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July 3, 2012

DoIT News Moving to myUMBC Groups

As of today, the DoIT News will be published through the DoIT Group on myUMBC, which in turn feeds the new DoIT site at doit.umbc.edu. As such, we will no longer be maintaining this Movable Type blog. However, it will remain for archive purposes.

FYI to DoIT Group members:

How do I post a new blog in myUMBC groups?

If you have questions, please contact the Technology Support Center (TSC) located on the first floor of the library next to the RLC or call 410.455.3838.

Posted by fritz at 9:19 AM | TrackBack

May 23, 2012

Dell Virtual Desktop Environment (VDE) Pilot Program Launched

The Dell Virtual Desktop Environment (VDE) pilot program has been launched by DoIT.

Two videos have been created showing how to connect to the environment for the first time. Please keep in mind that this is still a pilot so there will be some hiccups but that is where we need your help. It seems to work best using Safari (Mac) and IE or Firefox (PC) although recently Chrome has been working, too.

To access the system you simply visit virtual.umbc.edu using one of the recommended web browsers.

Need Help?
During the pilot phase of this solution you can send an email to vde@umbc.edu This will create a ticket and assign it directly to our internal VDE queue in RT.

"How To" Videos:

PC - http://youtu.be/1j7-CFyW3cY?hd=1

Mac - http://youtu.be/EKWpDUj7rb8?hd=1

iPad -

Requirements:
iPad: Needs to be running IOS version 5.1 or later
Citrix Receiver: Need to be using 5.5.3 or later

You can download the Citrix receiver from the App Store. Use the keyword search "Citrix Receiver" to make finding it easier.

Once the Citrix receiver app is installed you login to the VDE environment just like you normally would using the Safari browser. When you connect to your machine it will ask if you want to connect using the "Citrix Receiver". Choose Citrix and it should work from there.

Posted by jamie at 9:01 AM | TrackBack

April 30, 2012

UMBC Blackboard Update: SU2012

UMBC Blackboard update is provided by the Division of Information Technology for students, faculty and staff using Blackboard at UMBC. If you have questions or need help, please consult the Blackboard Help tab inside Blackboard or directly at www.umbc.edu/blackboard/help. You can also contact the Technology Support Center (formerly the Help Desk) at 410.455.3838 or submit an RT (Request Tracker) ticket via the myUMBC Help menu or directly at http://rt.umbc.edu.

HEADLINES

1. SU2012 Bb Course Shells Created on April 16
2. SU2012 Blackboard Drop-in Schedule
3. Hybrid Teaching and Learning Resources Lunch & Learn on May 7
4. Hybrid Course Redesign Workshop on June 8
5. Bb Collaborate Training Webinar Links Now Available
6. FA2012 Lab & Lecture Hall Software Request Deadline is May 1
7. FYI: Turning Technologies Overview of Product Enhancements - Lunch & Learn May 9
8. All Students Required to Create Account Security Questions by May 22

Posted by readel at 1:23 PM | TrackBack

April 17, 2012

All Students Required to Create Account Security Questions by May 22

To facilitate self service, all students will be required to create security questions only they can answer by Tuesday, May 22, so they can access their account and reset their own password. A notice will appear to all students without security questions starting on April 19.

Typically, more than half of DoIT’s weekly Request Tracker (RT) tickets involve a manual password reset by three full time staff members at the Technology Support Center (TSC). Most of these tickets are from students without security questions. As a result, TSC staff can ONLY reset someone’s password with verbal confirmation of secure data in real time, which is often preceded by several “phone tag” voice mail messages to schedule an appointment to do so. Since DoIT resolved more than 23,000 tickets last year (37 percent within a day or less), improving user self-service should increase our capacity to help resolve more complex issues.

To create your own security questions, visit the following Frequently Asked Question (FAQ):

How do I create my security questions to reset a forgotten password?
https://wiki.umbc.edu/x/hIAc

If you have any questions or need help, please submit an RT Ticket or contact the Technology Support Center (TSC) at 410.455.3838.

Posted by jamie at 12:07 PM | TrackBack

April 6, 2012

Blackboard Down for Maintenance from 10 pm Fri. 4/13 to 1 am Sat. 4/14

The UMBC Blackboard server will be down for three hours of scheduled maintenance from 10 pm Friday, April 13 to 1 am Saturday, April 14. DoIT staff will be applying security updates required by Blackboard during this time.

We appreciate your patience and apologize for any inconveniences that this down time may cause.

Posted by readel at 4:24 PM | TrackBack

April 3, 2012

FA2012 Lab & Lecture Hall Software Requests Deadline is May 1

In order to load all lab and lecture hall PCs with our standard set of software (known as an "image"), all requests for additions or changes for Fall 2012 must be received by Tuesday, May 1. For Spring 2013, the lab & lecture hall software "image" deadline is Monday, October 1. All software requests must be made each semester (they do not carry over from semester to semester).

To be added to the lab & lecture hall image, DoIT must have the following:

* Proof of purchase/licenses
* Media and software installation instructions

Please submit an RT ticket containing the required information or contact 410.455.3838 and a Technology Support Center (TSC) staff member will assist you. If the request is not received by the deadline, there is no guarantee the requested software will be made available.

For an instructor-only demo of software, please use a laptop. If you don't have a laptop, you can reserve and pick up one at AV Services (020 ENGR Bldg).

If you need software installed on the lab image for a one-time purpose (for example, a 2-day workshop in which all users need access to the software), the request should be submitted no less than six (6) weeks prior to the first lab reservation for that class. The software will be removed once you are done.

An e-mail will be sent to the requester once the software is installed, typically 1-2 week(s) before the first use of the software; faculty/instructors need to then test the software to ensure everything is working as expected for class. Support for the software is the responsibility of the instructor or department who requested that the software be installed.

Again, proof of purchase and/or license must be provided for as many copies as will be needed for the students in the class. We cannot install software without appropriate proof of licensing.

Although DoIT will make a reasonable effort to get all software packages to work, we can not guarantee that they will. Some packages may not function because of the network, computer hardware, and lab setup. DoIT cannot be held responsible for software that does not work by class time. Please contact the TSC at 410.455.3838 if you have any additional questions.

Posted by readel at 4:35 PM | TrackBack

March 19, 2012

Known Issue: Intermittent Login Failure, Workaround is Using VPN

Over the weekend, DoIT has received several reports of intermittent login failures using myUMBC, Blackboard and even the RT (Request Tracker) ticketing system The problem is actually not with these systems, but appears to be one of the campus authentication servers, which DoIT is addressing.

In the meantime, if you encounter this error (depicted by the images below), a possible work around is to access these campus systems AFTER first logging in through UMBC's Virtual Private Network (or VPN) at http://vpn.umbc.edu. For help in using the VPN, visit the following FAQ entry:

How Do I Connect via VPN?
https://wiki.umbc.edu/x/boAc

These are images you might see after failing to login to myUMBC, Blackboard or RT (Request Tracker):

Image2.jpg

Image1.jpg

2012-03-19_0728.png

Posted by fritz at 7:08 AM | TrackBack

March 14, 2012

Blackboard Down for Maintenance from 7-9 am Wed., 3/21

The UMBC Blackboard server will be down for two hours of maintenance from 7 - 9 am Wednesday, March 21. DoIT staff will be installing necessary patches and updates during this time.

We appreciate your patience and apologize for any inconveniences that this down time may cause.

Posted by readel at 3:31 PM | TrackBack

February 21, 2012

Blackboard Down for Maintenance from 10 pm Fri. 2/24 to 1 am Sat. 2/25

The UMBC Blackboard server will be down for three hours of scheduled maintenance from 10 pm Friday, Feb. 24 to 1 am Saturday, Feb. 25. DoIT staff will be performing MS Windows Server maintenance and updates during this time.

We appreciate your patience and apologize for any inconveniences that this down time may cause.

Posted by readel at 4:16 PM | TrackBack

January 22, 2012

New Features in Bb Learn 9.1 SP6

The December 23 upgrade of the Blackboard Learn 9.1 system to Service Pack 6 has introduced a variety of new features and enhancements, several of which are listed below.

1. Increased Browser Support: Blackboard is now compatible with Internet Explorer 9, Safari 5, and stable release channels of Firefox and Chrome.

2. Timed Assessments: Attempt information for timed assessments includes details on how much time the student spent on the attempt versus how much time was allotted. Instructors can now choose to make the timed assessment save and submit automatically when the timer expires, or to allow the assessment to continue beyond the allotted time.

3. Interactive Rubrics: Instructors can now create interactive rubrics for gradable content items including Blogs, Journals, Wikis, Discussion Boards, Assignments, Tests etc. When creating a rubric, instructors can assign weights to categories, allowing the same rubric to be used across multiple items with different possible points. Instructors can interact with any associated rubric for grading in a grid or list view, and Feedback can be typed for each criteria as well as the entire assessment. Rubrics can be made visible to students at any time, before or after grading has occurred.

4. Enhanced "Needs Grading" Tool: Gradable Blogs, Journals, Wikis, and Discussion Board activity can appear in Needs Grading status in the Grade Center and on the Needs Grading page. When an instructor chooses to make an interactive tool gradable, they will also have the option to choose how many interactions will place the item in needs grading status. A Discussion Board forum, for instance, might be set to only appear in Needs Grading status after a student has made three posts, rather than with each individual post.

Posted by readel at 10:41 PM | TrackBack

UMBC Blackboard Update: SP2012

UMBC Blackboard update is provided by the Division of Information Technology for students, faculty and staff using Blackboard at UMBC. If you have questions or need help, please consult the Blackboard Help tab inside Blackboard or directly at www.umbc.edu/blackboard/help. You can also contact the Technology Support Center (formerly the Help Desk) at 410.455.3838 or submit an RT (Request Tracker) ticket via the myUMBC Help menu or directly at http://rt.umbc.edu.

HEADLINES

1. Known Issues with Enrollment of Bb Courses
2. New Features in Bb Learn 9.1 SP6
3. SP2012 Blackboard Drop-in Sessions
4. Bb Down for Maintenance 10 pm 1/27 to 1 am 1/28
5. Sloan-C Workshops on Online Teaching Open to UMBC Faculty

Posted by readel at 10:16 PM | TrackBack

Sloan-C Workshops on Online Teaching Open to UMBC Faculty

UMBC is an institutional member of the Sloan-C College Pass program and has approximately 70 free seats to be used towards their workshops. The 2012 workshops include such topics as Getting Started in Online Teaching, Academic Integrity in Online Education, Copyright Compliance, Second Life and Improving Student Engagement in Online Courses. UMBC full time and part time faculty can access the required College Pass Coupon Code by going to this URL: http://www.umbc.edu/oit/hybrid/support/downloads/index.php. You will need to be logged in to myUMBC in order to access this webpage.

Posted by readel at 10:02 PM | TrackBack

Blackboard Down for Maintenance from 10 pm Fri. 1/27 to 1 am Sat. 1/28

The UMBC Blackboard server will be down for three hours of scheduled maintenance from 10 pm Friday, Jan. 27 to 1 am Saturday, Jan. 28. DoIT staff will be performing MS Windows Server maintenance and updates during this time.

We appreciate your patience and apologize for any inconveniences that this down time may cause.

Posted by readel at 9:58 PM | TrackBack

January 17, 2012

Resolved: Slow RT (Request Tracker) Performance

UPDATE

DoIT staff have identified an issue with the system storage which has been fixed. Please contact DoIT if you are still experiencing the slowness identified earlier today.



DoIT has received several reports of sluggish performance of the RT (Request Tracker) ticketing system. Initial attempts to adjust the system memory resources have not been successful, so DoIT staff members are exploring possible hardware issues.

The Technology Support Center (TSC) can still be reached at 410.455.3838, but RT's current issues will affect the TSC staff's ability to update existing tickets. Meanwhile, several IT-related frequently asked questions (FAQs) are available from the myUMBC help menu or directly at www.umbc.edu/faq.

DoIT will update the campus when we know more.

Posted by fritz at 10:43 AM | TrackBack

December 29, 2011

SP2012 Bb Courses Auto Created and Enrolled

Following yesterday's announcement of a new "snapshot" data synchronization process between SA and Blackboard, DoIT reports that a Bb course shell has been auto created and enrolled for all Spring 2012 courses in the Schedule of Classes. As previously announced, all Bb course shell enrollments are being updated daily at 9 a.m., pending further development and testing of the new process.

Reminder: All Bb course shells are unavailable (to students) until the instructor of record makes the course available.

If you have questions or concerns not addressed by this update, please consult the specific Blackboard Help section of the IT support FAQs or submit a Request Tracker (RT) ticket via the myUMBC Help menu or directly at http://rt.umbc.edu.

Sincerely,

John Fritz
Asst. VP, Instructional Technology & New Media
UMBC Div. of Information Technology (DoIT)

Posted by fritz at 9:12 AM | TrackBack

December 28, 2011

WT2012 Bb Courses Enrolled Daily at 9 a.m., For Now

To resolve reported issues with Winter and Spring 2012 Blackboard courses, DoIT has successfully tested Blackboard's "snapshot" process for automatically creating and enrolling all UMBC Bb courses based on updates to the Student Administration (SA) system. As a result, all Winter 2012 Bb course enrollments have been updated today, and will continue to be updated at 9 a.m.

