Northern Virginia Community College

Information Technology Committee


October 18, 2001

Present: Lowell Ballard, Ben Pittman for Alison Baker, Max Bassett, Lynn Bowers, Ronald Buchanan, Thomas Butler, Afsaneh Chamlou, Debbie Naquin, Steven Sachs (chair), Mark Santoro, Monica Sasscer Lionel Sylvas, Sushama Rath

Guests: Cathy Simpson

  1. Dr. Sachs reviewed the ITC charge and membership with the committee.

  3. Dr. Sachs reviewed the 2001-2002 College Technology Plan and allocations with the members. The request from VCCS staff to provide additional narrative on academic technology use was distributed. Monica Sasscer and Cathy Simpson were appointed to draft the new narrative for consideration by the ITC at its next meeting. Only a very short amount needs to be added.

  5. Dr. Sachs reviewed the status of current major technology projects.
    1. Ethernet conversion - the conversion process is complete and all token ring has been replaced. This upgrade was necessary because token ring is being phased out nationwide, and the new network protocol is needed to support the SIS, increased use of the Internet and IP phones.

    3. VoIP (Voice over IP) - the College must replace the PBXs at Manasass and Woodbridge. Last year a study of options found that it was less expensive to convert the entire College to VoIP than to just replace the two PBXs or convert the whole College to Centrex from Verizon. VoIP phone systems already have been installed at a number of VCCS colleges and at the System Office. The Gartner Group (a major technology research firm) also recommends not replacing current PBXs with new PBXs, using VoIP technology instead. It appears that we will be able to keep most of our existing phone numbers when we make the conversion. The current plan is to begin testing at one campus this Fall, and begin the actual cutover to the new system next Spring.

    5. Blackboard software - Dr. Sachs reported on the heavy use of Blackboard at the College. There are now over 15,000 student accounts (with the majority being for on campus courses). The current Technology Plan calls for outsourcing Blackboard hosting and support. However, only two bids were received. One was from a company that had never hosted Blackboard before, and the bid from Blackboard had technical flaws and far exceeded the budget. In addition, use of Blackboard at the College now exceeds the estimates in the original bid. The current College Blackboard servers are now at capacity, so action must be taken promptly to add servers, upgrade or both. Dr. Sachs presented a proposal to take the existing funds from the Technology Plan that were originally targeted for outsourcing, plus approximately $24,000 from the uncommitted funds under the heading of advanced technology support to upgrade the current Blackboard software (to version 5) and servers. The upgrade will be purchased through Dell computers. Based on discussions with Dallas Community College that is running an upgraded version, this upgrade should allow NVCC to handle 65,000 accounts. This increase is possible because the upgraded software is based on different software architecture than our current version. Also, we will be getting upgraded multi-processor servers. Dell computers will arrange to have the software loaded and configured for us prior to delivery. They will also provide support (in addition to support from Blackboard). This has the advantage of eliminating any confusion over whether future problems are hardware or software related. There will be an annual software license cost of approximately $25,000 (compared to our current license cost of $15,000 that will serve only about 20-25,000 students). Plans are to have the new servers in place for Spring 2002. The ITC approved this proposal.

    4.        Dr. Sachs reported on the College results of the VCCS Annual Technology Survey. The campuses provide this data. Typically, the counting of computers and servers is done by the campus ITMs. The responses to the other questions come from the LRS Directors who consult with Provost staffs on the campuses. This data is considered by the ITC as it drafts the Technology Plan for the coming year. Dr. Sachs pointed out the steady growth in the number of PCs at the College. The percentage rated good or excellent has also increase dramatically over the past several years. There were several categories where the data collected this year showed a decline. Given the nature of the data collection process, the ITC members were concerned about accuracy and agreed that there should be discussion later this year to devise a process for insuring more accurate responses on next year's survey. Dr. Sachs also provided information on the annual "Most Wired College" survey sponsored by Yahoo. Three VCCS colleges made the top 100 Most Wired Community College list. While it is not possible to see NVCC's overall score, the only significant categories where NVCC appeared to differ from those three colleges were: percentage of PCs purchased within the past two years (e.g. having more newer PCs for students) and providing free printing services on campus.
    5.    Dr. Sachs presented information from the state on the new state Computer Ethics agreement for employees. A copy of the current (1995) NVCC Employee Ethics agreement and an email from the VCCS auditors on ethics agreements were also distributed. A small committee was established to review the current NVCC Employee Computer Ethics agreement to see if changes are needed and to recommend at the next ITC meeting a revised Ethics Agreement if necessary. The committee will be composed of Dave Williams (chair), Tom Butler, Debbie Naquin, Ron Buchanan, and Randy Dotson (Security Engineer from TSS). It was thought that the work could be done by email.

    6.    Mrs. Simpson presented a proposal from Carol Sinwell and the LRS Working Group on adding information to the NVCC Student Technology Guide about specific computer activities that are prohibited. The ITC approved a recommendation to request that the LRC Directors Working Group review the current Student Ethics Agreement to see if additions are needed. The new state employee ethics agreement can be used as a guide. The group should forward a revised Student Computer Ethics Agreement (if they feel one is needed) to the ITC for consideration. It was noted that it may be desirable to have a link from the computer sign-on screen or a scroll box with the ethics agreement so there is no question about employee or student computer ethics.

    7.    Dr. Sachs asked that the ITC reaffirm College rules with respect to Microsoft Windows XP and Office XP. With the release of the new Windows version imminent, there will be those who want it installed on their PCs right away. The ITC approved the following two statements for distribution to all faculty and staff.

      " Windows XP should not be loaded on any college computers until after we received Service Pack 1 from Microsoft, and a migration plan is approved by the Dean of Instructional and Information Technology. The only exception is for a limited number of test machines that must specifically be approved by the Dean. (Service Pack is Microsoft's collection of patches and upgrades to fix problems with the initial release of the software.) We plan to have this software available for Teaching Fall courses, so we will have a limited roll out in the Spring. However, we do not routinely upgrade the operating systems of existing computers. So, the vast majority of College computers will not need to be upgraded to Windows XP.
      Microsoft Office XP can be loaded for specific instructional applications, but is not currently approved software for general office use. We will ultimately migrate to this software as the basic package for all computers, but that is months away. We will be developing a migration plan for this change. Currently, staff should be using Office 2000 (or Office 97). Installation of Office XP where it is required for teaching purposes should only be done with the approval of the campus IT staff."

    8.        Dr. Sachs advised the committee members that we will begin the process of drafting the 2002-2003 College Technology Plan at the next meeting. One of the first steps is to identify priorities or items that the ITC wants to have included in the Plan. Members can talk with their constituent groups or campuses about technology priorities and needs prior to this meeting. Copies of past year's Technology Plans are linked to the ITC web page.

    9. The next meeting of the Information Technology Committee is scheduled for December 6, 1 - 4 p.m., in the Brault Building Board Room.

Minutes prepared by:

Steven G. Sachs