Minutes: October 22, 2008


Report of the meeting of the COMPUTING COMMITTEE of Erindale College Council held on Wednesday, October 22, 2008 at 3:10 p.m. in the Ante Room, #3129, S.B.

Present: D. Kreuger; L. Barber (for S. Senese); J. Sills; E. Nikiema; R. Da Silva; C. Mejia; A. Akers; J. Hu; H. Stevens; A. Wensley; R. Gerlai; A. Vyas; J. Lim;

Regrets: A. Fleming; D. O’Day;

Guests: C. DeMarco; S. Laughton;

Chair announced that there was a correction to the previously distributed agenda, and there was no need to elect a new chair since he this is the second year of his two-year term.

Chair introduced himself, and since there were some new members introductions around the table ensued.

Minutes of the Previous Meeting (September 24, 2008)

The minutes of the last meeting was approved as they stand.

Report of officers:

a) Blackboard and the Learning Technology Team, Simone Laughton (HMALC)

Blackboard update

  1. In September five new tools were introduced:

    a) UT Manage Groups tool, which helps faculty with large courses or group management activities;
    b) Gradebook by Groups tool, which allows filtering of grades for TAs, and allows TAs access to grades for their own students;
    c) UT Manage Users tool
    d) EduBlogger, developed at U. of T. Mississauga collaboratively;
    e) Library Resource Tool, which allows for customization of library resources within Blackboard, so students can have immediate access to online library holdings.
  2. Blackboard’s technical performance is better than last year. Weekly maintenance is run Friday evenings 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., during which time the Portal may be unavailable for up to two hours.
  3. Thanks to the collaborative work of different units (e.g., Human Resources, Registrar’s office, Computing Services, Department contacts, and others) there has been better coordination to enable faculty and students to have access to their courses earlier (e.g., HRIS, ROSI).
  4. Blackboard Departmental Single Point of Contacts – Communication Network

    o Presented at University of Toronto Mississauga Departmental Chairs meeting – May 6th, 2008
    o Working closely with U. of T. Mississauga Human Resources information sent to Departmental Chairs in July
    o All U. of T. Mississauga departments except 3 have now confirmed at least 1 Blackboard Departmental Single Point of Contact
    o First meeting held October 22nd, 2008

    • University of Toronto Mississauga Library IT Blackboard Communication Plan

    o Presented at IT Operations Committee on February 6, 2008 to gather input regarding the Communication Plan – feedback used to revise the plan
    o Presented at May 6th, 2008 U. of T. Mississauga Departmental Chairs meeting
    o Intended to improve feedback, enhance communication and problem-solving.

    • Faculty Blackboard Training Plan for 2008 – 2009

    o Discussed at the May 6th, 2008 U. of T. Mississauga Departmental Chairs meeting.
    o List of training topics sent to the Departmental Chairs in June. In addition to offering customized at basic, intermediate, and advanced levels several new topics were included:
    i) Using Blackboard as a research tool to enhance student learning
    ii) Integrating Library resources into Blackboard courses (including the new Library Resource Tool developed by librarians at University of Toronto Mississauga and St. George);
    iii) Information Literacy toolkit;
    iv) Best practice for departments to ensure courses are aligned with Departmental University Undergraduate Degree Level Expectations (Offered by the Robert Gillespie Academic Skills Centre); and,
    v) Preparing your course syllabus to ensure it is aligned with university policies and legislation (Offered by the Robert Gillespie Academic Skills Centre).
    vi) Workshops have been (and are being) offered in the last two weeks of August, September, and October.
    vii) 12 Training sessions have been held during the summer and fall months so far, 3 of these training sessions were for TAs.
    viii) Continue to provide opportunities to learn about Blackboard functionalities through the Instructional Technology Lunchtime series sessions, in Foreword interviews with faculty who use instructional technologies, and through one-to-one consultations.

A member asked about Gradebooks: TAs currently have filtered access to marks, however quizzes done online aren’t available, which could be useful to TAs. Simone replied that a bug was identified and subsequently fixed, so that from this point forward for the course in question all a student’s course marks will be available to that student’s TA.