Pending further development and testing of the snapshot process next week, DoIT will return to our normal practice of automatically updating all new Bb courses and enrollments from the SA "feed" every two hours.

For now, DoIT has NOT created or enrolled Spring 2012 Bb courses, so we can see what issues (if any) are reported by faculty and students using Winter 2012 Bb courses. We are optimistic we can create/enroll Spring 2012 courses soon, but will update the campus if and when we have done so.

We appreciate the campus' patience during this unexpected change in data synchronization between SA and Bb course creation & enrollment. If you have questions or concerns not addressed by this update, please consult the specific Blackboard Help section of the IT support FAQs or submit a Request Tracker (RT) ticket via the myUMBC Help menu or directly at http://rt.umbc.edu.

Sincerely,

John Fritz
Asst. VP, Instructional Technology & New Media
UMBC Div. of Information Technology (DoIT)

Posted by fritz at 9:42 AM | TrackBack

December 26, 2011

DoIT Reports Issues Creating WT & SP 2012 Bb Courses

While the campus Blackboard server was successfully upgraded on Friday, December 23, DoIT has encountered issues with the planned auto-creation of Winter and Spring 2012 Bb course shells. We are still investigating the issue, but as of today here is a status update:

  • All 100 or so WT 2012 Bb course shells have been manually created by DoIT staff, and the instructor of record has been enrolled. Faculty can now begin to export old Bb courses and import them into these new WT 2012 Bb shells.

  • However, NO students have been "auto-enrolled" in these WT 2012 Bb course shells, and will none will be able to until DoIT has determined the nature of the current problem.

  • Instructors of WT 2012 Bb courses can use the Student Administration (SA) system to view a class roster. If you need to email students before Winter courses begin on Tuesday, January 3, either download the SA roster and email students directly or manually enroll your students into Blackboard and send email through the Bb course site. When DoIT fixes the auto-enroll function, all officially-registered students will remain in the Bb course site, regardless of how they were initially enrolled in it.

    Reminder: Instructors need to make their Bb courses available for students to see AND log into them.

  • Spring 2012 Bb course sites have not been created or enrolled. DoIT will provide another update as we learn more.

We apologize for this inconvenience, especially to Winter 2012 Bb faculty. If you have questions or concerns not addressed by this update, please consult the specific Blackboard Help section of the IT support FAQs or submit a Request Tracker (RT) ticket via the myUMBC Help menu or directly at http://rt.umbc.edu.

Sincerely,

John Fritz
Asst. VP, Instructional Technology & New Media
UMBC Div. of Information Technology (DoIT)

Posted by fritz at 8:07 PM | TrackBack

December 23, 2011

Blackboard Learn 9.1 SP 6 Upgrade Completed

The scheduled upgrade for the Blackboard Learn 9.1 system was completed at approximately 2:30 pm on Friday, Dec. 23, and the system was made available to the campus community at that time.

We thank you for your patience during this scheduled downtime.

Posted by readel at 2:22 PM | TrackBack

December 5, 2011

UMBC Blackboard Update: WT2012

UMBC Blackboard update is provided by the Division of Information Technology for students, faculty and staff using Blackboard at UMBC. If you have questions or need help, please consult the Blackboard Help tab inside Blackboard or directly at www.umbc.edu/blackboard/help. You can also contact the Technology Support Center (formerly the Help Desk) at 410.455.3838 or submit an RT (Request Tracker) ticket via the myUMBC Help menu or directly at http://rt.umbc.edu.

HEADLINES

1. Reminder to FA2011 Faculty to Download Bb Gradebook, Bb Upgrade on 12/22
2. Blackboard Collaborate Replacing Wimba
3. Course Redesign/ Hybrid Course Redesign Workshop, 1/20
4. FYI: EDUCAUSE Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference 1/11 – 1/13
5. FYI: 1/18 - 1/20 Digital Storytelling Workshop

Posted by readel at 5:43 AM | TrackBack

December 2, 2011

Blackboard Collaborate Replacing Wimba

As previously announced in October, DoIT will be installing Blackboard Collaborate 11 during the Bb upgrade window starting on December 22 at 10 pm. Bb Collaborate 11 is the new web-based conferencing system following Bb's acquisition of Wimba and Elluminate in Summer 2010. It allows faculty to incorporate live, multi-way audio and video, a basic whiteboard with mark-up, application and desktop sharing and other tools for interactivity. A free 30-day trial of Collaborate 11 is available to any faculty member wishing to preview it, by signing up at http://try.bbcollaborate.com/trial/register.go. DoIT staff will introduce Bb Collaborate 11 during drop-in sessions in ENGR 025 from 12 - 1 pm on January 4, 6, 9, and 16. Further training sessions will be planned prior to the start of the Spring 2012 semester.

Posted by readel at 1:13 PM | TrackBack

December 1, 2011

Reminder to FA2011 Faculty to Download Bb Gradebook, Bb Upgrade on 12/22

As previously announced, DoIT will be upgrading the Blackboard (Bb) production system on Thursday, December 22 starting at 10 pm. Though final grades are not due until January 4, all FA2011 faculty are encouraged to back up their Bb gradebook by downloading it to Excel, before the upgrade starts. This is just a precautionary step as no problems are anticipated with the upgrade. DoIT staff will be available in ENGR 025 from 12- 1 pm on Dec. 13, 14, 20 and 21 to provide assistance, should faculty have questions about downloading their grades.

Bb course shells for Winter and Spring 2012 courses will be auto-created on Monday, December 26. Prior to that date, faculty can develop content using older course sites, and then use the export/ import process to move that content once the new shells are auto-created. However, given the start of Winter Session on January 3, DoIT will manually create Winter 2012 shells upon request, with the understanding that faculty who do so need to use a published work around if they encounter the broken links problem the upgrade is meant to resolve.

This upgrade is necessary in order to fix a growing number of web browser incompatibilities, and a known issue of broken links occurring in an imported course. There is no longer a convenient window of time when upgrades can occur during the academic year, but we have reviewed this decision with an informal advisory group of active Bb instructors in several disciplines, as well as the Faculty Senate’s Computer Policy Committee at its 9/16/11 and 10/7/11 meetings. We appreciate your patience and understanding as we work to improve the campus’ use of Blackboard.

Posted by readel at 1:28 PM | TrackBack

October 25, 2011

Blackboard Down for Maintenance from 10 pm Fri. 10/28 to 1 am Sat. 10/29

The UMBC Blackboard server will be down for three hours of scheduled maintenance from 10 pm Friday, Oct. 28 to 1 am Saturday, Oct. 29. DoIT staff will be performing MS Windows Server maintenance and updates during this time.

We appreciate your patience and apologize for any inconveniences that this down time may cause.

Posted by readel at 6:46 AM | TrackBack

October 12, 2011

12/22 Bb Upgrade Will Delay Auto-Creation of WT & SP 2012 Courses

To fix a known issue of broken content links in some courses, reduce growing web browser incompatibilities, and install Collaborate (Blackboard’s replacement for Wimba), DoIT will be upgrading the Blackboard production system on Thursday, December 22, at 10 p.m. As a result, Winter and Spring 2012 course shells will NOT be auto-created until Monday, December 26.

Faculty can still develop 2012 content using older course sites, and simply delay the export/import process until 2012 course shells are auto-created on 12/26. However, given the start of Winter session on January 3, DoIT will manually create Winter 2012 course shells upon request, with the understanding that faculty who do so need to use a published work around if they encounter the broken links problem the upgrade is meant to resolve.

Important Note to Instructors About Fall Grades

While Fall 2011 classes end December 13, final grades are due on January 4. Accordingly, if you display Fall 2011 grades to students in a Bb course, DoIT recommends backing up the gradebook by downloading it to Excel BEFORE the 12/22 upgrade begins at 10 p.m. We do not anticipate any issues with the upgrade, but to be safe, faculty should back up their grade book before the upgrade.

Why DoIT Is Upgrading Blackboard Before Fall Semester Ends

Last month, DoIT announced the known issue after students in about a dozen Blackboard courses could not access uploaded documents. We have not received many new reports since then, nor have we (or Blackboard) identified a specific cause, though it appears to be related to importing a Spring 2011 course into an empty Fall 2011 shell under our current version of Bb (9.1.4). While the content IS present in the new shell, the displayed links to it in some Bb courses do not work. Additionally, there is no site-wide fix DoIT can implement after this export/import process has occurred, though faculty can manually work around it if they or their students encounter it.

Since exporting and importing Bb courses is the primary way all content is moved from one semester to the next, DoIT considers this to be a potentially very serious issue if it is more widespread, particularly in WT and SP 2012 courses. Blackboard believes upgrading our production system will allow the export/import process to work properly, and we believe it will also help minimize a growing problem with web browser incompatibilities due to some browsers changing more frequently than Blackboard. Additionally, we will be installing Blackboard Collaborate which is the new web-based conferencing system following Bb’s acquisition of Wimba and Eluminate in Summer 2010. Collaborate was released this past summer, but not in time for us to test for a Fall 2011 release at UMBC.

Unfortunately, there is no longer a convenient window of time when upgrades can occur during the academic year, but we have reviewed this decision with an informal advisory group of active Bb instructors in several disciplines, as well as the Faculty Senate’s Computer Policy Committee at its 9/16/11 and 10/7/11 meetings. We appreciate your patience and understanding as we work to improve the campus’ use of Blackboard.

Sincerely,

John Fritz
Asst. VP, Instructional Technology & New Media
UMBC Division of Information Technology

Posted by fritz at 4:44 PM | TrackBack

September 27, 2011

Blackboard Down for Maintenance from 10 pm Fri. 9/30 to 1 am Sat. 10/1

The UMBC Blackboard server will be down for three hours of scheduled maintenance from 10 pm Friday, Sept. 30 to 1 am Saturday, Oct. 1. DoIT staff will be performing MS Windows Server maintenance and updates during this time.

We appreciate your patience and apologize for any inconveniences that this down time may cause.

Posted by readel at 12:28 PM | TrackBack

August 25, 2011

UMBC Blackboard Update: FA2011

UMBC Blackboard update is provided by the Division of Information Technology for students, faculty and staff using Blackboard at UMBC. If you have questions or need help, please consult the Blackboard Help tab inside Blackboard or directly at www.umbc.edu/blackboard/help. You can also contact the Technology Support Center (formerly the Help Desk) at 410.455.3838 or submit an RT (Request Tracker) ticket via the myUMBC Help menu or directly at http://rt.umbc.edu.

HEADLINES

1. Fall Course Shells Created on July 11
2. Bb Courses Older than Fall 2005 Will Be Deleted Aug. 26
3. UMBC Blackboard Help Now Part of myUMBC Help Wiki
4. FA2011 Bb Drop-in Sessions
5. Known Issue: Blackboard compatible browsers
6. Blackboard Weekly Maintenance Schedule Reminder
7. End of LO Building Block (Blogs/ Wikis/ Journals)
8. WT2011 Alternate Delivery Program Provides Hybrid Course Support
9. FYI: ELI Annual Meeting Presentation Proposals Due September 7

Posted by readel at 5:49 AM | TrackBack

August 24, 2011

UMBC Blackboard Help Now Part of myUMBC Help Wiki

As part of campus-wide user support changes announced by the Division of Information Technology (DoIT) earlier this summer, the Blackboard Help tab inside Bb (available at www.umbc.edu/blackboard/help) is now run by the “Find Help - FAQ” wiki on the myUMBC Help menu.

myUMBChelpmenu.png
Wherever possible, our approach will be to focus on UMBC-specific Bb help that can't be found elsewhere (e.g., course creation, enrollment, availability), or useful, but perhaps less well-known tools in Blackboard’s generic online user manuals available in every course site under “Tools” (for students) or the “Control Panel” (for instructors & community leaders).

Examples include:

  • How to make your Bb course available (a key UMBC-specific task), and
  • How to enable "subscription" to discussion boards so users can get an email alert of new posts (a useful, but little known tool).

    As in the examples above, our preference will be to show brief (5 minutes or less) focused video “screencasts” of key tasks, followed by simple step-by-step text instructions. Not all articles will contain videos, but our goal is add them to the most frequently asked questions (FAQs).

    In addition, there are key advantages to using a wiki for Blackboard Help. First, as some faculty know who have used wikis for student projects, it is easier for more people with a variety of technical skills to edit and maintain a wiki because it is a completely web-based tool and does not require highly technical programming skills to do so. For now, DoIT staff are maintaining the site, but eventually we hope to make this more directly available to students, faculty and staff who can help us monitor and edit existing help documentation or actually create new articles that can be published (and searched) as “drafts” for use by the UMBC Bb community. Until then, you can “suggest an article” on the FAQ “about” site to add, change, comment on or request deletion of an existing FAQ article.

    Second, there are useful wiki tools such as shorter URLs or web addresses, a “history” of changes to the document and the ability to email it to yourself or a colleague. We’ve also added feedback tools and a “request help” link that goes to the other main link on the myUMBC Help Menu: Request Help. This site serves as the campus gateway for the RT (Request Tracker) ticketing system used by DoIT, Financial Services, Academic Services and some academic departments such as Computer Science/Electrical Engineering and Mechanical Engineering. Unlike sending a help request to a support staff member’s personal email inbox, an RT ticket can be monitored and acted upon by more than one individual, who may be busy or unavailable due to vacation or sickness. In addition, you can use the RT interface to monitor the status of your open RT ticket and provide feedback on your experience.

