Academic Computer Services

CLUG Notes May 7, 2003

Attendees: Peggy Ross, David Chalif, Susan Loreen, Karl Camozzi, Becky Monroe, Marti Baker, Mike Yocom, David Winney, Gisela Dicklin, Pat Gales, Julie Jackson, Misty Cline, Kathie Richer, Tim Hunt, Carole Dreger, Teri Odegard, William Marshall, Jon French, Lauri Kram, Gerald Rosenberg, Lorraine Necaise, Paul Bladek, Judy Forth, and Ginny Olson




    • ACS will create a newsletter and an ACS website.
    • ACS will provide one orientation for instructors with day classes and another orientation in the evening for the instructors with evening classes.
    • ACS is creating Service Requests to better serve the faculty using the computer labs.
    • Faculty will send back to Pat the updated software list.
    • Faculty are requested to send their hardware equipment needs when sending back their software requests forms.
    • ACS will contact department chair or division heads when trying to contact a part-time instructor for software concerns.
    • Faculty will provide ACS documentation and licensing for the software needed for their classes.
    • Faculty will not use the CDs that accompany their textbooks due to incompatibility issues.




Peggy Ross welcomed everyone and thanked them all for attending the reestablishment of the computer lab users group meeting.  She stated that she was grateful that so many attended.  Peggy said that ACS currently planned on having quarterly meetings, but if there is a need to have them more often, then the meetings could be held monthly and with special meetings, as needed.  Marti Baker asked if the meetings could be held on Fridays - either Friday mornings or Friday afternoons depending on teaching schedules.  Pat Gales does not work on Friday but said that she could occasionally come in on Fridays if the meetings were only once a quarter.  No decision was reached.

2.         NEW SOFTWARE REQUEST PACKETS:           Pat Gales explained about the new software request packets that she had sent out for summer and fall quarter, the new ACS software database, the checklist, the software timelines for this round, the textbooks, the software manuals, the software licensing, proof of purchase information, uniform listing of software, and the complex installation process for the ACS technicians.  In the future it will be critical to follow the software timelines and bring in the software along with original CDs, manuals, textbooks, etc. as early as possible.  It is important to have only one version of the software, because more than one version complicates the image process.  The textbooks and the manuals will be a tremendous help in the ACS area as resources for the ACS technicians and the lab assistants.  It was requested that the software be ordered at the same time the book orders are due.  However, that will not allow the ACS technicians enough time to work with the software.  Pat has a software database listing the software that each of the classes uses.  When Pat sends the software requests out each quarter, if the software for your class is the same, just leave it, if you are not using the software listed, cross it out and write what the new software in, and if it is the same software, but a different version, cross out the old version and replace it with the new version.  Another request that is necessary for the ACS labs to run properly is to include the appropriate hardware specifications when sending in the requests for the new software or new version of software.

3.         QUARTERLY IMAGES:      Mike Yocom said that last quarter it took him and Becky two weeks to get the images ready for spring quarter, and spring quarter was a fairly easy quarter with only two new pieces of software.  When an instructor brings software to be installed at the eleventh hour, it can cause some major problems.  Some of the concerns that come up are:  Is the software compatible with the other software that it will be running with; does the software package require hardware capabilities that are not sufficient in the computer lab; and what does the software do and what is it supposed to do.  Currently, when the images are created at the quarter break, there are two separate images created, one for the slow labs and one for the faster labs.  ACS is hopeful that we will be upgrading some of the computer labs with funding from tech fee and from Jerrilee Mosier.  The majority of the computer labs run most of the software programs.  It is necessary to do this so that the students will have labs in which to do their homework.  However, the high-end complex applications cannot run in all of the labs.

David Chalif asked if some of the software can reside on the server.  The answer was that certain software can reside on the server, but serving applications from the server presents another set of challenges.  Another question arose about what kind of hardware will be needed this fall?  Equipment requests should be part of the software request process.  Karl Camozzi is working on requirements for the high-end applications and what additional hardware would be needed to support the software.  Also, when two versions are requested of the same software, the ACS technicians will evaluate and set up meetings to work with the instructors.

