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How To Help With a University ICT Strategy? 149

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the trying-not-to-screw-up-from-day-one dept.
An anonymous reader writes "I have been asked to contribute to my university's revised ICT (Information and Communication Technology) strategy and I am curious what fellow Slashdot members consider to be the main advice in this context. What are the major mistakes that organizations like universities make? Given the complexity of the different participants in a university, how does one have a coherent strategy that fulfills the needs of such a wide audience? How does one promote open source in a managerial culture? How does one deal with the curse of the virtual learning environment?"
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How To Help With a University ICT Strategy?

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  • by Culture20 (968837) on Monday July 27, 2009 @03:14PM (#28841947)
    I saw askslashdot in the tag line and thought it answered this question.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      First rule of thumb: zero tolerance on M$ products, formats and protocols.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Magic5Ball (188725)

        Yes, zero tolerance on those specifications (or, really, anything not otherwise illegal) would be a mistake since that would make the university non-interoperable with students, faculty, other researchers, industry, government, and the rest of the world. University IT departments (really, all IT departments) should have at least the purpose and goal of enabling the organization to meet its business objectives (efficient output of high quality teaching, research, advocacy, other products) through the effecti

    • by williamhb (758070)

      I think I speak for all of Slashdot when I say that the answer to his question is:
      1. Open source rules
      2. Send every RIAA executive to burn in hell
      3. Make an angry post about how hell is an unscientific concept
      4. In Soviet Russia, mistakes make universities
      5. ???
      6. Profit.

  • I am almost finished with my undergrad at a large public university. I worked in several of the branch libraries during my years here, including a full-time stint this summer. The computers in our library allow anyone to use one application: IE7. We have no time limit on computer usage or have any web filtering. The problems that arise from misuse of these computers from non-university community members are astounding. In just one branch library here this year alone, several incidents have been reported of
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by BForrester (946915)

      Serious breaches of public safety should be dealt with by security and/or the police. There's no sense in crippling technology that is necessary to the greater student body in order to make things difficult for a few stray pervs.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by opec (755488) *
        I'm complaining about IT overreach in power. As it stands now, one over-zealous IT guy at the top is preventing the librarians from taking any steps toward rectifying misuse of technology. For example, it would help us out tremendously to switch the computers that are in unsupervised corners of the library to authenticated log-in use only (like WiFi) and allow free public access in areas that can be surveyed by library workers at all times. We want to protect the safety of our real patrons while still welco
        • by TheCarp (96830) *

          Why would it help tremendously?

          How many incidents are we talking about here? I mean really. Are there THAT many people who go and jerk off in "out of the way spots" in the library? I mean, I could see it being a bit more in a university, mostly because of the number of teenage boys who are notorious risk takers but.... still. It just doesn't seem like something more than a small number of people would engage in.

          Also, there are ways to get around technology. However, nothing stops crime like increasing the l

        • by Zerth (26112)

          How's about instead of relying on IT to handle of physical security, take all the computers in back corners and put them in central locations visible to the staff and public. Locking everything down won't prevent your pervs from shoulder surfing.

          I'm suprised you haven't had a problem with people nicking the ram/mice/etc.

    • Clearly they need to restrict masturbation to only university community members.
    • If someone is jerking off in public, call the cops. There are creeps and weirdos that come to any public place, ever been to a bus/train station? If someone is traumatized by seeing someone jerking off, they need counseling. Not for ther "trauma" of seeing someone jerking off, but because something so mundane made them feel "traumatized". It's gross, not traumatic. You call the cops, have the guy tossed out for indecent exposure, and move on with your life. Years of sexual abuse as a child? That's trauma. Being forcibly raped? That's trauma. Seeing a guy beat off in public? That's unpleasant. Your IT guy wisely realizes that not impeding the access of other, law abiding patrons of the library is more important then protecting some oversensitive co-ed's sensibilities. Briefly glimpsing a penis (I assume it would be brief, it's not like anyone is gonna hold them down and force them to look) is not the end of the world.