    Clearly, interest in RT is growing, and it appears the myUMBC Help menu may be one reason why. Last year, the campus generated more than 50,000 RT tickets (about 25,000 were IT-related), and the “Request Help” link was accessed 30,000 times (students, faculty and staff can also call the main tech support number of 5-3838 to have a ticket entered on their behalf).

    By contrast, the myUMBC “Find Help” site, which used to be called DoIT Knowledge base (KB), was accessed 10 times less than “Request Help.” So, over the summer, DoIT and Library staff worked on redesigning the FAQ, with the hope of creating a central, community-driven knowledge base similar to Indiana University or Virginia Tech. We also plan to participate in a broader higher education knowledge management initiative that is sponsored by the Kuali Foundation and based on the Indiana KB.

    Finally, DoIT and the Library have collaborated on the “Find Help -- FAQ” wiki as part of the new Retriever Learning Center (RLC) that opens this fall. The goal is to explore and refine inevitable issues when different organizations (and cultures) share a single web platform to provide end user support. This is key to encouraging other campus organizations to use the wiki, which will hopefully make it easier for students, faculty and staff to find, request and track online help about a wider variety of topics.

    For more information, visit the FAQ “about" site that contains a brief, video overview of the changes to myUMBC help.

    Posted by fritz at 6:16 AM | TrackBack

    August 1, 2011

    FA2011 Blackboard Drop-in Sessions

    DoIT is offering drop in Blackboard Drop-in sessions to assist and help faculty prepare for the fall semester

    The following one hour drop in sessions will be held in Engineering 025. DoIT staff members will be available to work one-on-one with with users who show up during the designated times.

    Additional dates and times may be added as demand warrants.

    FA2011 Blackboard Drop In Schedule
    DateTime
    M 8/2212-1 pm
    W 8/2411 am-1 pm
    W 8/243-5 pm
    F 8/2612-1 pm
    M 8/293-5 pm
    Tu 8/304-6 pm
    F 9/212-1 pm
    Tu 9/612-1 pm
    F 9/912-1 pm
    NEW F 9/1612-1 pm
    NEW M 9/1912-1 pm
    NEW Th 9/2212-1 pm
    NEW M 9/2612-1 pm

    Posted by readel at 1:15 PM | TrackBack

    July 31, 2011

    DoIT IT Support Changes - Help Desk & AV Moving

    Starting this summer, there will be a number of significant changes occurring in the way DoIT provides support to the campus community. The driver for this change is the new Retriever Learning Center (RLC) that will be opening in the Library this fall. The RLC will have a significant technology component and will provide 24-hour space for students. As part of this DoIT is making significant changes to our Helpdesk and establishing a student-focused unit named the Technology Support Center adjacent to the RLC.

    This is one of the most exciting and important initiatives for students that has occurred on campus. So, to support the RLC, DoIT will be making the following changes.

    First, we are renaming the Help Desk to be called the Technology Support Center, which will be located next to the RLC. This change is primarily designed to provide walk-up support of students, though faculty & staff are welcome, too. Managed by Jamie Harrison, the TSC will work closely with the Library to proactively meet student technology support needs in a much more visible location.

    Second, we encourage all students, faculty and staff to search, request and track technical support using the myUMBC Help menu or directly at http://my.umbc.edu/help. In moving student technology support to the Library we will only have two, remaining full-time staff (distributed in the Engineering Bldg.) who are available for faculty-staff support issues. We are exploring possible collaboration with other functional offices, Departmental IT (DIT) support staff, as well as a way faculty might be able to request specially-trained students for one-on-one instructional technology assistance. All DoIT support groups will continue to monitor the primary 5-3838 technical support phone number, however given potential challenges in our capacity to respond immediately, we are working to improve the myUMBC Help interface so you can find, request and track your tech support needs in one location.

    Third, to make certain that the technology classrooms in Engineering are properly supported we will be moving the Audio Visual (AV) services group from Academic IV-A 204 to Engineering 020. In addition to continuing to deliver mobile technology carts from this location, AV will oversee support for the computer classrooms in Engineering, including openings and closings.

    Finally, to streamline management we are realigning the DoIT organization so that all three of these groups will be under the Instructional Technology and New Media unit led by Asst. VP John Fritz. As with any change, we know there will be some issues that will arise that we need to address. We are committed to working with the campus to make this a success and appreciate your patience while we make this change. If you have questions, suggestions or comments, please email them to John (fritz@umbc.edu) or myself (jack@umbc.edu).

    Posted by jack at 4:57 PM

    July 29, 2011

    Wimba Classroom Upgrade from 10 pm 8/6 to 7 am 8/7

    Blackboard Collaborate has announced that UMBC's Wimba Classroom will be upgraded to version 6.1.4 during an extended maintenance window from Saturday, August 6 at 10:00 PM to Sunday, August 7 at 7:00 AM. The maintenance release will address server-side enhancements of Wimba Classroom. During this time, services, including live sessions and recordings, will not be available.

    Thank you for your patience during this upgrade.

    Posted by readel at 11:30 AM | TrackBack

    Blackboard Down for Maintenance from 10 pm Fri. 8/5 to 1 am Sat. 8/6

    The UMBC Blackboard server will be down for three hours of maintenance from 10 pm Friday, Aug. 5 to 1 am Saturday, Aug. 6. DoIT staff will be performing MS Windows Server maintenance and updates during this time.

    We appreciate your patience and apologize for any inconveniences that this down time may cause.

    Posted by readel at 11:15 AM | TrackBack

    July 18, 2011

    FA2011 Bb Course Shells Created on 7/11

    Bb course shells for FA 2011 were created on July 11, and will continue to be updated daily. Bb shells were created for all courses (designated as lecture, lab, or discussion) listed in the UMBC Schedule of Classes (SOC), provided that there was an instructor of record listed. The addition of new course sections and instructors will result in new Bb shells being automatically generated each morning. Student enrollment in Bb will continue to mirror the official registration in SA, and will update multiple times daily.

    If you are an instructor, and your name is not associated with the course you are teaching in the SOC, please see your departmental scheduling coordinator to get that issue resolved.

    Additionally in situations where one instructor is teaching multiple sections of the same course, by default all sections will be combined into one Bb course shell. If you want to have separate shells for different sections, or if you need a shell for for a research or independent study course, please submit a new course request.

    As a reminder, all Bb course shells are initially unavailable to students until the instructor makes it available.

    Posted by readel at 10:12 AM | TrackBack

    April 29, 2011

    UMBC Blackboard Update: SU2011

    UMBC Blackboard update is provided by the Division of Information Technology for students, faculty and staff using Blackboard at UMBC. If you have questions or need help, please consult the Blackboard Help tab inside Blackboard or directly at http://www.umbc.edu/blackboard/help. You can also contact the DoIT Help Desk at 410.455.3838, ENGR Room 020, or submit an RT ticket via the myUMBC Help menu or directly at http://rt.umbc.edu.

    HEADLINES

    1. Summer Course Shells Created on 4/19
    2. End of 24/7 Bb Support for Students / DoIT Help Desk Moving to RLC
    3. End of LO Building Block (Blogs/ Wikis/ Journals)
    4. Hybrid Faculty Workshop June 9
    5. Call for Software for Lecture Halls/ Lab Images & Preliminary Lab Reservations
    6. Bb Courses Older than Fall 2005 Will Be Deleted August 25

    Posted by readel at 1:12 PM | TrackBack

    End of 24/7 Bb Support for Students/ DoIT Help Desk moving to RLC

    On May 26, DoIT will no longer outsource student support of Blackboard. Instead, like faculty and staff, all students will now contact the DoIT Help Desk by calling 410.455.3838. As a reminder, the DoIT Help Desk hours are 8 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. (Mon-Fri), 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Sat.) and Noon-5 p.m. (Sun.). Before, during and after these hours, everyone is encouraged to 1) consult the Blackboard Help tab inside Bb or directly at www.umbc.edu/blackboard/help, or 2) submit an RT (“Request Tracker”) ticket via the myUMBC Help menu or directly at http://rt.umbc.edu. Also, DoIT has found that customers who can supply a “screen capture” of a software problem help us resolve the issue more efficiently or effectively.

    Since November 2009, DoIT has been piloting a 24/7 outsource of Blackboard support with Presidium Learning, Inc., in part to address staffing challenges from turnover, retirements and current budget challenges. During this time, we’ve tightened our standard operating procedures by having to explain them to a third party. Also, Presidium’s approach to managing support through metrics has also complemented our own. DoIT began publishing monthly support statistics last January, including results of voluntary customer satisfaction surveys when an RT ticket is resolved.

    Unfortunately, outsourcing support to a third-party has been more challenging than expected. As announced last Fall, DoIT ended 24/7 Bb support for faculty due to challenges in supporting the depth and variety of faculty Blackboard needs. While students have continued to use the 24/7 support, especially the online knowledge base designed for self-service, our analysis of ticket volume shows very few students were submitting support tickets after our Help Desk’s current hours of operation.

    Finally, as part of the Retriever Learning Center’s opening in the Library this fall, DoIT and the Library have decided to join forces in providing on-site support of students. As such, we are exploring moving some of our current operations from the Help Desk in Engineering 020 to the RLC’s first floor of the Library. Details are still being discussed, but we imagine having more trained, student IT workers available and roving in the RLC to answer customer questions directly. Since most of DoIT’s current customer support is provided remotely (by phone or online), this will be a dramatic change in how we do business. But we are intrigued by the possibilities of working more directly with customers in the RLC. We will continue to provide direct, remote support during existing Help Desk hours, but ask customers to consult our online knowledge base before submitting an RT ticket.

    In addition to feedback and suggestions, DoIT appreciates your patience as we work through this transition in Bb support specifically and IT customer support generally.

    Posted by readel at 12:47 PM | TrackBack

    April 26, 2011

    Blackboard Down for Maintenance from 10 pm Fri. 4/29 to 1 am Sat. 4/30

    The UMBC Blackboard server will be down for three hours of scheduled maintenance starting this Friday, April 29, at 10 pm. DoIT staff will be applying MS Windows updates, and a patch provided by Blackboard to fix the known issue of viewing past archives in journals.

    Thank you for your patience during this time.

    Posted by readel at 8:22 PM | TrackBack

    April 25, 2011

    FA2011 Lab & Lecture Hall Software Requests Deadline is June 1

    In order to load all lab and lecture hall PCs with our standard set of software (known as an "image"), all requests for additions or changes for Fall 2011 must be received by Wednesday, June 1. For Spring 2012, the lab & lecture hall software "image" deadline is Tuesday, November 1.
    To be added to the lab & lecture hall image, DoIT must have the following:

    * Proof of purchase/licenses
    * Media and software installation instructions

    Contact 410.455.3838 and a Help Desk staff member will enter a ticket.
    If the request is not received by the deadline, there is no guarantee the requested software will be made available.

    For an instructor-only demo of software, please use a laptop. If you don't have a laptop, you can reserve and pick up one at AV Services (204 ACIV Bldg).

    If you need software installed on the lab image for a one-time purpose (for example, a 2-day workshop in which all users need access to the software), the request should be submitted no less than six (6) weeks prior to the first lab reservation for that class. The software will be removed once you are done.

    An e-mail will be sent to the requester once the software is installed, typically 1-2 week(s) before the first use of the software; faculty/instructors need to then test the software to ensure everything is working as expected for class. Support for the software is the responsibility of the instructor or department who requested that the software be installed.

    Again, proof of purchase and/or license must be provided for as many copies as will be needed for the students in the class. We cannot install software without appropriate proof of licensing.

    Although DoIT will make a reasonable effort to get all software packages to work, we can not guarantee that they will. Some packages may not function because of the network, computer hardware, and lab setup. DoIT cannot be held responsible for software that does not work by class time. Please contact the Help Desk at 410.455.3838 if you have any additional questions.

    Posted by readel at 3:23 PM | TrackBack

    March 11, 2011

    Blackboard Down for Extended Maintenance from 10 pm Fri. 3/18 to 10 am Sat. 3/19

    As a part of DoIT's regular scheduled maintenance, Blackboard will be down for an extended time on Friday, March 18 (10 p.m.) until Saturday, March 19 (10 a.m.) in order to reindex the entire database. This process is the second phase of a 2-step process recommended by Blackboard in order to fix the previously reported spikes in database utilization. The first phase, replacement of a key database function, was completed on February 11. DoIT staff are hopeful that the completion of this second step will resolve any lingering Blackboard performance issues.

    We are sorry for the inconvenience of this temporary downtime, and we thank you for your cooperation and patience.

    Posted by readel at 1:01 PM | TrackBack

    February 4, 2011

    2/11/11 Bb Downtime & Known Issue: Abnormal Usage "Spikes"

    As part of DoIT's regular scheduled maintenance window, Blackboard will be down next Friday, February 11 (10 p.m.) to Saturday, February 12 (1 a.m.) to address abnormal database utilization "spikes" occurring several times a day since the start of this semester. Normally, Bb operates at about 20-30 percent of system capacity, but DoIT has seen spikes of nearly 100 percent, resulting in very slow performance for up to 30 or even 60 minutes each occurrence.

