Report: September 27, 2006


Erindale College

Report of the COMPUTING COMMITTEE of Erindale College Council held on Wednesday, September 27, 2006 at 3:10 p.m. in Room 3138, South Building.

Present: J. Lim (in the Chair), A. Vyas, C .Mejia, J. Seel, J. Sills, S. Al-Abdul-Wahid, J. Hu, R. deSouza
Regrets: S. Bancheri, N. Collins
In attendance: Rishi Arora (Client Services Manager), Kevin Lee (Manager of Computing Services), Susan Senese (Library Systems Coordinator)

The following items of business were added to the agenda as items 2 e, f and g respectively, in response to a request from a member: UTM email uptime; Wireless access in the South Building; and Network Speeds and infrastructure.

  1. Minutes of the Previous Meeting (March 29, 2006)

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

2. New Business

a) Speech Recognition System – Rishi Arora, Client Services Manager

Mr. Arora reported that the speech recognition system was implemented over the summer and was working well. The system has so far received 50,000 calls, of which 94-96% was able to be directed successfully. Unidentifiable calls are now down to 2-3% of the calls from a high of 7%. In the future, the system will be linked to the UTM phonebook application, which will allow the timely entry of even temporary changes into the directory.

Continuing to report on usage statistics, Mr. Arora noted that it takes 1.5 interactions per call before a call is transferred and that the time it takes for a transfer to be made has decreased from a high of 60 seconds to the current 40 seconds. He added that the goal is for transfers to take no longer than 20 seconds each.

He commented that the majority of calls on the system are received during business hours and that the most calls received in one week amounted to approximately 4000, which occurred during the first week of July as students began to register for courses.

The Chair opened the floor to questions.

In answer to a member’s question about how success rates for the system are measured, Mr. Arora explained that users may hang up if they are transferred to the incorrect number and this is classified as an unsuccessful transfer. He added that one way to address this issue, which may be built into the system in the near future, is to ask for verification of the correct name before the transfer is made.

In answer to a member’s question about when the contract for this system comes up for renewal, Mr. Lim explained that the system is on a 4-year lease, but that only a one year lease has been funded so far. The Chief Administrative Officer noted that in the near future he may ask for this committee’s support to request funding from the student experience fund in order to subsidize the speech recognition system for additional years. A member noted that there may be other projects which deserve priority funding such as improving the UTM email, wireless access and network speeds and infrastructure.

b) UTORid Migration – Kevin Lee, Manager, Computing Services

Mr. Lee noted that phase one of the migration to a single point of authentication, from UTM to UTORmail for students was completed with few problems. One of the concerns experienced with the project was with students who had created their UTORid’s, but never actually used them. They would forward their mail to either hotmail or gmail, which would then put these emails in a lower priority queue.

In addition, Mr. Lee reported that all student laboratories have also been migrated to UTORid. Some problems have arisen with this transition, including students not remembering their login id and password and therefore not being able to access the system. While the majority of such problems have now been solved, approximately 1% of students are still experiencing difficulty logging into the labs. Computing staff is looking into this problem.

The Chair opened the floor to questions.

In response to a member’s question, Mr. Lee confirmed that graduate students can also use their UTORid’s. Faculty and staff migration is planned for the end of December. A member suggested that library staff should receive first priority for migration after students.

In reply to a member’s comment about the problems associated with providing temporary login id’s and passwords to those students who cannot access the computer labs, Mr. Lee noted that computing staff are currently working on allowing students to make the transition; these include the notices and the use of pop-up warning messages before deletion of access.

c) Update from the Library – June Seel

Ms. Seel introduced Susan Senese, the library’s new systems coordinator and noted that Ms. Senese would take over her role on this committee and in the library upon her retirement in the near future. She proceeded to give her report on the library’s transition to the Hazel McCallion Academic Learning Centre (HMALC) and the new centre’s features.