4.         SOFTWARE TIMELINES:              Tim Hunt agrees that deadlines are necessary for the software to work properly.  However, it works both ways.  If there are problems with a specific software package or software versions, there shouldn’t be any last minute surprises.  The instructor needs to be notified early enough so that they can come in and work with the ACS technicians to help resolve the issues. 

Peggy provided general information about the proposed software request timelines with the understanding that these are in a development stage and still being evaluated as to what will meet the needs of the instructors and the needs of the ACS technicians.

5.         SOFTWARE TESTING:      A suggestion was brought up by Jerry Rosenberg that students could be hired to come in and test software.  It would be up to the instructor if they wanted to hire students to test software, but the students need to be thoroughly knowledgeable with the software, what it is supposed to do and what it is expected to do.  If there were issues with the software, the instructor would need to be notified.  Although the timeline has been changed so that the instructors would not usually have to come in during their “between the quarter vacation time”, they still may need to be contacted or if necessary, even come into the lab, but that would be a rare occasion.  When bringing in textbooks that accompany the software, it would be helpful to give ACS a list of the assignments from the text, so that when the students are testing they can randomly do some of the assignments making sure that the software is working properly.  The ACS proposed timeline may be hard to follow for new software.  If the new software is brought in late, there are last minute publisher switches, or if it’s a specialty software, there is a risk that it may not be compatible with the current software, have other glitches that need to get worked out, might not run on the current hardware, or have other problems.  This needs to be understood by the instructor and the students.  When dealing with current software, there should be a bulleted list of things that there have been problems with in the past.  The testers then would check for these particular items.  The instructors need to stay involved with the issues relating to their software.

6.         NEWSLETTER:        Communication between the ACS and the instructors using the computer labs has been an issue in the past.  It can sometimes be difficult for ACS to contact faculty, particularly part-time instructors.  It was suggested that ACS should contact the department heads and/or the division heads to let them know a problem is going on in the computer labs with their software programs.  It was agreed that the ACS department send out a newsletter, which was originally to be sent out quarterly.  However, suggestions were made that every time there is a change in ACS policies/procedures that it should be inserted into the ACS newsletter and sent out more often, possibly monthly. In the newsletter, suggestions for content were:  new equipment upgrades, hardware requirements, feedback, and changes.  They want it sent whenever there are changes.  We need to give the full-time instructors or lead-instructors time to email the part-time instructors the changes prior to the class start.  David Chalif suggested a banner that states “Note Changes.”

There was further discussion about distribution of the ACS newsletter.  All campus, all faculty, or only faculty that use the labs, were some of the suggestions.  Peggy recommended that faculty, campus wide, should get the newsletter since we have an increasing trend for lab use associated with non-lab classes.

7.         SERVICE REQUESTS:       Academic Computer Services staff and lab assistants are now creating service requests for instructor that contact one of us with a problem or concern.  The open service requests are monitored until the request is closed.  The ACS technicians complete as many requests as possible to get the instructors problems solved.  Sometimes the ACS technicians will need to choose which request affects the largest amount of students.  So, there will be times that an instructor with a problem may need to wait a brief amount of time while other service requests affecting the most students get resolved first.

8.         CONTACTING INSTRUCTORS: Check with the department chair or call the division office when someone from ACS needs to get in touch with an instructor regarding software issues.  Specialty software that is brought in to ACS late cannot be thoroughly tested.  It causes an impact on the other software that is loaded.  Software request titles need to be specific.  Direct X 9 that was installed was the incorrect version due to the lack of information we received.  The move to server based software results in easier software solutions by not having to download individual labs.  Local PC based software fixes often require a complete download through out a room or a lab. 