    We've heard similar reports from other institutions that have upgraded to version 9, and have been exploring their suggested fixes. We've also been working with Blackboard, which has recently recommended a two-step approach: 1) replacement of a key database function that will occur during next week's downtime, and 2) re-indexing of the entire database.

    This re-indexing step #2 would require at least 12-hours of scheduled down time, which we are not yet prepared to do given the disruption to students, faculty and staff during the semester. Our preference is to do this over Spring Break, but if step #1 does not buy us time by temporarily fixing the problem, we may be forced to act sooner.

    DoIT will continue to monitor the Blackboard system and update the campus when we know more. In the meantime, thank you for your cooperation and patience.

    Posted by fritz at 2:00 PM | TrackBack

    Educause Publishes Video Demo of UMBC "Check My Activity" Tool for Students


    The final 2010 issue of EDUCAUSE Quarterly includes a brief (5 minute) video demo of UMBC's "Check My Activity" (CMA) tool for students. The CMA demo was part of EQ's special focus on student retention, and includes new information comparing how students use Blackboard by final grade distribution in all 1,461 Spring 2010 Blackboard courses. Specifically, D & F students used it 47 percent less than students earning a C or better, which is similar to results from previous semesters based on much smaller samples. A similar analysis is being conducted on all Blackboard courses for Fall 2010.

    Posted by fritz at 12:58 PM | TrackBack

    January 2, 2011

    Jack Suess Chairing InCommon Federation

    For 2011, Jack Suess will become Chair of the InCommon Steering committee. InCommon is an organization of universities, now totaling 186, that are working with vendors, governments, and amongst ourselves to provide trust-based services such as authentication and secure communication. The primary service is one based on creating a higher education federation that can leverage institutional login credentials to provide you access to services off campus. In total there are approximately 250 organizations including Microsoft, NIH, NSF, and a host of others leveraging the work of InCommon.

    The goal of these InCommon is provide universities with a common approach for solving the problem of integrating outside vendors and services with the benefits being improved service and reduced cost. During 2011, InCommon will continue adding new members and expanding into new trust services, such as a new higher-education focused certificate service.

    For UMBC, having a member of our community named Chair is recognition for the work that the campus has done with building our Identity Management system, which we call the Retriever Community System (RCS), and the integration of services we have done inside myUMBC.

    The work with InCommon has been done by many in DoIT. Over the past decade former staff such as Rob Banz ( now at Google) and present staff Jason Griego, Paul Riddle, Todd Haddaway, Joe Kirby and Mike Carlin have demonstrated great ability to work with vendors to expand our single-signon environment.

    This coming year UMBC will have a number of initiatives that rely on InCommon, these include:
    * a partnership with the Office of Institutional Advancement and expand the RCS expand to include Alumni and friends of UMBC;
    * utilizing UMBC credentials to access NSF and NIH for research administration;
    * utilizing InCommon for better access to electronic library databases;
    * launching a new authentication service using personal certificates; and
    * becoming part of a global wireless service called eduroam.

    If you have questions on the Retriever Community System or want to find out more about InCommon please email jack@umbc.edu.

    You can also find out more about personal technology by Jack Suess on the UMBC TechBits blog.

    Posted by jack at 8:39 AM | TrackBack

    December 3, 2010

    FYI: EDUCAUSE Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference 1/12 - 1/14

    The 9th Annual EDUCAUSE Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference will be held at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront Hotel from January 12 -14, 2011. This year's conference is titled "Setting a New Course for the Future" and will focus on meeting the changing needs of learners, faculty, researchers, and administrators through innovation - while continuing to support the critical IT infrastructure. The programming on Thursday is particularly geared towards faculty and educational technologists, and includes presentations and hands-on opportunities that focus on classroom activities. This year EDUCAUSE is offering special one-day registration options. Early registration is open until December 15 and can be found at http://net.educause.edu/Registration/1025803.

    Posted by readel at 3:55 PM | TrackBack

    Ad Hoc SP2011 AV Support Reservations Now Being Accepted

    AV Services is now accepting ad hoc reservations for AV equipment and support for SP 2011 courses. As previously announced all such requests should be submitted via the Request Service Form, or via the RT system directly. Faculty requiring AV equipment in their classroom on a regular basis should be working with their departmental scheduling coordinator to request a "Smart Classroom" during the course scheduling process. This will maximize the possibility that faculty members will be scheduled into an appropriate room already containing the AV equipment they need.

    Over the past several years, DoIT has worked in conjunction with the Office of the Provost to equip more of the classrooms scheduled by the Office of the Registrar with permanently installed AV gear. At the same time, the number of faculty requiring such gear has also increased. While AV Services does have number of mobile carts that can be delivered, in the past year staff members have noted that the deployment of these carts has approached 100% during the peak class times of 10 am to 2 pm, especially on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Additionally, many of the global (semester-long) requests for gear do not come in until the first week of the semester, which makes it hard to anticipate any shortages that might occur. To date, AV Services has not yet had to deny any service requests, and we are hopeful that it will not reach that level. We are asking that academic departments help our efforts in planning ahead by taking advantage of the ability to request a Smart Classroom during the scheduling process. Departmental scheduling coordinators have all been trained how to make this request, and we anticipate that it will increase the efficiency of scheduling limited resources.


    Posted by readel at 1:57 PM | TrackBack

    WT2011 & SP2011 Bb Course Shells Created 12/1

    Bb course shells for both WT and SP 2011 were created on Dec. 1, and will continue to be updated daily. Bb shells were created for all courses (designated as lecture, lab, or discussion) listed in the UMBC Schedule of Classes (SOC), provided that there was an instructor of record listed. The addition of new course sections and instructors will result in new Bb shells being automatically generated each morning. Student enrollment in Bb will continue to mirror the official registration in SA, and will update multiple times daily.

    If you are an instructor, and your name is not associated with the course you are teaching in the SOC, please see your departmental scheduling coordinator to get that issue resolved.

    Additionally in situations where one instructor is teaching multiple sections of the same course, by default all sections will be combined into one Bb course shell. If you want to have separate shells for different sections, or if you need a shell for for a research or independent study course, please submit a new course request.

    As a reminder, all Bb course shells are initially unavailable to students until the instructor makes it available.

    Posted by readel at 12:46 PM | TrackBack

    October 29, 2010

    Urgent Service Outage, Friday, October 29, 2010

    An urgent service outage is needed today to address performance issues with several campus systems such as Active Directory (AD), Blackboard and Financial Systems. Specifically, these services operate on what is known as “virtual” servers or dedicated “zones” on a small number of physical servers.

    Over the past four weeks the primary storage arrays for our virtual servers have been experiencing performance issues resulting in occasional failures of various systems. Many of these outages have
    occurred during the weekend hours when they were less noticeable. Our storage vendor has recommended upgrading these systems immediately to resolve these issues.

    The services listed below will be offline Friday, October 29, 2010 between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m. while an updated storage firmware patch is applied.


    AD services

    Network Drives

    Network Printing

    Labs

    SAS, SPSS licensing

    Lab Printing

    Lab Profiles and document space (myDocs)

    Visually impaired software (JAWS, Zoomtext)

    Departmental

    DPET Terminal server

    ORL housing app

    ORL webserver

    ContentDM for Library

    General

    Blackboard

    Terminal Server

    Lenel Door access servers. Doors will continue to work but changes can't be made during this time

    Antivirus updates


    R25

    --
    Michael Carlin, Ph.D.
    Assistant Vice President
    Infrastructure and Support
    Division of Information Technology
    University of Maryland, Baltimore County

    Posted by jamie at 11:13 AM | TrackBack

    August 24, 2010

    Changes in How Faculty Can Get Blackboard Help

    Starting today, the Division of Information Technology (DoIT) is directing faculty to the DoIT Help Desk to resolve basic (tier 1) Blackboard issues or escalate to DoIT's Instructional Technology & New Media group. Presidium Learning will continue to support basic (tier 1) student Blackboard issues, excluding DoIT's auto-enrollment and auto-course creation processes, which are unique to UMBC.

    Generally speaking, tier 1 IT support refers to basic but frequent end user support (e.g., forgotten passwords), tier 2 refers to less frequent but more advanced application support (e.g., how to export/import a course or use the grade center), and tier 3 refers to a handful of back end, but high impact system administration issues (e.g., server is down).

    We are making this change in faculty Blackboard support for a number of reasons:

    First, a steady number of faculty continue to report lack of consistency in the depth and quality of 24/7 Bb support they have received from Presidium Learning. We have continually worked with Presidium to address specific issues when we learn of them, and results of a recent user satisfaction survey are generally positive. However, feedback from some faculty is still mixed. As we announced in May, one reason we proceeded with the 9.1 summer upgrade was to learn about issues that may affect support of faculty before the start of Fall. While any upgrade can be challenging, we don't want support of faculty to complicate the transition, so we are making this change now.

    Second, student use of 24/7 Bb support continues to outpace faculty--especially during nights and weekends, and feedback is generally positive. Since nearly all students have at least one Blackboard course, faculty may want to ask students to start with 24/7 Bb support if they have technical issue. In turn, this may reduce the default "help desk" role many faculty play in their Blackboard courses now. Also, as Presidium continues to provide student support, it frees up DoIT staff to provide more advanced, tier 2 application support.

    Finally, as I announced a year ago today (and again in November and January), we continue to face challenges in providing support for an application that is now used by nearly all UMBC classes--with the same Full Time Equivalent (FTE) staffing as when we started using Blackboard ten years ago. To do so, faculty have stepped up to not only support each other, but also to lead by example in how to get the most out of Blackboard and other instructional technologies or effective practices (e.g., AV, clickers, digital storytelling, hybrid learning, etc.). DoIT values and intentionally facilitates these kinds of faculty learning communities, but as technology adoption increases, we need to find the right balance between supporting people while also helping them to help themselves and others.

    To be clear, this change now means that "after hours" faculty Bb support will be limited to the UMBC support staff (and faculty colleagues) who able and willing to provide it. But we hope this change and continuing use of 24/7 Bb student support will be a step in the right direction.

    If you have any questions, concerns or suggestions, please let me know.

    Sincerely,

    John Fritz
    Asst. VP, Instructional Technology & New Media
    UMBC Division of Information Technology
    410.455.6596 or fritz@umbc.edu

    Posted by fritz at 9:47 AM | TrackBack

    April 29, 2010

    FA2010 Lab & Lecture Hall Software Requests Deadline is July 1

    In order to load all lab and lecture hall PCs with our standard set of software (known as an "image"), all requests for additions or changes for Fall 2010 must be received by Thursday, July 1. For Spring 2011, the lab & lecture hall software "image" deadline is Wednesday, December 1.

    To be added to the lab & lecture hall image, DoIT must have the following:


    • Proof of purchase/licenses
    • Media and software installation instructions

    Contact 410.455.3838 and a Help Desk staff member will enter a ticket.
    If the request is not received by the deadline, there is no guarantee the requested software will be made available.

    For an instructor-only demo of software, please use a laptop. If you don't have a laptop, you can reserve and pick up one at AV Services (204 ACIV Bldg).

    If you need software installed on the lab image for a one-time purpose (for example, a 2-day workshop in which all users need access to the software), the request should be submitted no less than six (6) weeks prior to the first lab reservation for that class. The software will be removed once you are done.

    An e-mail will be sent to the requester once the software is installed, typically 1-2 week(s) before the first use of the software; faculty/instructors need to then test the software to ensure everything is working as expected for class. Support for the software is the responsibility of the instructor or department who requested that the software be installed.

    Again, proof of purchase and/or license must be provided for as many copies as will be needed for the students in the class. We cannot install software without appropriate proof of licensing.

    Although DoIT will make a reasonable effort to get all software packages to work, we can not guarantee that they will. Some packages may not function because of the network, computer hardware, and lab setup. DoIT cannot be held responsible for software that does not work by class time. Please contact the Help Desk at 410.455.3838 if you have any additional questions.

    Posted by fritz at 9:12 PM | TrackBack

    February 13, 2010

    24/7 Bb Support Update: January Stats & Known Issues

    Last month, UMBC began its first full semester with Presidium Learning as the provider of our new 24/7 Blackboard support service. As a result, 169 students and 83 faculty sought direct, start-of-semester help (266 total). In addition, the related Bb self-support portal recorded 755 visits, 167 knowledge base article accesses and a total of 1,766 page views. This does not include 195 Blackboard "Request Tracker" (RT) tickets resolved by DoIT staff directly. A more detailed summary of January's 24/7 Bb support is available here, and future monthly reports will be announced in this DoIT News blog each month during this one-year pilot that was announced last fall.

    While it's too soon to say what our 24/7 Bb support usage reports mean, or if and how Blackboard support may improve given staffing challenges reported last fall, a few specific issues emerged last month that need to be clarified or improved:

    1. UMBC course creation and auto enrollment issues cannot be solved by 24/7 Bb Support.

    As part of this pilot, UMBC elected not to give Presidium access to the Student Administration (SA) system, which is needed to troubleshoot course and enrollment mismatches between SA and Blackboard. A DoIT workgroup is meeting regularly to address the course and enrollment mismatch issues that emerged again this semester, with a focus on how to improve our current process before a planned upgrade to Blackboard version 9 in Fall 2010. While DoIT initially announced that Presidium would have to refer such "UMBC-specific uses of Blackboard back to the DoIT Help Desk," including course enrollment issues, some students and faculty sought support for these issues from Presidium, which could not solve them.