      Personally, as long as they do it quietly and clean up after themselves, I would rather have guys jerking it in the corner then women at the next table over talking to their girlfriends about their periods and vaginal infections on their cellphone while I was studying. Yes, that has happened to me, more then once.

      Furthermore, your admin is also helping prevent you from wasting university resources. Filtering systems DO NOT WORK. Keyword based systems block more legitimate content then illegitimate. Blacklist based systems block only a tiny fraction of sites, and anyone horny and frustrated enough to wank it in a library is going to keep looking until they find something, and will still cause plenty of false positives. A system that forces users to authenticate won't solve the problem because
      A. The computers will hardly ever be used, because of the inconvenience, making them a waste of resources in the first place.
      B. People will walk away and leave them logged in on a routine basis, making it easy for someone looking for an out of the way place to hop on and look at porn to jump on someones computer (assuming they don't just get their own account) and any evidence will be blamed to someone else.
      C. It still requires someone to catch them "in the act", which is what this is all about preventing anyways.

      Sounds like he's the pragmatist. He realizes trying to prevent people from looking at porn on library computers is an impossible task, and not worth the effort and inconvenience to the patrons. You are the idealist, with a lofty vision of a world where you can control everything, and people never accidentally see things they would rather not.

      • by Quothz (683368) on Monday July 27, 2009 @09:04PM (#28846151) Journal

        Filtering systems DO NOT WORK.

        I'd argue that, in an academic environment, they do the opposite of work. Psychology, sociology, biology, anthropology, history, medicine, law, zoology, various arts, and I'm sure several other disciplines might need information that a filtration system would block. Free data access isn't just an idealistic vision, like the GP claims, it's important in a university setting.

    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Why is it the job of the University to provide free public internet access? Isn't that what public libraries are for?

      At our library, we have a few (25) terminals running IE 7 only, and yes, the general public can walk up & use them without logging in, but only for a few services on the campus network (eg, the Library catalogue). If they try to go anywhere else, a NoCat server kicks in and prompts them for a campus computing ID. We provide time-limited guest IDs for community users that will allow them t

    • by techess (1322623)

      When I was in college there weren't computers in the library other than the electronic card catalog boxes, and it seemed like several times a month there would be an entry in the college news "crimes" section about someone being caught masturbating in the library. For some reason college age guys masturbate in libraries. I guess now they have something to look at.

  • Don't push it (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Alarindris (1253418) on Monday July 27, 2009 @03:18PM (#28842025)

    How does one promote open source in a managerial culture?

    By using it only when it's the best solution. Don't push it if it's not the best tool for the job.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      By using it only when it's the best solution. Don't push it if it's not the best tool for the job.

      While that is very valid view to take - choosing the best tool for the job - I don't quite agree with it here. Or well, I do agree but I think that "open source" is a very valid criteria in choosing the best tool.

      No, tools aren't automatically superior in security, features or such because they are open source. In fact, deciding to prefer open source harms this because it leaves some of the competition out.

      Depending on your political views, how you view Universities in the society might vary. However, if yo

    • There are times when OSS is the best choice and there are times when it is not. And be sure to let the powers-that-be know that FOSS software is almost never "free as in beer" - there are costs associated with it in all situations. Sometimes it's money, sometimes it's time, sometimes it's the learning curve, etc. Be ready to handle the pros and cons of OSS.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Give OSS as an option. At my university, most of the public computers run Windows, and have MS software as the only options. If I'm lucky, I get to use Firefox instead of IE. A lot of people are used to using this stuff, so fine by me if the University wants to have it there for them. But it doesn't cost anything to install some open source stuff alongside the Microsoft programs. The problem you'll have, I would guess, is persuading people that this isn't going to involve lots of support costs in terms of t
      • by vlm (69642)

        They assume that anything open source will be arcane, virus-ridden, and completely impossible for the average user to understand.

        So, in other words, they think the open source software experience will be exactly the same as the non-free software experience?

    • by Fred_A (10934)

      How does one promote open source in a managerial culture?

      By using it only when it's the best solution. Don't push it if it's not the best tool for the job.

      That might work in a managerial culture. In a university, it will only work if you have a large SWAT team and are willing to use it. Getting a university to evolve is impossible. It is frozen in amber. The OP should run away as far as he can.