Learning Technology Team (LTT) Update

  1. A report was last made to the Computing Committee regarding the Learning Technology Team on January 16, 2008.
  2. The LTT is a group of IT professionals, faculty, staff, who are interested in IT issues. They are an informal group that discusses IT issues. Topics discussed over the previous academic year included:

    o MediaGenerator, ePresence, i>clickers, Integrate projects, Academic Skills Centre learning objects and learning initiatives, and research regarding the use of simulations and interactive learning modules;
    o Technological competencies (and challenges) of U. of T. Mississauga students; and,
    o Information regarding different conferences and presentations (OTA Teaching & Learning Symposium, Carol Rolheiser's presentation regarding Cooperative Learning).
  3. The Learning Technology Team sponsors different talks and workshops, and they co-sponsored Shafique Virani's talk regarding i>clickers, and a link to the presentation is now available at http://utm.kmdi.utoronto.ca/website_archived.aspx?c=1&dir=28 (<-- broken link) on the University of Toronto Mississauga ePresence Library archived events.
  4. They are currently focusing on digital/video/audio/image issues; the usage, storage and creation, and how they can improve it. Digital Video, Digital Audio, Digital Image Surveys have been prepared by the Learning Technology Team with input from Computing Services, Microelectronics, and other participants.
    o At University of Toronto Mississauga instructors use different methods in order to use, store, and deliver digital content for teaching and learning activities associated with the academic courses they are teaching (such as digital videos, audio files, and/or images). For example, instructors may:
    i) Use their own personal computers;
    ii) Upload files to local storage space at U. of T. Mississauga that is offered through Computing Services (1GB)
    iii) Place archive ePresence files on the KMDI server through Microelectronics;
    iv) Place files on a streaming server that is offered by Computing Services;
    v) Use FADIS to create collections of images that can be viewed by students; and,
    vi) Store and deliver digital content using Blackboard, the U. of T. course management system.
  5. The survey is intended to gather data regarding instructor functional requirements for those who currently use, create, and store digital video, digital audio, and digital images, and a second survey is intended to gather similar information for instructors who are planning on using, creating, and storing digital media. The surveys will be posted in the near future to collect data regarding instructor requirements.

b) Report from Office of the Registrar, Cesar Mejia

  1. Student Web CGPA
    This is a web application developed for students to use to play with their CGPA. They’ll see their current GPA, live data from ROSI, and they can add more courses and play with marks to see the impact on CGPA. They can add marks, add courses, and save as a profile.
  2. Photo Class List
    This is a tool for instructors, and it is running as a pilot project with Management. For students, this is optional since they have to agree to being photographed.
  3. SEAT (Student exam attendance tracking)
    • Student exam attendance tracking is a system that takes attendance during final exams.
    • Using hand-held computer and scanner, T-cards are scanned and validated (registration, enrolment, etc.).
    • The Office of the Registrar is also planning to offer this service for term tests upon request. A tablet (the scanning device) can be booked from Office of the Registrar.
    • Information about this tracking system will be further disseminated at a later date.
  4. Prerequisite checking application
    Is a system that is used by all deparments, and helps to check prerequisites, exclusions, co-requisites, etc.
  5. Course Syllabus Information
    This system collects syllabus information from course instructors and makes it available to students through the timetable. This tool allows students to generate final exam timetable very easily, and as early as September.

A member mentioned that the photo class list is a brilliant idea, and that it is very useful: It helps instructors get to know the students’ names and you can refer to them by their names.

Cesar remarked that a new photo is used, one for the T-card and one for Registrar’s office. Cesar mentioned that the system is live, but there still aren’t many photos. Faculty can encourage students to participate.

A member mentioned he had caught someone impersonating another student in an exam, and that the SEAT system would help to deter students from doing so.

A member asked about prerequisite checking, and whether exceptions be allowed? If a student doesn’t have the prerequisite, but the instructor is willing to have the student in a class, can the system allow the exception? Cesar said yes, that the system will highlight that a student is missing something, but people decide whether to allow the student into the class or not.

Another member mentioned that students erroneously think that by adding a class to ROSI they’re automatically registered, but that is not always the case. Sometimes students can be denied, but they just enroll again. There’s also a problem with waiting lists and how they are used and managed.