    For now, DoIT asks students and faculty to submit an RT ticket via myUMBC help or directly at http://rt.umbc.edu for any course creation or enrollment mismatches between SA and Blackboard. Please include the specific course name, and userIDs of students or instructors who are officially enrolled in or eligible to teach the course according to the SA system. We will also continue to ask Presidium to escalate these requests to DoIT on behalf of UMBC students and faculty who end up contacting Presidium first.

    bb_support_still.png
    Tips for getting & improving UMBC Bb help (4:02 min)

    2. Presidium should facilitate a "warm transfer" of issues they cannot solve or that are out of scope (e.g. UMBC Bb course creation and enrollment).

    By mutual agreement, this means the Presidium Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) should explain to the UMBC student, faculty or staff member that they will need to transfer his or her call to the DoIT Help Desk during our business hours, or create an escalated ticket in DoIT's RT system after hours. Unfortunately, this was not done consistently in the first two weeks of January, resulting in some students and faculty contacting 24/7 support only to be told they should hang up and call the DoIT Help Desk directly. This is understandably frustrating and not acceptable. DoIT worked with Presidium's account manager, and the UMBC-specific knowledgebase that guides Presidium CSRs now reflects this "warm transfer" procedure.

    3. UMBC's course copy process is actually Blackboard's export/import function.

    When UMBC first started using Blackboard in 2000, DoIT made a deliberate choice to disable a delivered function called course copy, which literally allows a faculty member to make a new, exact copy of an old course. The problem is that it also requires faculty to create a unique and permanent courseID that follows a consistent naming convention we knew we'd need for any kind of auto-enrollment process to work. Instead, like a number of other institutions, we disabled course copy, and opted to create empty course shells each semester (with the unique and consistent courseID embedded in the new shell for auto-enrollment to work). As we never imagined giving true "course copy" functionality to faculty in the future--and had no third party support entity like Presidium now--we continued to use the phrase "copying an old course to a new one" for what is actually the export/import function in Blackboard now. This simply became a matter where IT and the faculty we've supported for the last 10 years came to understand and thus redefine what "course copy" meant in using Blackboard at UMBC.

    Unfortunately, our understanding differed from Presidium's, which has clients who do allow faculty to use the "course copy" function, resulting in Presidium advising UMBC faculty to do something they can't. When we became aware that Presidium's "course copy" advice to UMBC faculty conflicted with our long-standing recommended export/import practice, we decided it would be easier to train Presidium CSRs than change a term and task UMBC faculty had been using for several years--especially right before the semester started. Unfortunately, some Presidium CSRs reverted to their common practice and terminology, which led to unsatisfactory support for some faculty. Again, we altered the UMBC-specific knowledge base that Presidium CSRs use in supporting our faculty, but it has come at the expense of some faculty understandably being upset with the advice they received from our 24/7 Bb support.

    Going forward, as part of our plans to upgrade to version 9 in Fall 2010, DoIT is exploring a change in our current processes to make course creation and enrollment less problematic for UMBC students and instructors, as well as DoIT and Presidium.

    Finally, I want to thank UMBC students and faculty for their patience as Presidium learns how we operate and vice versa. Eventually, this pilot may show us that 24/7 support is not needed or desirable, and that we should try to staff up if and when budget issues ease, to meet the support needs of ever growing Blackboard usage. However, like January's summary report, I have noticed a similar pattern in November and December that students used the 24/7 support twice as much as faculty. At a minimum, I'm hopeful this may mean we can reduce the default tech support role many faculty find themselves in their current Blackboard courses. In turn, this may free up DoIT staff to support more advanced pedagogical needs of faculty, if Presidium is handling basic Blackboard support needs.

    For now, I'd like to issue an open call to any UMBC faculty member to contact me or Karin Readel (readel@umbc.edu), Director of Instructional Technology, if Presidium is not "learning UMBC" or supporting faculty the way they should. In addition, if you open a ticket on the Bb support portal, please provide feedback when the ticket is resolved, if your support experience could have been improved. We can't help Presidium improve if we don't have specific details of how and when they've stumbled (e.g., date/time of the incident, name of course, name of CSR). To date, DoIT has received 12 such reports from faculty since we started using Presidium in November. Presidium has also expressed appreciation for feedback on what they can do better, and I have appreciated them providing access to the monthly reports I'm sharing in this and future updates about our 24/7 Bb support.

    Together, I still believe we can partner with Presidium to provide quality 24/7 Blackboard support to UMBC students and faculty. If you have questions, concerns or would like to discuss this further, please post a comment to this entry or contact me directly.

    Sincerely,

    John Fritz
    Asst. VP, Instructional Technology & New Media
    UMBC Division of Information Technology
    410.455.6596 or fritz@umbc.edu

    Posted by fritz at 11:09 PM | TrackBack

    January 16, 2010

    UMBC Blackboard Usage Sets All Time Record in FA2009

    Based on UMBC's most recent Blackboard Report for Fall 2009, students and faculty used the course management system (CMS) in more classes than ever before. Specifically, 1,430 courses used Blackboard in Fall 2009, compared to 1,014 a year ago (a 30 percent increase). In addition, 215 courses included one or more sections, which means at least 1,645 sections (or 65 percent of the university's approximately 2,500 sections) used Blackboard.

    While it's hard to pinpoint specific reasons for the increase, the preparation for academic continuity in case of an H1N1 outbreak may have been a factor.

    UMBC_bb_gdr.png
    UMBC Blackboard activity by grade distribution, 2007-2009. Detail table
    In addition, 29 faculty participated in the voluntary request to post final grades in Blackboard, the most ever since 2007 when DoIT began studying how students use the CMS by grade distribution. To date, students earning a final grade of D or F in 110 courses have used Blackboard 39 percent less than students earning a C or higher (the average was 37 percent less in Fall 2009).

    We know hits alone are no measure of quality teaching or learning. Also, the sample needs to be expanded and the demographics of students needs to be studied further. But does the pattern hold true throughout the semester? If so, how might students’ self-awareness, motivation and performance change if they could know how their CMS usage activity compares to more successful peers, earlier in the semester? If not, how and when does the pattern break down? And is it significant enough to dilute student awareness and motivation to seek or accept help from an instructor or the Learning Resources Center (LRC)?

    While we can not yet fully answer these questions, DoIT continues to explore ways to provide this information to students sooner. And they are finding it. During the three-month period from September 1 to December 1, our custom Check My Activity (CMA) tool recorded more than 15,000 visits and 52,000 page views (see Google Analytics report). The CMA lets student compare their own activity against an anonymous summary of their peers, based on average hits per user. This is also how UMBC's most active Blackboard courses are determined.

    In addition, if faculty post a grade for any assignment in the Blackboard grade book, students can view an anonymous summary of the Bb activity by students who earned the same, lower or higher grade as their own grade. Nearly half of the FA2009 Bb courses (658) contained active grade books with at least one recorded grade, and past surveys of specific UMBC classes have shown more than 50 percent of students would be inclined to use the CMA for past assignments before future assignments are due--if they have grades to check. This confirms a national study by the Educause Center for Applied Research (ECAR) that shows students value checking their grade more than any other function in an online CMS like Blackboard.
    Check My Activity
    While we would like to better understand how and why students are using the CMA, and what it tells them, DoIT has made the CMA easier for students to find by creating a custom "building block" that links directly to it from within any UMBC Blackboard course (tools-->"My Activity").

    For more information, visit the UMBC Blackboard Reports project blog at www.umbc.edu/blackboard/reports.

    Posted by fritz at 6:23 PM | TrackBack

    December 4, 2009

    Karin Readel Named Director of Instructional Technology

    I am pleased to announce that Karin Readel, Senior Lecturer in Geography and Environmental Systems (GES), has accepted the position of Director of Instructional Technology in the Division of Information Technology (DoIT). She will assume her duties on a part-time basis on January 5, but will transition to full-time after she completes teaching SCI100 "Water: An Interdisciplinary Study" during the Spring 2010 semester.

    Karin Readel
    Throughout her ten years as a faculty member at UMBC, Readel has sought out effective technologies to improve both her students' learning and her own instruction:

    • She is highly experienced in the uses of Blackboard, having adopted it for SCI100 in 2001. She also frequently pilots new versions of the Bb software a semester or two before general campus release, and her courses are frequently among UMBC's Most Active Blackboard courses.

    • In 2004, she and Biology Professor Phil Sokolove were among the first faculty to advocate for the use of audience response systems (aka "clickers") in large lecture classes. She is currently piloting the latest version of Turning Point’s clickers.

    • In 2005, she was among the first cohort of faculty to be awarded a hybrid course development grant to support the conversion of SCI100 to hybrid format during summer and winter sessions. To date, she has taught 12 sections of SCI100 through the Alternate Delivery Program (ADP). In January of 2010, she will be presenting a poster illustrating the success of this conversion (as evidenced by student outcomes) at the EDUCAUSE Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference (MARC) in Baltimore. She previously presented at MARC in 2005, and has also presented twice at the Blackboard annual users conference.

    Beyond looking at her own teaching, Readel has been a supportive colleague.

    • In addition to many informal hallway conversations and office demos with GES colleagues, Readel has been an active peer reviewer and mentor in the Summer & Winter ADP.

    • She also has a long history of informal consulting through Q & A sessions after her many Teaching, Learning and Technology (TLT) Brown Bags.

    • She has a solid foundation of good faculty relations now, as co-chair of the faculty senate's Academic Conduct Committee, and as a former member of the Computer Policy Committee. She has also served on the President's Commission on Women. Over the years, she has also engaged in campus discussions on topics ranging from the overhaul of general education to revamping academic policies that affect the recent SA implementation.

    • She is also respected by DoIT’s instructional technology staff, which has supported her numerous pilots. Similarly, Readel has shown an ability in using her teaching and mentoring skills to managing people and projects.

    As Director of Instructional Technology, Readel will be responsible for supporting all of DoIT's online and face-to-face technology support of UMBC instructors. She will work closely with Classroom Technology Manager Steven Anderson, as well as Faculty Development Center Interim Director Barry Casey. She will also help me solidify a Fall 2009 pilot to expand hybrid courses in Fall and Spring, which was supported by Provost Hirshman. Finally, she will assist in implementing and evaluating UMBC's strategic plan for teaching, learning and technology, that was approved by the Faculty Senate Computer Policy Committee and the Provost's IT Steering Committee in the 2007-08 academic year.

    I understand some may be concerned about losing Karin’s excellent teaching of SCI100 and other service to UMBC. However, she and I both want her to stay active in the classroom, as much as her new duties allow, and I’m excited by the prospects of more UMBC faculty benefiting from her leadership and support of their instructional technology goals.

    If you have any questions or suggestions about our future support of instructional technology, please let Karin or me know.

    Sincerely,

    John Fritz
    Asst. Vice President
    Instructional Technology & New Media
    UMBC Division of Information Technology

    Posted by fritz at 11:10 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    OSWP, DoIT& FDC Offer 1/15/10 Hybrid Course Re-design Workshop

    The Office of Summer, Winter & Special Programs (OSWSP), in cooperation with DoIT and the Faculty Development Center (FDC), will again sponsor a Hybrid Course Re-Design Workshop for full or part-time UMBC faculty interested in learning how to develop a hybrid class. If the course is offered during SU2010, OSWSP provides a one-time, $2,500 course development stipend as part of its Alternate Delivery Program (ADP).


    Three faculty experienced in hybrid teaching share lessons learned during a recent Hybrid Course Re-design Workshop at UMBC. Seated from left are Katie Morris (Social Work), Tyson King-Meadows (Political Science), and Tim Hardy (Economics). More Information.

    The Hybrid Course Re-design workshop consists of two sessions focusing on pedagogy and good course design in the morning, a panel discussion from past participants during lunch, and effective practices using instructional technology in the afternoon. Both sessions are required and will be held in Engineering 023.

    Following the face-2-face workshop, participants who wish to receive the one-time, $2,500 ADP stipend for SU2010 delivery will be required to present two “learning objects” During the Spring 2010 semester (see dates on the ADP requirements site).

    While the Hybrid workshop is NOT required to participate in the ADP, it has been shown to help faculty prepare to meet the ADP’s requirements. The ADP faculty presentations are open to the campus, especially departments of participating faculty, and will be videotaped for online viewing by future participants through UMBC’s iTunesU and UMBCTube video distribution sites. To register, go to the Hybrid Design Workshop training site.

    Posted by fritz at 11:08 AM | TrackBack

    November 17, 2009

    Bb Maintenance to Fix Email Announcements: 11/20, 10 p.m. to 11/21, 1 a.m.

    To address a recent issue with Blackboard announcements not being automatically sent by email when an instructor or manager selects that option, UMBC's Blackboard system will be down from 10 p.m., Friday, November 20, to 1 a.m., Saturday, November 21.

    Reminder: Why Blackboard needs scheduled maintenance.

    Posted by fritz at 4:20 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    November 4, 2009

    Bb Will Be Down 11/6, 10 p.m. to 11/7, 6 a.m.

    To address issues with web browser compatibility and back up the system before applying latest patches and hot fixes, DoIT will be taking the main Blackboard system down from 10 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 6, to 6 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 7.