  • Google (Score:3, Informative)

    by sys.stdout.write (1551563) on Monday July 27, 2009 @03:19PM (#28842039)
    Just outsource all the work to Google [businessinsider.com] and sneak out for a round of golf!
  • Given the complexity of the different participants in a university, how does one have a coherent strategy that fulfills the needs of such a wide audience?

    It's simple: Relatively Unrestricted WiFi - (You can block off the obvious Battle.net and filter anything involving porn) and this allows any student with a laptop to research anything they want. Alot of kids today are getting laptops for the sake of college and university. Its almost a must.

    Then you completely lockdown outter-access to anything within the

    • by Seakip18 (1106315)

      It's simple: Relatively Unrestricted WiFi - (You can block off the obvious Battle.net and filter anything involving porn) and this allows any student with a laptop to research anything they want. Alot of kids today are getting laptops for the sake of college and university. Its almost a must.

      Then you completely lockdown outter-access to anything within the physical domain of the Campus - being the plugs in the wall. Let them access their shared drives if they're in that kind of course - let them use the library printers, let them use outlook for email - (or your own campus built email). Other than that, they shouldn't need anything outside of the campus available to them on Campus computers.

      This becomes maddening to enforce. EBSCO Host, wikipedia, and countless other research websites that reference other summaries on other websites. Heck, even a blog might have a key reference to a paper you are searching for.

      A simple response of "Sorry. Internal use only." to a student is tantamount to a slap in the face for trusting their ISP(the school) to provide them the tools to do their work.

      Another thing is this: A friend and I would have never gotten as far into programming if we couldn't have the oc

      • There is a pretty simple rule we use here:

        Our policy is to prevent any user or device from interfering with other users on the network. Anything that does not interfere with use of the network by others is explicitly allowed.

        It's pretty simple and very acceptable to everyone I've dealt with at work. However, it does give you an easy catch-all for dealing with asshats. Anybody that monopolizes the time of the IT staff or behaves in a way that incurs technical/legal issues/costs, can be considered to be in

    • by bugnuts (94678)

      It's simple: Relatively Unrestricted WiFi - (You can block off the obvious Battle.net and filter anything involving porn) and this allows any student with a laptop to research anything they want. Alot of kids today are getting laptops for the sake of college and university. Its almost a must.

      The moment you embark on the "block off the obvious ..." you've subverted the university network from a bastion of learning, to enforcing what YOU think students should learn. Would you like your university library refusing to carry banned books?

      As an IT muckitymuck who makes policy, before you add any blocking that isn't strictly for technical issues (DOS, email virus filtering, spam filtering, QOS, etc) you better revisit your university's policy on censorship. If it's a state-sponsored institution, you

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Dynedain (141758)

        Not only that, but remember about a year ago there was a /. article about a university course discussing strategy as played through Starcraft? Now you need to make exceptions for the rules.

        Or my university had a multimedia programming/game development track within the CS department. You bet your ass they need unrestricted access to online resources that would otherwise be seen as non-academic.

        The IT department cannot be responsible for determining what is or isn't academically relevant or else they'll end u

    • Filtering porn shouldn't really be the University's job, in my view. On their own machines, sure, but on private machines connected to the University network? Are they the thought police?

      I'm lucky the College where I work isn't too restrictive. I was researching a paper on masculinity in modern film recently, and spent a while trawling for "gay barbarian porn" before it occurred to me that the IT guys might be wondering what the chick in Office 6/7 gets up to when she's working late...

    • Given the complexity of the different participants in a university, how does one have a coherent strategy that fulfills the needs of such a wide audience?

      It's simple: Relatively Unrestricted WiFi - (You can block off the obvious Battle.net and filter anything involving porn) and this allows any student with a laptop to research anything they want. Alot of kids today are getting laptops for the sake of college and university. Its almost a must.

      Then you completely lockdown outter-access to anything within the physical domain of the Campus - being the plugs in the wall. Let them access their shared drives if they're in that kind of course - let them use the library printers, let them use outlook for email - (or your own campus built email). Other than that, they shouldn't need anything outside of the campus available to them on Campus computers.