She noted that the Hazel McCallion Academic Leaning Centre would open to the public on Tuesday October 10, 2006. The building would feature the following amenities:

· over 1179 study spaces, an increase of 85% over our current library seating
· 165 general computers available for student use:

Ø RBC Learning Commons on the main level with 107 computer stations including 16 express stations
Ø Level 1 has 2 rooms housing 30 and 16 computers that can be combined into 1 room of 46. While (most of the time these computers will be available to students, but some will be closed occasionally for Library instruction.)
Ø 12 additional express stations will be available on Levels 1, 3 & 4

· The Astra Zeneca Canada Centre for Information & Technological Literacy will house high-end computers and equipment for Geographic Information Systems and Instructional Technology support:

Ø 3 GIS computers, 2 instructional technology computers, and HP Printer Plotter, Digitizer, Drum scanner, 11 x 17’ scanner & Black & white printer

· Adaptive Technology room for our AccessAbility students will house:

Ø 5 computers with 20” monitors and accessibility software such as TextHelp, Inspiration, Zoomtext, Dragon Naturally Speaking, JAWS
Ø CCTV text enlargement unit

· Building is also totally wireless

Ms. Seel also reported that in May 2006 a plan was developed to implement a student support model at the Centre for the 2006-2007 academic year that would realize a service team vision to engage students in learning. The plan used a tiered integrated approach to support using full-time staff, casual assistants and work study students. Staff and students when providing this support role were to be referred to as The HIT (Help Information Technology) Squad. The primary responsibilities of The HIT Squad are customer service in the areas of hardware/software support, access issues, printing and other library equipment troubleshooting. The HIT Squad members are easily identifiable by their blue golf shirts and students seem very amenable to approaching a fellow student for technical assistance. The integration of these seven student HIT Squad members has been extremely successful in terms of providing immediate, timely support during busy times in the library supplementing and reinforcing support offered by regular circulation and reference staff. In particular, the HIT Squad students and circulation/reference staff have provided invaluable assistance helping students establish and navigate through their UTORids. Through signage, tent cards posted at the library PCs, additional library staff training and personal attention, the library staff assisted hundreds of students in resolving their UTORid issues.

Ms. Seel noted that as the issues associated with the migration to UTORid subside, it is anticipated that the HIT Squad will increasingly resolve issues regarding wireless setup, printing problems, software questions and troubleshooting.

The Chair opened the floor to questions.

In response to a member’s question about whether the library would be making use of old computers, Ms. Seel said that computers that were older than four years, were to be distributed throughout the campus and that a notice to that effect would be going out through computing services.

d) UTM Email uptime

A member reported that one of the largest areas of concern for graduate students with respect to the use of technology services was the large amount of downtime experienced by the UTM email system and asked that the problem be addressed as soon as possible.

Another member commented that UTM should arrive at its target email availability and then conduct a measure of actual uptime in order to accurately address the gap and to ascertain whether the problem requires improvements in infrastructure.

Mr. Lim explained that computing staff are exploring the root cause of the problem, adding that email downtime usually peaks in September and then improves. He noted that in the beginning of September, a database glitch caused the downtime of Web mail for two and a half days. This problem was compounded because most of systems are inter-related with one another, so if one experiences difficulty, then the others are slowed down. He reported that computing staff are trying to address this issue with an oracle server as well as a number of infrastructure designs. Currently staff are negotiating product costs with vendors to obtain “high availability servers”, which would allow for one system to go down without causing the slowdown of others at the same time. Mr. Lim asked for the patience of the UTM community while staff continue to work to find a solution to this problem. The target implementation for this upgrade would be over the December holidays.

The member noted that this project should be a top priority for resource allocation.

e) Wireless access in the South Building

A member reported that a number of students have approached him with a request to have wireless access installed in the research wing of the South Building. He noted that many graduate students wish to enter their data directly into their laptops when working in the labs. He noted that there is a very high cost associated with running extra ports in the labs and that lines are not supposed to be split by the use of routers. Mr. Lim noted that this will be done during the next round of wireless installations. The Chief Administrative Officer reminded members that in their research grant applications, faculty should be including the cost of this type of technology in the resource implication section. He added that funding for wireless installation comes from the Office of the Provost in the form of a matching grant, but is limited to public, not research areas, which are considered to be private and therefore need to be funded out of UTM’s budget.

f) Network speeds and infrastructure

Mr. Lim reported that an upgrade to the network is planned and that an RFP would be going out in the near future, with a plan for an estimated implementation date of mid to late December. He reminded members that there would be no access to the network for approximately 2 weeks during that time.

The next meeting of the Computing Committee is scheduled for Wednesday, October 25, 2006.

The meeting adjourned at 4:15 p.m. (A. Vyas/J. Seel)

Secretary ______________________________ Chair _____________________________