    Reminder: More info about why DoIT needs scheduled downtime.

    Posted by fritz at 7:01 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    24/7 Blackboard Support Starts Wed, Nov. 11

    As indicated in the August 24 "Challenges and Changes to Blackboard Support" announcement, UMBC's Division of Information Technology (DoIT) will begin working with Presidium Learning to provide basic Blackboard support starting Wednesday, Nov. 11. The DoIT Help Desk and Instructional Technology staff will still provide walk-in and by-appointment Bb support, but all students, faculty and staff will be able to get 24/7 Blackboard support via phone, IM chat or online knowledge base. Based in Lexington, Kentucky, Presidium specializes in answering technical support questions for faculty, staff, and students at more than 700 educational institutions, and provides a 95 percent first call resolution rate.

    UMBC Blackboard Support Portal (sample)
    The partnership with Presidium is a one-year pilot to determine if and how external support can improve use of Blackboard, as well as free up DoIT staff for more advanced issues and opportunities, including refinement of Blackboard course creation and enrollment integration with the new Student Administration (SA) system, trend analysis of our most frequent user support demands, and assessment to help identify and promote effective uses of Blackboard.

    For the Nov. 11 implementation, students, faculty and staff can do the following to get Blackboard help:

    1. Access the online knowledge base at http://bbsupport.umbc.edu (will be active on 11/11).
    2. Ask a question via live Instant Messenger (IM) Chat
    3. Call the existing DoIT Help Desk phone number of 410.455.3838

    Note: A short, brief phone tree will be implemented so as to route all other IT-related calls to the DoIT Help Desk, while still allowing Presidium to handle Blackboard-related calls. In addition, UMBC users will have to create a separate account and password the first time they submit a help request ticket. This may change in the future to use the UMBC userid & password, but is not available at this time.

    Initially, Presidium will be responsible for the following:


    • All Blackboard-related application questions or issues, including how to get started, add content, manage discussion, create electronic assignments, quizzes and surveys and use the new grade center.
    • Refer all UMBC-specific uses of Blackboard back to the DoIT Help Desk. These include all account management and password resets as well as integration with SA to auto-create and enroll courses.
    • Provide a monthly report to DoIT showing all Bb-related support requests or knowledge base accesses, identify trend and root-cause analyses, and help benchmark UMBC usage against similar institutions using Blackboard.

    "As we go forward in this pilot, it is important to note we are augmenting not outsourcing Blackboard service," says John Fritz, Asst. VP for Instructional Technology & New Media. "By supporting one part of the overall structure with a partner who has a wealth of experience in higher education technical support, we hope to provide a higher level of service for UMBC students, faculty and staff."

    Posted by fritz at 2:32 PM | TrackBack

    October 9, 2009

    UMBC "Check My Activity" Reports for Students Now Available Inside Blackboard

    bb_reports_tool_link.pngBased on user response to a system-wide announcement in all UMBC Blackboard courses this past week, the Division of Information Technology (DoIT) has made a permanent link to the self-service "Check My Activity" (CMA) reporting tools for students on the myBlackboard tools menu.

    Specifically, all students now have an easy way to find the "Check My Activity" (CMA) and "Grade Distribution Report" (GDR) tools for comparing their own activity against an anonymous summary of their course peers. Using this same myBlackboard tools menu link, faculty and staff have access to similar reports, though staff are unlikely to have need for the GDR tool, which is only valuable if a grade has been entered in a Bb grade book.

    As reported previously by DoIT and The Retriever Weekly, students have had access to their own CMA and GDR tools since Spring of 2009. However, adoption has been slow, probably because the tools don't reside inside Blackboard. So, a link to both reports was posted on Friday, October 2, at 5 p.m. and expired a week later at the same time on Friday, October 9.

    CMA & GDR Demo
    CMA & GDR Demo
    The Results?
    • In just one week, CMA & GDR usage activity increased more than 1,000 percent to 6,051 visits compared to 391 visits the entire previous month (Sept. 1 to Oct. 1).

    • The total number of page views increased to 20,008 from 537 the previous month. Average page views per visit also increased to 3.31 compared to 1.37.

    • The average time spent on the CMA & GDR reports jumped to 1 minute, 18 seconds, compared to just 13 seconds the previous month.

    • Also, returning visitors accounted for 83 percent of all page views, and they spent more time on the site (1 min, 26 secs) compared to new visitors (58 secs). This means the the CMA & GDR tools constitute a "sticky site," in that once visitors discover it, they come back again and again.

    • Is is worth noting that the Grade Distribution Report (GDR) was by far the most popular tool, accounting for 73 percent of all visits to the UMBC Blackboard Reports site that contains all "self service" tools and list of Most Active Courses for each semester over the last two years.

    While user activity steadily declined as the week progressed, it may be because there were fewer new grades to compare user activity against. This strong interest in grades and related Blackboard activity confirms key findings of a national study showing students value the ability to check grades and gain access to practice quizzes and sample exercises as the most valuable functions in a course management system (CMS) like Blackboard.

    A full report showing the CMA & GDR usage activity from September 1 to October 9 is available here.

    Posted by fritz at 10:19 PM | TrackBack

    September 30, 2009

    Peer Instruction Workshop

    Peer Instruction Workshop
    Thurs, Nov. 12, 2009, 10 a.m. - 12 p.m., UC 312
    Limited to 30 participants

    Peer Instruction
    Eric Mazur is the Balkanski Professor of Physics and Applied Physics at Harvard University. An internationally recognized scientist and researcher, he leads a vigorous research program in optical physics and supervises one of the the largest research groups in the Physics Department at Harvard University.

    The basic goals of Peer Instruction are to encourage and make use of student interaction during lectures, while focusing students' attention on underlying concepts and techniques. The method has been assessed in many studies using standardized, diagnostic tests and shown to be considerably more effective than the conventional lecture approach to teaching. Peer Instruction is now used in a wide range of science and math courses at the college and secondary level.

    In this two hour workshop, participants will learn about Peer Instruction, serve as the “class” in which Peer Instruction is demonstrated, discuss several models for implementing the technique into the classroom, and learn about available teaching resources.

    Limited to 30 participants. For more information and to register, please visit www.umbc.edu/training/fdc.

    Posted by darnold at 11:10 AM | TrackBack

    Confessions of a Converted Lecturer

    Lecture: Confessions of a Converted Lecturer
    Wed, Nov. 11, 2009, 6-7 p.m. LHV (Engineering Bldg.)

    Eric Mazur
    Eric Mazur is the Balkanski Professor of Physics and Applied Physics at Harvard University. An internationally recognized scientist and researcher, he leads a vigorous research program in optical physics and supervises one of the the largest research groups in the Physics Department at Harvard University.

    I thought I was a good teacher until I discovered my students were just memorizing information rather than learning to understand the material. Who was to blame? The students? The material? I will explain how I came to the agonizing conclusion that the culprit was neither of these. It was my teaching that caused students to fail! I will show how I have adjusted my approach to teaching and how it has improved my students' performance significantly.

    For more information and to register, please visit www.umbc.edu/training/fdc.

    Posted by darnold at 11:04 AM | TrackBack

    September 29, 2009

    Webinar - Clickers and Peer Instruction: A Powerful Way to Improve Student Engagement and Learning, but Only If You Do It Right

    Clickers and Peer Instruction: A Powerful Way to Improve Student Engagement and Learning, but Only If You Do It Right
    ELI Web Seminar, October 5, 2009, 1-2 p.m.(joint viewing available in ECS 023)

    Douglas Duncan
    Douglas Duncan is a faculty member in the Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences of the University of Colorado, where he directs the Fiske Planetarium. He began his career at the Carnegie Observatories, where he was part of a project that found sunspot cycles on other stars. Subsequently, he joined the staff of the Hubble Space Telescope. In 1992, he accepted a joint appointment at the University of Chicago and the Adler Planetarium, beginning a trend of modernization of planetariums that has spread to New York, Denver, and Los Angeles.

    Duncan is the author of “Clickers in the Classroom,” a guide to the powerful new technology that enables teachers to know what all their students are thinking, not just those who raise their hands. He has served as national education coordinator for the American Astronomical Society and has led efforts for better teaching and public communication for astronomers throughout the United States. From 1997 to 2002 he did science commentary on the Chicago public radio station WBEZ. He has authored over 50 refereed publications and his work has been funded by NSF, NASA, the Smithsonian, and the National Geographic Society. Duncan is now part of the University of Colorado group, founded by Nobel Prize winner Carl Wieman, which researches better ways of teaching science.

    If you'd like to join us for a joint viewing of this webinar, please register at www.umbc.edu/training. For additional information, please visit https://net.educause.edu/content.asp?SECTION_ID=468&bhcp=1

    Posted by darnold at 8:46 AM | TrackBack

    September 3, 2009

    DoIT Extends Informal 60 minute Technology "Drop-In" Sessions

    Now that the semester is well under way, DoIT wants to continue helping faculty during this busy time by extending drop in sessions for Blackboard and Wimba. AV Services will continue to offer sessions upon request.

    FA2009 DoIT Drop In Schedule
    DateBlackboardWimba
    9/8 ECS025 (10 am) *IMC (1 pm)
    9/9 ECS025 (9 am)IMC (1:30 pm)
    9/10 IMC (11:30 am)
    9/11 IMC (1 pm)
    9/14 ECS025 (12 pm)IMC (12 pm)
    9/15ECS025 (10 am)IMC (1 pm)
    9/16IMC (12 pm)
    9/17ECS025 (2 pm)IMC (10 am)
    9/18ECS025 (12 pm)IMC (12 pm)
    *IMC - International Media Center, Academic IV B Wing, Room 219

    BLACKBOARD DROP-INS | Support Site

    DoIT will be hosting drop in sessions for Blackboard so that faculty can have their questions answered and work with someone to resolve any issues.

    WIMBA DROP-INS | Support Site

    Wimba Classroom is a real-time, virtual classroom environment designed for distance education, hybrid classes and collaboration and supports audio, video, application sharing, and archiving. Faculty can conduct class, hold office hours or set up group work spaces. Voice Tools include:

    • Voice Board - a recorder tool
    • Voice Direct - an aural chat
    • Voice Presentation - describe slides
    • Podcaster

    AUDIO VISUAL SERVICES | Support Site

    As always, AV Services will schedule individual tutorials on an as needed/by
    appointment basis. Please call X52461 to make arrangements.

    Posted by darnold at 8:52 AM | TrackBack

    August 25, 2009

    FYI: Bb Courses Older than FA2003 Will Be Deleted 8/27

    As announced at the end of the Spring 2009 semester, all Blackboard courses older than Fall 2003 (six years from this fall) will be deleted.

    The Division of Information Technology (DoIT) has scheduled this removal for Thursday, August 27, 2009, at 7 p.m. No downtime will be required.

    Posted by fritz at 1:27 PM | TrackBack

    August 24, 2009

    Challenges and Changes to UMBC Blackboard Support

    This summer, the Division of Information Technology (DoIT), has begun to face more than our typical “back to school” challenges in providing Blackboard support to UMBC students, faculty and staff. Specifically, we have lost an employee who provided fulltime support for nine years; the campus has implemented a new student information system that provides the data for our auto course creation and enrollment scripts; and we are preparing for a possible disruption of classes due to the H1N1 flu this coming year.

    In addressing these challenges, DoIT asks for your understanding as we make some necessary changes to sustain (and hopefully improve) how we provide Blackboard support to the campus.

    For example:

    1. We will continue to rely on the full time DoIT Help Desk staff to provide tier 1, basic Blackboard support, including all queries about Bb course creation and enrollment issues.

    myumbc_help_still.png
    A year ago, Help Desk staff members Jim Keys and Barb Myers agreed to an experiment: working with Instructional Technology to learn the inner workings of Blackboard and provide tier 1 basic support, so our full time instructional designer, Bob Armstrong, could focus on more advanced or time-consuming issues and opportunities, including one-on-one support to faculty participants in the Summer & Winter Alternate Delivery Program. By all accounts, the experiment “worked” and Jim and Barb are seasoned Blackboard support veterans now.

    In addition, Jim and Barb have helped us transition Blackboard support to DoIT’s new call tracking system, Request Tracker, or RT for short. As such, to coordinate (and document) demand for Bb support, it would be very helpful to DoIT if ALL Bb help requests are submitted using the RT request form, which is available in the myUMBC help menu or directly at http://my.umbc.edu/help/request. Alternately, you can call the help desk at 410.455.3838 or drop in by visiting Engineering Room 020.

    myumbc_help_still.png
    Debra Arnold

    I also want to thank Debra Arnold, who is stepping up to provide day-to-day, tier 2 application support for Blackboard now that Bob Armstrong has joined the Johns Hopkins School of Engineering to support their distance education program. Deb has provided outstanding IT support and training to UMBC staff for many years, and has orbited the Bb support periphery before, by helping to support Blackboard communities and using Bb to support PeopleSoft finance and HR training. She also recently completed all requirements for her Master’s in Instructional Design at UMBC this summer.