      How does one promote open source in a managerial culture?

      You tell them the benefits. How else do you promote Open source. (Rhetorical)

      How does one deal with the curse of the virtual learning environment?"

      Everything they NEED to use should be EASY to use. The things that most students use the University domain for are - Campus Library Book Tracking, Grades, and updates from teachers.

      Thus if you can build those in-house and KISS, you won't have any problems. The LAST thing you need is a seperate piece of software that doesn't work fully with your current system. If a student has to remember more than one username or password - its not a good system.

      While blocking Battle.Net may seem like a given - it may actually interfere with what students need to do. I had a "Culture of the Internet" class in college, and one of the papers we had to write was about joining and participating in an MMO (you could use any MMO, free or pay to play) and actively playing the game for at least an hour a week was part of the coursework.

      As a publicly funded university, I'd say if you're doing anything more than verifying the person is a student (at my college, after joini

    • by mkiwi (585287)

      Require network registration with a captive portal/walled garden. I experimented with this when the technology was very young. It wasn't great back then, but it should be well established by now.

      What you need is a captive portal that takes a MAC address (maybe some other details) from a computer and maps it to a user's university login. The user should be presented with a registration webpage when he or she tries to access the Internet. This generally prevents people outside the university from accessin

      • by Tacvek (948259)

        Yes. That is exactly what my university does for the wired network. For the wireless network PEAP is used to authenticate users (although the other page must also be filled out, because each machine is given a domain name (subdomain of a subdomain of the University domain name).

        In fact I do not believe there is any limit to the number of devices per user either.

      • My uni is moving towards that after one of the IT staff experienced epic problems [lincoln.ac.uk] trying to use the accursed BlueSocket login.

    • by Tacvek (948259)

      At my University we have that completely backwards. There is Wifi access everywhere, that gives you access to both the internal domain and the general internet. There is minimal blocking, notably the only outbound block is the default IRC port, although inbound ports for well known services (HTTP, FTP, etc) are generally blocked . No content filters in place at all. There are two VPN's available for remote access to compus resources. The Cisco VPN is restricted to faculty use, but the Microsoft VPN servers

    • Try another simple one: Unrestricted WiFi.

      Some form of device authentication is fine if you need it, perhaps by MAC address, but once you're on an academic network it should be open to any and all traffic. Your policy should provide a means of reprimanding those who abuse it, but that's all.

  • www.freeswitch.org

    FreeSWITCH is an open source telephony platform designed to facilitate the creation of voice and chat driven products scaling from a soft-phone up to a soft-switch. It can be used as a simple switching engine, a PBX, a media gateway or a media server to host IVR applications using simple scripts or XML to control the callflow. We support various communication technologies such as Skype, SIP, H.323, IAX2 and GoogleTalk making it easy to interface with other open source PBX systems such as sipXecs, Call Weaver, Bayonne, YATE or Asterisk. FreeSWITCH supports many advanced SIP features such as presence/BLF/SLA as well as TCP TLS and sRTP. It also can be used as a transparent proxy with and without media in the path to act as a SBC (session border controller) and proxy T.38 and other end to end protocols. FreeSWITCH supports both wide and narrow band codecs making it an ideal solution to bridge legacy devices to the future. The voice channels and the conference bridge module all can operate at 8, 16, 32 or 48 kilohertz and can bridge channels of different rates. FreeSWITCH builds natively and runs standalone on several operating systems including Windows, Max OS X, Linux, BSD and Solaris on both 32 and 64 bit platforms. Our developers are heavily involved in open source and have donated code and other resources to other telephony projects including openSER, sipXecs, The Asterisk Open Source PBX and Call Weaver.

