chair), C. Capewell, J. Hu, C. Mejia, D. O’Day, A. Vyas, J. Seel, J. Sills

In attendance: R. Mazar, B. Miraftab, E. Reingold, S. Senese

1. Adoption of the Agenda

The agenda was approved. (A. Vyas/C. Capewell)

2. New Business - Reports of Committees and Officers

i) Update of UTM Mail Server

Mr. Lim, Chair and Chief Information Officer provided an update on the UTM Mail Server. There had been ongoing and substantial disruption in the server for the past couple of months which could be attributed to two things. The first problem was with the storage server, and updating the existing device driver seems to have rectified this. The second problem originated from a hacked attempt on the mail server. Mr. Lim observed that the hack had come in at the same network port that mail is using. There had been consecutive attacks and the internal fire wall in the server had been turned on to act as a filter. The last problem he noted was the mail process taking up all of the system memory. A couple of system parameters had been increased and it was hoped that this would stabilize things. A new server, which would be tested over the next couple of weeks, would soon be allocated which would hopefully provide better protection Mr. Lim emphasized that the minimum down time for any crash of a mail server was 2-3 hours because of the massive amount of storage involved and the need to do a file system check for integrity.

The Chair opened the floor to questions.

Mr. Mejia enquired whether faculty and staff would be moving to UTORmail. Mr. Lim responded that they would, and that a report would be tabled at the February meeting of this Committee. He observed that the St. George Campus was currently soliciting comments and concerns regarding a proposal to replace the existing UTORschedule service (also known as Corporate Time and Oracle Calendar) with a service based on Microsoft Exchange technology. A Town Hall meeting had been held on this campus the preceding week. If the consensus was to proceed with this, CNS would request funding for this proposal from the Provost’s Office. If funded, it would be implemented in the summer of this year. Mr. Vyas asked whether everyone on this campus would move to UTORmail if the St. George Campus proceeded with this. Mr. Lim responded in the affirmative. Mr. Vyas indicated that, at the Town Hall meeting, the message was that one would not move if they didn’t use the Calendar. Mr. Lim reiterated that this was not the case and that everyone would move.

A member asked whether incoming or outgoing mail was lost because of the problems with the server, and Mr. Lim responded that none was lost.

Professor Reingold was attending this meeting in Professor Gerlai’s place and, on his behalf, noted that the webmail space allocation was inadequate, and as a result could not be used effectively. Mr. Lim suggested that users having problems contact him directly about this.

ii) Update on Blackboard LMS

Ms Mazar, Instructional Technology Liaison Librarian, introduced Bahar Miraftab, who had assisted her with the Blackboard implementation plan. She reminded members that the University of Toronto had chosen Blackboard as its Learning Management System (LMS), and that two courses had served as pilot implementation projects last summer. Implementation was kept relatively small in the fall with 43 courses from across U of T Mississauga making up the early-adopters. She remarked that there were indeed initial growing pains, but that there was also a lot of enthusiasm. It was currently in Phase II of implementation, and training was being done department by department. She observed that 132 courses, which included all Historical Studies courses, were now using Blackboard. 70% of students were using it on this campus with at least one of their courses. Future plans included PSYCH 100, which would be rolled out in the summer when the class size was smaller. By September 2007, all departments using CCNet will have moved onto the new LMS. This was a three-year roll-out process. Ms Mazar reported that the ROSI feeds were working nicely. Although there were still issues to be worked out, great strides had indeed been made. She emphasized that this was less about technology and more about best practices.

The Chair opened the floor to questions. As there were none, he moved on to the next item of business.

2. New Business

Mr. Vyas, Manager of the Micro-Electronics Department, reported that the prototype U of T Teaching Station was unveiled at the Teaching and Learning Symposium in the fall. The Teaching Station had spent a week at each of the three U of T campuses. The overall response to the prototype Station and the recommendations for its implementation had been very positive. Information on the prototype Teaching Station was available on the Office of Teaching Advancement website (http://www.utoronto.ca/ota/events/index.html). Members could view a summary of responses there. He noted that the rollout would begin this summer with 4-5 classrooms initially.

He noted that there had been upgrades to several classrooms in the North Building. This room (Ante-Room 3129-SB) and the Council Chamber had also been upgraded. There were still a few things to be completed regarding the Council Chamber.

He mentioned that videoconferencing was available in Rm. 2038N. Mr. Vyas remarked that ISDN lines had been removed as they were not cost-effective and that it was strictly IP-based now.

Mr. Vyas reported that there had been over 7,000 hits on the webcasting website located at http://utm.kmdi.utoronto.ca This website had an archive of previously recorded events, lectures, etc.

The Chair opened the floor to questions.

Professor Sills observed that a fourth-year Computer Science course mounted on the St. George Campus and webcast here, although a popular course, had not been successful. He noted that it was 1 ½ -dimensional in that the instructor had to key in the questions at this end. The students were reluctant to participate, he felt, because they were perhaps intimidated. Professor Sills suggested that it might make the students feel more comfortable if a faculty member were to sit in on such classes, and ask the first question.

Mr. Lim noted that a videoconferencing room was planned for the new Medical Academy, which had been delayed by one year to September 2008. There would be true two-way interaction to ensure that the remote side felt that they were actually part of the lecture and in the classroom. Faculty would be trained accordingly. The Medical Academy would have priority, but if the space wasn’t being used by them, other departments could use it. Professor Sills would speak further to Mr. Lim and Mr. Vyas about this. Mr. Vyas asked if it would be multi-point, and Mr. Lim responded that it would initially be point-to-point, but that eventually it would be multi-point.

3. Next Meeting - Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Chair noted that the next meeting was scheduled for Wednesday, February 28, 2007.

4. Adjournment

The meeting was adjourned at 4 p.m. ( C. Capewell/R. Mazar)


Secretary______________________ Chair_________________________