    Currently, Blackboard is used in about 50 percent of all 2,500 UMBC course sections each semester. This includes 65 percent of all 1,000 faculty and 95 percent of all 12,000 students. DoIT has a little more than two (2) FTE support staff dedicated to Blackboard user support. Admittedly, informal benchmarking with other schools has shown an average of .25 FTE for every 1,000 students supported, so we’re sized just shy of where we should be for current usage. But with the new SA challenges, possible H1N1 closures or high absenteeism, and recent staffing changes, user patience and cooperation will be appreciated this semester, and will be important in sustaining efficient and effective Blackboard support.

    2. We encourage faculty within departments to continue helping each other.

    Long before our current challenges, we have always relied upon and tried to facilitate faculty learning from each other. This is one reason why we publish the most active Blackboard courses by discipline, as well as the past participants in the Summer & Winter Alternate Delivery Program.

    True story: I once interviewed a faculty member about student reports of her good Blackboard use (in front of colleague from her department). When we finished the interview, her colleague said: “I had no idea what you were doing. Can we have lunch?” I just smiled and realized half of my job is connecting faculty who can and want to learn from each other. Hopefully, our lists of experienced Blackboard practitioners can do the same.

    Of course, if faculty providing or requesting collegial help get stuck, please consult UMBC's Blackboard Help or submit a myUMBC help request to DoIT and we’ll do our best to solve problems, provide effective workarounds or escalate the problem to Blackboard directly.

    3. We will begin another experiment this year by outsourcing our Blackboard support to Presidium Learning, Inc., which provides 24/7 support, and a 95 percent first-call resolution rate.

    Details are still being ironed out and will be communicated more fully, but working in concert with the DoIT help desk which will provide walk in support, all UMBC students, faculty and staff will soon be able to get 24/7 Blackboard support via phone, IM chat or an online knowledgebase. In addition, DoIT staff will be freed up for more advanced issues and opportunities, including trend and root cause analysis of our most frequent user support demands, and how these benchmark with other institutions running Blackboard installations of our size and composition.

    Perhaps most importantly, if the university is closed or challenged by absenteeism for an extended period due to the H1N1 flu, Blackboard support can continue with off-site support, in case DoIT staff also get sick and can’t provide it. That said, DoIT staff will continue to provide on-site consults, preferably for small groups or cohorts from the same department, but we ask the campus community to first try to use Presidium support.

    Finally, we hope the addition of Presidium will provide a much needed support structure for students, who have often had to rely on faculty for informal technical support, since there just aren’t enough DoIT support staff to meet everyone’s needs. In particular, we think the 24/7 access will be a welcome addition to students when they’re working late at night and having technical problems.

    It is important to note that the agreement with Presidium is a one-year pilot only. A growing number of colleges and universities are considering or implementing outsourced support, but we want to learn the pros and cons of UMBC doing so. In addition to helping with a staffing crunch and possibly increased support due to H1N1 this year, we think it is worth conducting the pilot now as part of DoIT’s overall plan to improve end-user support.

    If you have questions or suggestions about UMBC’s Blackboard support strategies, please contact me at fritz@umbc.edu or 410.455.6596.

    Thanks,

    John Fritz
    Asst. VP, Instructional Technology & New Media
    Div. of Information Technology

    Posted by fritz at 4:21 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    August 23, 2009

    Blackboard Login "Looping" Resolved

    It's taken a while, but the occasional redirect "looping" problem that occurred when logging into Blackboard has been resolved. If you find otherwise, please report your experience via a myUMBC help request to the Division of Information Technology (DoIT)--preferably with precise steps and a screen shot to document the problem.

    Always difficult to diagnose because it could not consistently be repeated--and never in any other application besides Blackboard--the "looping" problem was most likely solved when DoIT changed authentication systems for logging into Blackboard this summer. Specifically, UMBC's custom authentication script WebAuth, which made UMBC one of the first school's to provide users with a "single sign-on" experience, was replaced by Shibboleth, an open-source, standards-based authentication system that allows universities, businesses and government agencies to collaborate online.

    Campus users may wonder why DoIT didn't make this authentication switch sooner? But while it was annoying, the looping problem wasn't frequent, and as we reported earlier, the simple workaround was to quit the browser and start over. In addition, the problem ONLY occurred in Blackboard, and we didn't want to affect other applications like webmail and myUMBC by switching to something we didn't fully understand.

    For now, if you experience the redirect "looping" problem, please report it to DoIT. And if possible, try to describe or even capture the steps in a screencast or screencapture so we can diagnose it better.

    Posted by fritz at 11:46 PM | TrackBack

    August 21, 2009

    Changes in Requesting AV Support and Services

    Similar to recent user support changes implemented by the Division of Information Technology, Audio Visual Services has adopted the new Request Tracker (RT) call tracking system. As such, AV Services will no longer be accepting requests for equipment delivery or repair by email.

    av_request_form.png
    Because email requests often require follow up to get more information, we ask that faculty instead use the "Request Service" form on the recently redesigned AV Services web site.

    Eventually, this form will also be connected to the new myUMBC help menu, which you can use. But it does not yet provide as detailed a request as the AV services "Request Service" form. does now.

    Finally, AV Services will begin exploring the use or R25, UMBC's campus scheduling system, to schedule deliveries and monitor AV use this semester. Any plans to adopt R25 for SP2010 deliveries will be announced later this semester.

    For questions or suggestions about AV Services, contact Classroom Technology Manager Steven Anderson at 410.455.3680 or sanderso@umbc.edu.

    Posted by fritz at 4:58 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    August 20, 2009

    FYI: Blackboard Synch for iPhone Now Installed

    The Blackboard Synch for iPhone has been tested and installed on UMBC's Blackboard production system. Used primarily to stay current on recent announcements, document uploads and discussion postings, instructions for downloading and installing the iPhone app are available on the Division of Information Technology (DoIT) Knowledge Base.

    Posted by fritz at 5:27 PM | TrackBack

    August 17, 2009

    Tips for Instructional Continuity in Case of An H1N1 Outbreak

    Inclement Weather Update: February 8, 2010

    Given the current campus closures due to inclement weather, students and faculty may want to try the H1N1 academic continuity suggestions below.

    Of Special Note: if you want to talk, text chat or share presentations online at the same time (synchronously) or at different times (asynchronously), consider using the Wimba web-based audio & video conference tools built into every Blackboard course. | More Info.


    Earlier this summer, Provost Elliot Hirshman, in consultation with the Division of Information Technology (DoIT), sent an advisory to all faculty about why and how they might want to consider teaching online in the event of an extended closure of campus due to an H1N1 "Swine Flu" outbreak. The full text of the advisory follows:

    Context

    In response to the World Health Organization’s recent declaration of an H1N1 level 6 flu pandemic, the University needs to move rapidly to facilitate instructional continuity in the event of a campus closure. Instructional continuity is absolutely essential to ensure the academic progress of our students and the financial stability of the University should the campus be forced to close due to pandemic flu.

    The steps proposed here are designed to address the circumstance in which campus is closed, but the information technology infrastructure of the campus remains intact. In this circumstance, remote instruction/distance learning will be necessary to continue courses.

    The University recognizes that faculty members may wish to use different approaches to remote instruction and respects the rights of faculty members to pursue any of a range of available approaches. The University also recognizes that some courses (e.g., courses requiring access to specialized equipment or materials) may be difficult to continue remotely. The goal is to continue as many courses as possible to maintain academic progress and financial stability.

    Specific Procedures

    Some faculty members may teach courses that permit remote instruction, but they may not be familiar with the technology necessary to carry out this instruction. The following steps are designed to assist these faculty members prepare for remote instruction in the most convenient manner possible.

    Step 1: If they are not already, all faculty members who are teaching courses in the fall semester should become familiar with the basic functioning of Blackboard. To access tutorial instructions, visit http://www.umbc.edu/blackboard/help or log in to Blackboard via myUMBC (or directly at http://blackboard.umbc.edu) and review the “Blackboard Help” tab at the top of the screen. Faculty may want to visit the “Getting Started” link first.

    All Blackboard courses have a student manual (under “tools”) and an instructor manual (under “control panel”), but Faculty members should be able to carry out three basic functions:

    1. Turn their UMBC Blackboard course on. |
    2. Post documents (e.g., a syllabus) on blackboard. |
    3. Send an E-mail to all class members. |

    Step 2: Faculty members should consider the lecture, document or presentation posting and discussion requirements of their fall courses. The material below indicates how to use Blackboard to accomplish these tasks remotely. Faculty members should conduct a trial or practice usage of the referenced capacities to ensure that they can post materials remotely and students can access these materials, if necessary.

    For Audio Lectures:


    For Discussions (text-based):

    • For asynchronous (not at the same time, not at the same place) text-based communication, use the Blackboard Discussion Board capacity.

    • For synchronous (same time, but not at the same place) text-based communication (often known as “chat”), use Blackboard’s built in “Virtual Classroom” capacity (under the “Communications” course menu).

    Document and Presentation Posting


    • Use Blackboard’s document upload capacity referenced above.

    Additional Guidance from DoIT


    • For faculty members who have mastered the above-referenced approaches, OIT STRONGLY RECOMMENDS using “Wimba Classroom” for synchronous text-based chat. In addition to being more stable and full-featured than Bb’s built in “virtual classroom,” Wimba can also allow you and your students to use voice-based email, discussions and real-time synchronous chat. It takes a little time to learn the effective protocols for conducting synchronous text or voice-based discussions or chats without everyone talking at once, but with practice, it can be done.

    • For more information on using Wimba, visit the UMBC Wimba guides and tutorials on the UMBC Blackboard Help tab, or Wimba’s own support site at http://www.wimba.com/services/support.

    • Through the hybrid learning website, you can learn many other “effective practices” for managing and assessing online discussions or chats: visit http://www.umbc.edu/oit/hybrid/practice.

    Resources Available to Support Faculty

    In addition to the on-line tutorials referenced above, there are two forms of assistance available to faculty members.


    1. Peer assistance from faculty and staff colleagues is available. Deans will be working with Department Chairs and other members of the Council of Deans to identify peers who are available to consult with faculty members as they become more familiar with the referenced instructional technologies. Examples include the following:

    2. DoIT staff are available for additional consultation

      • John Fritz, Asst VP, Instructional Technology & New Media (410.455.6596 or fritz@umbc.edu)
      • Debra Arnold, IT Training Support Specialst (410.455.3234 or darnold@umbc.edu)
      • Jim Keys, Help Desk Consultant (410.455.3127 or keysj@umbc.edu)
      • Joan Costello, Classroom Technology/Wimba (410.455.3685 or jcoste1@umbc.edu)

    Posted by fritz at 4:01 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    August 14, 2009

    DoIT Offers Informal 60 minute Technology "Drop-In" Sessions

    With the start of the semester right around the corner, DoIT wants to help faculty prepare for this busy time by conducting drop in sessions for AV services, Blackboard and Wimba.

    FA2009 DoIT Drop In Schedule
    Date AV BlackboardWimba
    8/24 LH1 (11 am)
    LH2 (1 pm)
    ECS025 (10 am) *IMC (11 am)
    8/25 LH3 (11 am)
    LH4 (1 pm)
    ECS025 (1 pm) 
    8/26LH 7 (11 am)
    Note: LH8 is identical to LH7
    ECS025 (10 am)
    ECS025 (1 pm)
    IMC (11 am)
    8/27LH 5 (12 pm - this is a change)
     
    ECS025 (10 am)
    ECS025 (1 pm)
     
    8/31LH 9 (11 am)ECS025 (10 am)
    ECS025 (1 pm)
     
    9/1 ECS025 (10 am)
    ECS025 (1 pm)
     
    9/2ACIV 204 (12 pm)ECS025 (12 pm)IMC (12 pm)
    9/3 ECS025 (1 pm) 
    9/4ACIV 204 (12 pm) IMC (12 pm)
    9/9ACIV 204 (12 pm)  
    9/11ACIV 204 (12 pm)  
    *IMC - International Media Center, Academic IV B Wing, Room 219

    AUDIO VISUAL SERVICES DROP-INS | Support Site

    AV Services will be hosting informal drop-in tutorials for UMBC faculty
    and staff on the use of the AV equipment housed in lecture halls. Topics to be covered include:

    • using your laptop to provide video and audio to the projector
    • playing content through the projector with the VCR and DVD players
    • using the local computer for content
    • where applicable, using the document camera for content instead of a whiteboard
    • lighting and sound options

    AV Services will also hold open drop-in tutorials for faculty and
    staff on equipment usage in classrooms and lecture halls during free hour (12-1 pm).

    As always, AV Services will schedule individual tutorials on an as needed/by
    appointment basis. Please call X52461 to make arrangements.

    BLACKBOARD DROP-INS | Support Site

    DoIT will be hosting drop in sessions for Blackboard so that faculty can have their questions answered and work with someone to resolve any issues.

    WIMBA DROP-INS | Support Site

    Wimba Classroom is a real-time, virtual classroom environment designed for distance education, hybrid classes and collaboration and supports audio, video, application sharing, and archiving. Faculty can conduct class, hold office hours or set up group work spaces. Voice Tools include:

    • Voice Board - a recorder tool
    • Voice Direct - an aural chat
    • Voice Presentation - describe slides
    • Podcaster

    Posted by darnold at 1:15 PM | TrackBack

    June 16, 2009

    Information for New Students

    Should you buy a new computer? Where can you get a myUMBC account? What services are available in the Residence Halls? Answers to new students' common questions regarding computing resources available at UMBC compiled into one page. Please visit https://spaces.umbc.edu/display/oit2/Information+for+New+Students.