  • Contribute how? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dynedain (141758) <slashdot2 AT anthonymclin DOT com> on Monday July 27, 2009 @03:29PM (#28842187) Homepage

    You're being very vague. University IT policies have many many stakeholders (Provosts, Regents, President, Deans, department heads, just to name a few) and a lot of interdepartmental politicking needs to be taken into account. Is this a 30k+ student body with hundreds of staff in the IT department or is it student body of 1,000 with only 20 IT people? Is the IT department merged with the library system or is it independent? Does IT bill the other departments for services or do they operate with a predefined budget? Is the reason for getting your input to provide direction for overhauling the IT department's network and services, or is the goal to change the general technology culture of the staff and student body? Should IT be involved more directly with students or are they just a necessary service like janitorial and maintenance? Does IT set policies, or is that handed down by decree from on high? Is the head of IT respected at the same level as the dean of a specific school or is he fighting for attention? Do departments/schools manage their own IT resources does everything have to be centralized?

    Perhaps if you were a bit more specific as to WHY the University is asking for your specific input, and WHAT kind of input they expect from you, /. readers could provide you with appropriate responses. The open/closed source debate should only be one tiny aspect of an overall IT strategy, especially in an organization with differing needs as complex as a university. For example, CS/CE departments will certainly need and want a lot of open source tools and systems, but Fine Arts is better left alone with OSX and Adobe CS.

    As your question is phrased now, I think your respsonses are going to be mostly of the variety "use/avoid product X" or "push for open source" and not really of much help in providing specific input towards the strategy you are mentioning.

    • by Slicebo (221580)

      You're right, but I can phase your response more succinct way:

      Strategy flows from mission. If you think you understand your school's ICT mission, write it down. Stare at it.

      If you agree with the mission, read the revised strategy document and see if it supports and advances that mission. If it does, say so.
      If it doesn't, say what needs to change so it does.

      If you don't agree with the mission, say so, but prepare to be ignored (unless you are a signifigant shareholder at your institution.)

      If you don't und

      • Mod parent up.

        Also, be aware that missions and strategic plans must cascade in any organization of significant size and internal diversity, so one plan will not fit all users. Use good science to ascertain and respond to users' needs, or they will do it themselves.

    • University IT policies have many many stakeholders (Provosts, Regents, President, Deans, department heads, just to name a few) and a lot of interdepartmental politicking needs to be taken into account.

      The Provosts, Regents, President, Deans, and department heads of my institution are concerned that they can get and send email, that neither the administration stuff nor the website is hacked, that no screw-up risks escalation to a PR disaster, and that it doesn't all cost too much. And that other people don't bitch about it, and all in all that it can be left to run itself -- because they have more than enough other, IT-unrelated concerns of their own. As long as they can plug their own laptops into the LA

    • First of all, establish exactly what it is they are asking you for. 'Strategy' has to be one of the most abused words in the modern world. Is it really strategy - ie setting goals without defining how they are acheived? Is it policy - ie setting the framework of rules to work within while achieving the strategy? Or is it tactical advice - the nuts and bolts of how you actually implement the strategy and policy?

      Assuming it is strategy, then ...

      Second, define what you want IT to achieve - in terms of benefits

  • Universities should run IT the same as any business.

    You are a service. You are a red line on the budget. Your only reason for existence is to provide IT services to your customers (your faculty and students). You don't make policy, you don't have an agenda, you don't enforce a strategy--you follow and obey.

    People who spend their lives in academia lose touch with reality, so help bring some semblance of it back into their lives (this as close as you will get to having an 'agenda').

    Let the individual divis

    • by diggitzz (615742)

      Let the individual divisions of the school give you their needs, and you meet them.

      Yes, the "meet them" part is the part where supposed "agendae" may fall. I believe the OP was asking how to gracefully meet the needs of the school while aligning himself with what he sees to be the ethics of his field, while at the same time dealing with other managers who are in equal-ish positions of decision (for instance on a committee) but possibly of opposite opinions regarding what constitutes a balance of ethics,

  • How does one promote open source in a managerial culture?

    In other words the college has purchased some tools that do work for them. You want them to dump their investment and go with open source tools that can takes years to perfect.

    • by guruevi (827432)

      Usually it's something in the sense of: the college has purchased some tools that were promised to work but except of giving the managers nice pie-graphs (what they call dashboards) are a pain to actually implement, program AND use on the other end (HEAT, Peoplesoft, SharePoint, SAP) and require years of fine tuning to perfect.