9.         NEW/PART-TIME INSTRUCTORS’ ORIENTATIONS:           Part-time instructors often lack sufficient information about their class structure to understand how to access files, log in students, etc.  It was suggested that some type of instructor orientation be offered.  Pat mentioned that ACS provides instructor manuals, but the consensus was that the instructors are overloaded with printed material and do not get time to read everything.  A one-on-one orientation may be more helpful at the time that the instructors have their accounts setup.  There was also a suggestion for two orientations, one in the morning for the instructors whose classes are held during the day and one in the evening for the instructors holding evening classes.  Since the instructor contracts do not start until the first day of the quarter, there was discussion about finding money for the instructors to receive the orientation during the break.  It isn’t feasible for ACS to present an orientation at the beginning of the quarter launch due to the influx of new students and the class launches.  There was a suggestion about a web page with information about the computer labs.  Another suggestion was an orientation video or a CD ROM orientation.  Jon French suggested an on-line video presentation.  This would be an excellent source for distribution of software compliance materials both to the instructors and the students.  The web page would need to be updated with lab changes as well as including the changes in the monthly newsletter.  ACS would need to let the lead instructors know about the changes in lab procedures, so they can inform the part-time instructors. 

10.       NEW EMAIL ACCOUNTS FOR PART-TIME FACULTY:         Many of the part-timers do not use EdCC email.  There was agreement that it was required by the college that all instructors use EdCC email.  New part-time instructors do not have email accounts until three or four days into the quarter, and it makes information by email difficult.  As things come up, they will be included in the newsletter. 

11.       CHALLENGES:        There are a lot of challenges ahead of us including lack of funding for personnel and resources.  ACS is willing to work with the instructors, department deans, department heads, etc. and schedule meetings.  We have outgrown the old processes.  ACS provides as much technical support as they possibly can, however, the ACS technicians are not specialists when they are dealing with highly specialized software.  Rapid approval of course proposals and last minute decisions on software needs have major impacts on our image testing.

Tim Hunt offered the following:  “The techs need time to solve problems.  When the problems come back, the faculty needs to be polite about it, because the problem may have come back due to fixing someone else’s problem.  Bring a list of known problems.  Even if they resolve the problem once, it can come back.”

12.       TEXTBOOKS WITH CDs:   Students are installing the CDs that accompany their textbooks, and they are incompatible with our system.  The classes may or may not be lab classes, but the student is being told to install the software and complete the assignments.  This information needs to go into the newsletter.  David Chalif indicated that he felt that if the students install CDs that impact the functionality of the computers for other students, the student installing the CD should lose their account for two days or all quarter.  When ACS sees the installations in the labs, ACS needs to be proactive in contacting the instructor for the class and contacting the appropriate dean.  The instructors need to be made aware of the problems that are caused by the students installing CDs that accompany their textbooks.

13.       SOFTWARE DOCUMENTATION:           Software licensing is going to become complicated as we progress with the software compliance.  Freeware, shareware, and public domain software will need documentation to support installation. 

14.       SOFTWARE EQUIPMENT:            Marti Baker raised the issue with equipment failures in the computer labs.  ACS is currently experiencing problems with specific computers requiring the removal of the motherboard and sending it in for repair to the manufacturer.  This can take three to six weeks.  We have used all the extra equipment from our staging area to fill in.  If the purchase of new equipment goes through, we will have some backup parts that can be used so that the computer is not out of order for more than a day or two.  We are hopeful that we will get two new labs through our techfee proposal and there is a possibility that Jerrilee will help with the purchase of two new labs.  Marti Baker brought up the fact that lack of equipment in the labs or equipment that is not working properly,, can have a negative effect on instructor evaluations.  Service requests should help track that problem.

15.       NEXT MEETING:     It was suggested that the next meeting should be held the week before finals to review the challenges coming during summer and fall quarters.

16.       ACSTECHNICIANS:         Peggy closed with praise for ACS technicians and the incredible jobs they have been doing.  With the change in staffing structure, Scott was moved to a more encompassing role on campus and his time to assist the technicians has been very limited.