The Chair asked how often the photos are renewed (annually or just once)? Cesar replied that it’s a new project, so this hasn’t been addressed. For now, they’re just taking one photo.

A member asked how easy is it to get the students to agree. Cesar replied that approximately 94% say yes. The main reason for others declining to have the photo taken is that they are in a rush don’t want to wait to take the photo. First-year students rarely say no. It was mentioned that they have to read and agree to a FIPPA statement.

A member mentioned that exams can sometimes also be requested for specific time periods, if that’s an issue for course instructors.

A member mentioned that tri-campus courses where exams should be held at exactly the same time can be problematic, and an instructor has been told that such scheduling can’t be done.

A member asked about the prerequisite system, and whether it allows GPA checking? Cesar replied that yes, it checks all elements of eligibility, and users can set the specific requirements. Transfer credits are sometimes a challenge. It’s a similar process to allow the graduation and program entrance systems. More rules are also being added to make the system more functional and to allow overrides.

The Chair asked how far the system might go, and whether it might generate class lists, etc. Also, whether there is a plan to move the prerequisite program to become a fully integrated system. There is a concern about there being some overlap with Computing Services and the Registrar’s Office. Cesar replied that departments have told the Registrar’s Office their needs, but Psychology’s are extensive, so their work is being left to the end. Cesar could not say when it will happen.

New Business

a) Blackboard

  1. A member mentioned that Blackboard for TAs is problematic since the system doesn’t use names in class, but rather their legal names. When it comes to courses with multiple TAs, sometimes students can’t recognize their TAs.
    Can there be a way to fix this in Blackboard, without changing the name in ROSI?
  2. The Chair mentioned that the process is simple yet complicated. It’s the data feed from the Ontario Universities Applications Centre that has caused some of the issues: When that data feeds UofT the data, the full first-name is sent in one field along with second names; the first name is all in one field, and the surname in another, and that’s the data that gets used in ROSI. Someone decided that Blackboard would only be fed information from that first-name field up to the first space. So Asian names that are separated by a space aren’t complete in Blackboard.
  3. CS approached ROSI for a fix, but there isn’t one. The decision needs to be made to use the entire first-name field in Blackboard, which will annoy people with middle names they don’t want used regularly.
  4. That decision is being sent up to the Provost, which will then move along to the Blackboard people.
  5. Can special requests be addressed? The problem is that course instructors need to be able to match Blackboard names with course lists and grading lists.
  6. A course instructor approached the Dean with this issue too, but it’s a difficult challenge; they don’t want to open up the system that widely. People might choose names in a haphazard fashion.
  7. The Chair says they expect they’ll start using the full given name.
  8. ROSI has a preferred name field, as does HRIS, so they’re going to try to make use those fields across U of T, but this won’t happen quickly, as policing is a problem.
  9. Do you foresee when this will happen? Chair replied that it will hopefully happen by end of the year.
  10. Is there a way to manipulate Blackboard? The response was no, that it’s direct. Simone said that for one faculty member, they took the space out from HRIS, and that filtered through to Blackboard. The system looks for a space, and decides that’s your first name. Hyphens can be a work-around.

b) ResNet

  1. The point was made that the residence internet has been slow during peak hours.
  2. The Chair replied that it’s a UofT issue, and downtown is still looking at the problem. Innis college is demanding a rapid solution. The problem has been identified with the bandwidth and the gateway.
  3. Peer-2-Peer (P2P) is problematic since it is designed to gobble up all available bandwidth, and the more bandwidth that’s there, the more it is used; residence bandwidth is always busy.
  4. Solutions are being sought downtown. CS can only apply some pressure. The Chair is meeting with Director of CNS on Friday, and this issue will be raised.
  5. UofT’s internet usage has increased this term, so they’ve added a third link, and they have increased the bandwidth by another 200MB.
  6. A member mentioned that P2P systems are aggressive now, so it’s a problem experienced by all ISPs and universities.

c) UTORwin in the research wing

  1. The concern is that the wireless isn’t always up. The Chair said it should be totally functional, so these kinds of problems need to be reported to the HelpDesk. Initially it was working well, but now, although they’re connected, they can’t get onto the Internet.

Next meeting
Members will convene at the next meeting, November 26, 2008.

Meeting adjourned at 4:10 p.m.