      There are plenty of good open and closed source products that do either all or parts of the work that each of those packages do and they usually integrate really well with each other

  • by e9th (652576) <e9th.tupodex@com> on Monday July 27, 2009 @03:36PM (#28842317)
    Certainly you must determine their needs, but don't let them get involved in the solution. You will have a History professor who's a computer hobbyist (and whom the other liberal arts faculty consider an expert) offering you helpful suggestions based on a James Martin book he read a decade ago, some guy from Electrical Engineering pushing for end-to-end quantum crypto, deans trying to preserve their schools' autonomy, etc., with the end result looking like it was designed by a committee of monkeys.
    • by vlm (69642)

      with the end result looking like it was designed by a committee of monkeys

      Get the students involved. At least the MIS-IT/CS students. That would be excellent real world experience.

    • by bluprint (557000)
      What's even worse in an academic environment is all the PhD's that seem to think just because they have a PhD in one subject any opinion they express about any topic is an "expert opinion."
  • by backwardMechanic (959818) on Monday July 27, 2009 @03:37PM (#28842335) Homepage
    Give us (research groups) the freedom to set things up so they work for us, but offer help in achieving that. All research groups are different, and we all need different things. Often we know (almost) enough to do things ourselves, but a bit of central infrastructure is always helpful. We run a mixture of Windows, Linux and Solaris - I think this is quite common. What would be really useful would be a few webpages describing how to configure things (services like LDAP or SAMBA) so they work with the central university structure. And please, Windows only solutions don't work for some of us. I have known several people who keep two computers on their desk because of this. But most of all, don't lock it down unless you really need to.
    • by vlm (69642)

      Give us (research groups) the freedom to set things up so they work for us, but offer help in achieving that.

      But most of all, don't lock it down unless you really need to.

      You need at least two classes of service.

      Extremely clearly written demarcation points agreed to by the highest levels in the organization. If you don't know what a demarc is, find an old (or young?) bell-head and ask them to explain the concept. On an experimental best effort basis, your department / research group / whatever does anything they want using equipment purchased and maintained by non-IT personnel. This ethernet jack and upstream is IT's responsibility and the cable you plug into it and downs

  • uPortal is open source and allows for easy information access, and has groups and stuff built in. We use it in Cal Poly, it works quite nicely...
  • I have found that, in all arenas, people assume that the individual technology is so good that an integrated plan is not needed.

    The first step is to PLAN! Ask yourself these questions:

    1. Will I have enough PCs, printer, Macs, whatever required to service the university?
    2. Will I have enough labs of this stuff where it is needed?
    3. How am I going to connect it all?
    4. What kind of knowledge do I need to make this happen correctly?
    5. Is my solution scalable? Can is adapt to new technologies (like WiFi
  • Get the budget balanced and as rational as you can: every year.

    An example: It is not uncommon to see one part of an operation (e.g. phone lines) subsidize another (e.g. networking). There can be great reasons to do that kind of thing but it tends to bite eventually.

    People may abandon the expensive service (especially in a tough economy) and come to expect the cheap subsidized service as a right (understandably). In this particular example the cheap networking can replace the expensive phone lines and sudden

  • by goffster (1104287) on Monday July 27, 2009 @03:51PM (#28842545)

    Figure out what their real needs are and meet them.
    Learn who can be ignored and who can't.

    In general, if they feel you are listening and understanding them,
    you will get along ok.

  • and recommend the best solution to the tasks at hand. You sound like you have a OSS agenda to push without regard at to what the issue that needs to be addressed is. I can tell you, as someone that has managed teams of engineers, that I will be convinced by a logical discussion of why software package A is preferred over software package B. If I hired a guy who had an agenda of pushing a particular software vendor over another due to personal agendas, I can tell you he wouldn't be around for long. Pushi
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by gdshaw (1015745)

      Nonsense: there's a huge difference between promoting the public interest (OSS), versus the interests of a particular corporation or individual — especially when you are working for an organisation whose mission is to advance the public interest (academic/charitable/public sector). One is a virtue, the other is verging on corruption.

      Granted it would be a mistake to elevate this above the task of actually getting the job done, but I see no shame in promoting OSS as a matter of policy provided there ar

      • by halligas (782561)

        Granted it would be a mistake to elevate this above the task of actually getting the job done, but I see no shame in promoting OSS as a matter of policy provided there are no overriding practical considerations.

        My point exactly. Anyone making recommendations with any sort of bias blinders on, whether is be (corruption) getting paid off by a corporate entity or personal agenda (being an OSS zealot), is inherently not to be trusted. Getting the job done is the key. In the best way, for the least money, and serving the public good. The OP suggested that he wanted to convince the powers that be that OSS was the way. The absense of any other reasoning suggests that he may have a personal agenda that is clouding his

  • Universities are well down the road to making the same mistakes printed newspapers made - trying to fit transformative technology into their outdated business models. Universities have a large investment in buildings and real estate that they are not likely to shed in the lifetimes of anyone reading /. today. They need to fill those buildings with warm bodies - students and profs to make them pay off.

    As such, look for ways to make miniscule improvements using simple technologies that tie students to the
  • This question can't be asked without the context of the institutional strategy. The poster mentions open source, but open source is not a strategy. It is a means to a particular end. Most universities today are focused on increasing student services through technology. Thus, it seems likely that the IT strategy for your institution should dove tail with student services goals. A portion of IT strategy could be basic infrastructure questions if they are big and important enough -- e.g. you need a new data ce
  • by EEBaum (520514) on Monday July 27, 2009 @04:01PM (#28842701) Homepage
    My university was laying a bunch of new cable underground, and wanted to know what kind of cable to install that would be useful for the longest time. They asked the networking professor, probably one of the most knowledgeable people in the area on such matters. He told them that the cable type didn't matter, as long as it was installed with some sort of pull-through mechanism so that new cable could be easily installed at any time in the future without digging up the cables.

    They ignored his suggestion, and installed whatever was good at the time despite his protests. I think they'll be due to re-trench a couple thousand yards in the not-too-distant future.
    • Mod parent up. Things like this and raised flooring are important on any new additions. Undergrads are power hungry (charging laptops/ smart phones etc) and lap up bandwidth like there is no tomorrow.
  • The most important thing is to give them a mix of technologies so they don't get this slice that isn't useful. If you teach Java, then Teach Hibernate, Spring and all the other associated technologies...
  • by esme (17526)

    What are the major mistakes that organizations like universities make?

    In my experience, two big mistakes that university IT shops often make are:

    • Centralizing services to reduce costs, without appreciating how much poorer the service is. I've seen this several times where departments were running their own email and/or file servers. They cost a lot of money (esp. the staff to maintain the servers). So the department switched to campus-managed email/storage to save money. Only later did they realize th
  • by Sparky9292 (320114) on Monday July 27, 2009 @04:30PM (#28843159)

    When it comes to VLS (Virtual Learning Systems) please don't give into the Blackboard marketing machine. Moodle [moodle.org] is free and equivalent in just about everyway. It drives me nuts to see colleges and universities paying for crap like Desire2Learn and Blackboard when many of them are cutting back student services and laying off people these days. What's even worse is that both Blackboard and D2L have significant bugs and really bad customer support.

    Our university (around 38,000 students) pays Blackboard $600,000 a year (yes there are five zeros after that six). Please try convince your PHBs to give Moodle [moodle.org] a look. The community is massive and helpful. You can find hundreds of great pluggins as well.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      I'm at a university that had WebCT, which then morphed into Blackboard and has just recently been replaced with Moodle. Having using those systems, both as a student and in teaching roles, I have to say that Moodle is just plain better. It's cheaper (TCO), more versatile and more usable. And much less prone to inducing rage :-)

      Of course, that doesn't mean that it's invulnerable to screw-ups. If you lock it down from on high with One True Way of Using The System, then you're probably not going to suit the

      • by quixote9 (999874)
        I'm a biologist at a university with about 25,000 students and administrators who need IT to come out and show them where the off switch is on their computers. (Really. That happened.) IT convinced them that they should go off Apache and onto the whole MS .NET server schmier. They're also absolutely set against any open source VLS, so we're paying additional $$$hundreds of thousands for WebCT (Blackboard) even though there's a whole Moodle consortium among the big regional universities. (Right now they
    • I'm a college faculty member and I pitched Moodle at a college-wide meeting last year when the Admin types were looking for cost-saving ideas. The idea was quickly shot down on the basis that our college has "tens of thousands of man hours" invested in developing Blackboard content that cannot be directly imported into Moodle. This is what the suits call "sunk costs." It's what the rest of us call "good money after bad." And it never occurred to any of them that the lack of portability of Blackboard con
      • This is what the suits call "sunk costs."

        Interesting that 'the suits' use the phrase 'sunk costs' to justify a poor decision based on the sunk cost falacy [wikipedia.org]. The logical basis for decision making is to ignore sunk costs and consider only future costs and benefits. It may be that the transition cost outweighs the benefits of moving, but that would be an entirely different reason.

      • by steveg (55825)

        We're in the process of switching from WebCT to Blackboard. Moodle was (very) seriously considered, but the self hosting was not an option the University wanted to consider (for Moodle anyway) and the hosting provider (who was a Moodle Partner) underwhelmed the committee.

        Moodle itself was highly regarded by the committee, but although they liked it better than the other alternatives, the new Blackboard was enough of an improvement over WebCT that the contrast was not as overwhelming as it could have been.

        D

  • I study at UIB(norway) and I can tell you about the things I love about the IT department: - They have AD accounts for all users(students and employees) and the profile is avilable through ftp (that is if you want to use it at home) - they provide firefox and thunderbird (and thunderbird is even pre set to use your university e-mail account) on all machines - about 50% of the machines use Fedora and the rest is XP. - When you enroll you get your ID and that autmoatically set you up with an e-mail account,
  • Dynedain's "Contribute How?" post hit the mark, and I have no idea what it is you're really asking. However, having worked in university IT for about a decade I can offer some advice that can be applied broadly: you have an amazing resource at your disposal - smart people - and you should exploit that by developing software to suit your needs.

    A lot of universities spend millions on proprietary software like PeopleSoft when they could get much better value and results by hiring competent programmers, work-s

  • Gmail and Skype (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cryfreedomlove (929828) on Monday July 27, 2009 @04:58PM (#28843593)
    Seriously. No support needed. Start from there and make someone convince you to do anything different. Anyone who wants something different has to pay for it themselves. Tools like GMail and Skype are ever present and all around us. The analogy is to consider how Universities thought about electricity in 1900. I'll bet each University had it's own electricity generation and procurement department is its own hierarchy of management. Today they just get an electric bill from the same provider that services private homes near by. Someday soon, basic IT will be the same.
    • skype: In non-NATted environments like Universities, skype clients can become supernodes and consume huge amounts of bandwidth. gmail: a large amount of sensitive documents should never leave the premises. google should not be storing your sensitive data
  • by JaBob (1194069)

    Sakai is also far superior to Blackboard, and the ability for student groups to set up their own sites (including places for documents, wikis, chat, and other stuff) is incredibly helpful. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sakai_Project [wikipedia.org] Besides, it's named after an Iron Chef... what could be better?

  • There are many aspects to an ICT policy. I'll just address a few points related to procurement versus in-house development, which is one key issue. Universities tend to draw tech advice and management from people who overapply lessons from the corporate world and forget things that are unique to universities. For example:

    (1) In my university administrators have consistently bought expensive proprietary tools from companies that do not specialize in academic software, e.g. modifying e-commerce tools to be
  • Service Level Agreements... Works for all sectors.
  • ICT supports the Business to achieve its objectives. The first document you need to look at is the 5 year business plan for the University. The ICT strategy takes into account the Business Strategy for the 5-10 year outlook. Other keys documents are the Business Process diagrams for each key business area. You might like to document a Business Information Model that looks at how data/information flows WITHIN the University and EXTERNAL information flows. Hopefully the Business Strategy takes into accou

You can tell how far we have to go, when FORTRAN is the language of supercomputers. -- Steven Feiner

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