    If your questions are not still answered, we are here to help you. Please contact the Help Desk at 410-455-3838 or submit your question by visiting http://my.umbc.edu/request/help

    Posted by anna at 11:15 AM | TrackBack

    February 23, 2009

    DoIT Announces Changes in How to Request Technical Support

    In preparation for the new Student Administration (SA) enrollment management system, the Division of Information Technology (DoIT) is changing how the campus requests and receives technical support for most campus computing issues. Starting next Thursday, February 26, DoIT will begin phasing out the “Remedy” ticketing system with a new, open-source, web-based system called Request Tracker (RT).

    Last Fall, DoIT engaged the services of a technical support provider, Presidium Learning, Inc., to help review DoIT’s existing support structures and processes, and make recommendations on how to improve both. While DoIT had already chosen RT, Presidium has been helping to identify and adopt technical support “best practices” in the RT rollout. They have also made recommendations for improving workflow, communications and root cause analysis within DoIT.

    During the first phase of RT’s rollout the rest of this semester, DoIT will use RT to handle all desktop support, infrastructure and Blackboard support issues. However, due to existing maintenance and reporting needs for responding to legislative auditors this semester, Remedy will still be used as an interim solution for all PeopleSoft Finance and HR issues until this Summer.

    Also, during this phased rollout, DoIT will no longer be accepting email submission of IT support requests into the new RT system. Why? Currently, DoIT receives about 25,000 technical support requests annually. Well over half of these originate as user-generated email requests to helpdesk@umbc.edu, often from non-UMBC user email accounts with no identifying information about who is requesting help, or even if the person who is requesting help is a UMBC student, faculty or staff member. The resulting "back and forth" process to determine someone's identity, let alone the nature of his or her technical problem, can be very time consuming.

    myumbc_help_still.png
    On 2/26, the myUMBC "Request Help" link will switch from Remedy to RT.

    For this reason, all technical help requests to helpdesk@umbc.edu will receive a standard “reply” pointing to the new RT help request form which will be available on the myUMBC "Help" menu or directly at:

    http://my.umbc.edu/help/request

    In addition to requesting help, members of the UMBC community will be able to check the status of current request tickets, and find all past tickets that have been resolved.

    At the end of this semester, DoIT staff will analyze the RT implementation, including the “time to resolution” and number of “hops” (or transfers/escalations) required to solve the problem, and will make a decision on how and when to migrate all technical support requests.

    During the spring semester, DoIT will be collecting and analyzing transaction data as well as user feedback about the move to RT as well as the SA implementation’s impact on technical support. A related reporting and feedback site will be announced later this semester, or you can share your comments by using the form below.

    Posted by fritz at 9:08 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    January 29, 2009

    CIRC Software Workshop Schedule

    The workshops last for one hour and are held during Free Hour (12 noon - 01 pm) in ENGR 122, an instructional computer lab in the Engineering Building at UMBC.

    Though the seating is limited, no sign-up is required; we will accomodate as many people as possible.

    http://www.umbc.edu/circ/workshops/

    Posted by anna at 11:09 AM | TrackBack

    June 26, 2008

    New Media Studio Wins 2008 Center of Excellence Award

    UMBC's New Media Studio (NMS) has won a prestigious Centers of Excellence Award, presented annually by the New Media Consortium (NMC) during its summer conference.

    nmc.jpg
    Pictured L to R: Paul Iwancio, Bill Shewbridge and Aaron Weidele.
    At a presentation on Friday, June 13, during the NMC summer conference held at Princeton University, Studio Manager Bill Shewbridge, Video Producer Paul Iwancio and Multimedia Designer Aaron Weidele received the NMC's Centers of Excellence award for the Studio's "leadership in capturing and disseminating digital stories across the institution," according to NMC CEO Larry Johnson.

    Patterned after the MacArthur "Genius Grants," recipients of the NMC Centers of Excellence award are nominated and selected anonymously by one's peers. "This is the biggest award a center like ours could receive" says Shewbridge, who has led the Studio since its creation in 2002. "We are very honored."

    In recent years, the Studio has partnered with the Center for Digital Storytelling (CDS) in Berkeley, California, to host digital storytelling workshops on campus, as a way to promote and support its use as a form of creative expression as well as a teaching and learning strategy. In fact, the week before receiving the award at Princetown, Shewbridge and his colleagues completed another digital storytelling workshop with CDS staff, and extended the usual three-day program to a five-day "train the trainer" agenda for participants from last year's workshop (click here for a brief video about the workshop process).

    In addition, two UMBC instructors (Jason Loviglio and Beverly Bickel) joined Shewbridge in a separate conference presentation on how they used digital storytelling techniques to incorporate visual assignments in their Spring 2008 courses.

    IMG_1018.jpg
    In addition to Iwancio and Weidele, other UMBC conference participants who attended the Centers of Excellence award ceremony gathered for a group photo and included (L to R): Adriana Val and Ed Beimfohr (back row); Heather Linville, Polina Vinogradova and Jack Suess (middle row); and Beverly Bickel and Jason Loviglio.
    The Studio's 2008 Centers of Excellence award follows a 2007 Telly Award for the Charlestown Digital Stories project, in which Studio staff and UMBC students have helped create more than 30 digital stories from personal photos, memories and scripts developed by Charlestown residents.

    This year, UMBC joined the Rochester Institute of Technology as 2008 recipients. Past recipients have included Case Western Reserve, Johns Hopkins, UC Berkeley, UT Austin and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

    For more information about digital storytelling at UMBC, visit www.umbc.edu/stories. In addition, an email listserve has been created for announcements, tips and FYIs.

    Posted by fritz at 12:32 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    November 1, 2007

    Firewall and Network Issues

    During the Fall 2007 semester the UMBC campus firewall has experienced intermittent problems resulting in networking outages ranging from 5 to 30 minutes. The most recent issues have been occurring on Wednesday and Thursday mornings at 1:00 a.m.

    These network outages have resulted in interruptions to services such as Blackboard, e-mail and the Internet.

    We have been actively working with our firewall vendor to isolate and resolve the problems. Unfortunately, due to the transient nature of the problem, finding a solution has been difficult. At this time the vendor does not have a working solution for these issues. While we would like this update to be more positive we wanted to ensure you that OIT is taking this problem seriously and that we are actively working towards a resolution.

    Posted by mikec at 10:43 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    September 13, 2007

    Weekly Blackboard Maintenance Begins This Weekend

    3/8/10 UPDATE

    The weekly Blackboard maintenance window is now Friday, 10 p.m. to Saturday, 1 a.m.

    Division of Information Technology


    Starting this Saturday, September 15, the Office of Information Technology (OIT) is implementing weekly Blackboard maintenance on Saturdays from 6 to 9 a.m. While OIT may not always use all or part of these weekly maintenance "windows," Blackboard users should plan accordingly.

    Since 1999, UMBC has used Blackboard which now supports more than 1,000 courses and 350 organizations every semester, making it one of the largest, most mission-critical technology services on campus. However, there is no good time when OIT can perform necessary patches, upgrades or even simple reboots because the academic semesters all overlap (except the third week in August, which is too close to the start of Fall).

    OIT will continue to implement major upgrades in January, when the small number of winter courses can be run on a separate Bb server. But we need regular weekly maintenance and think the 6 to 9 a.m. window on Saturdays minimizes disruption to users while giving OIT staff access to the system to maintain it.

    For the next month, OIT will post system-wide Blackboard maintenance "reminders" on Thursdays, develop a generic "Blackboard is Down for Maintenance" message for anyone who logs in when Blackboard is down, and continue to note any changes to the system.

    Long term, we think regular maintenance will help improve Blackboard's performance, and appreciate the campus community's support and patience as we move forward.

    Posted by fritz at 8:51 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    August 23, 2007

    Lab Upgrades

    During the summer OIT upgraded many labs across the campus. In total 180 new Dell GX745s and 74 new Macs were installed. The Macs all have Intel based processors and have been configured to dual boot between Windows XP and OSX.

    The existing and new Dell desktops are running a dual boot configuration with Windows XP and a fresh install of Redhat RHEL5. Click here for more information about our Redhat install http://www.umbc.edu/blogs/oitnews/archives/2007/08/linux_changesup.html
    Dell Installations
    Office of Information Technology
    ENG 025 15 units
    ENG 021 41 units
    ENG 122A 25 units
    ACIV 219 10 units

    Information Systems
    ITE 457 17 units
    ITE 467 21 units
    ITE 469 26 units

    Computer Science/Electrical Engineering
    ITE 240 25 units


    Apple Installations
    Office of Information Technology
    ENG 005B 18 (Mac Pros)
    ENG 021A 17 (iMacs)
    ENG 025 1 (iMac)
    ENG 336 28 (iMacs)
    ACIV 219 10 (iMacs)

    Posted by mikec at 3:00 PM | TrackBack

    Resnet Upgrades

    This summer OIT staff upgraded a major portion of the Resnet network. In total, 107 new network switches were installed. The new switches were installed in:

    Chesapeake Hall
    Patapsco Hall
    Potomac Hall
    Susquehanna Hall
    Erickson Hall
    Harbor Hall
    Hillside Apartments
    Terrace Apartments
    Westhills Apartments

    The upgrade provides 100Mb to the network jacks throughout all of Resnet along with a 1Gb Resnet backbone. In addition these upgrades will prepare the core Resnet infrastructure for wireless installations that are planned for next summer.

    Posted by mikec at 2:58 PM | TrackBack

    August 20, 2007

    Mail Upgrades To Begin August 20th

    Overview
    OIT will begin migrating all of its central email users to a new mail system on August 20th, 2007. The new mail system is built on an open source platform named Cyrus. The entire migration should take a little over one week, during which each user’s account will be taken off line for a short period of time (Average is 3 minutes or less) while their mail folders and filter settings are migrated to the new system.

    Why the New System?
    We are moving to a new backend mail system so that we can provide enhanced features, performance, and reliability to UMBC email users. During the Fall 2006 semester UMBC’s mail servers suffered extreme performance degradation in part due to increases in Spam. In an effort to address these issues we are aggressively moving to an entirely new mail system with the following benefits:

    • Dedicated Storage (separate from AFS)
    • Increased Base Quota (1GB for Faculty & Staff, 400MB for Students)
    • Increased Web Mail Performance
    • Easy to Use Shared Folders

    FAQ
    Please click here to find answers to the most commonly asked migration questions.

    Posted by at 11:28 AM | TrackBack

    October 13, 2006

    SPSS Workshop (10/18)

    SPSS for Windows provides a powerful statistical analysis and data management system in a graphical environment.  SPSS allows the user to access descriptive menus and simple dialog boxes which do most of the work for you.  SPSS is a great tool for the social sciences.

    A free hands-on workshop on SPSS will be offered on Wednesday, Oct. 18, from noon-1p.m. (free hour) in the Engineering building, Room 122. This introductory workshop is intended to demonstrate how to do the basic data analysis and data manipulation using SPSS for Windows. Nagaraj K. Neerchal, professor of statistics, and Justin Newcomer, a graduate student pursuing a Ph.D. degree in Statistics, are the workshop's facilitators.

    This workshop is a service of the Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Consulting (CIRC) in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at UMBC. For more information on the workshops and on CIRC, visit http://www.math.umbc.edu/circ.

    One week after the workshop, Wednesday, Oct. 25, from noon-1 p.m. in
    the Engineering building, Room 122, CIRC staff will offer a walk-in clinic for additional questions and discussion of participants' own projects.

    Posted by anna at 5:36 AM

    October 10, 2006

    How to Spot a Fake E-Mail

    Phishing emails often pretend to be from your bank, credit card company, eBay or PayPal. However, you also get legitimate messages from these companies, so how do you tell the real ones from the fakes? Real emails often contain your name and may start “Dear John Smith”, but phishers don’t know you, so fakes have something general like “Dear customer”. If an email isn’t addressed specifically to you, you should suspect it is a fake.

    Many phishing emails talk about technical problems that require you to click a link and enter your account details. Banks, eBay, PayPal, and so on, never lose your details and they don’t need to ask you for them. The links in phishing emails point to fake websites with wrong addresses, so check the status bar when the mouse hovers over a link or the URL in Internet Explorer’s address bar if you do actually
    find yourself on a phishing site. It is best not to click links in emails because fake addresses can be disguised.

    Phishers’ response to advice not to click links in emails is to provide a bogus telephone number and ask people to ring the bank instead. An automated response asks you for your account details, which they then use to relieve you of your cash. Another common attribute of phishing scams is poor English – if an email is badly
    written it is probably a fake.

    The best way to avoid being caught out by phishing scams is never to click links in emails relating to sites that might hold sensitive information about you, such as credit card details. If you get a message supposedly from your bank, eBay or PayPal about a problem, just start Internet Explorer and type the usual address into your web browser. Log on and you will soon see if there really is a problem or not.

    If you are in doubt about an email’s legitimacy or think you have inadvertently given away your personal details, contact your bank or the company immediately via contacts on their official websites.

    Posted by anna at 12:47 PM

    October 9, 2006

    Burning Data CDs in the Computer Labs - For Macintosh and Windows

    NOTE: This instruction is only for burning data CDs, e.g. documents. If you want to burn ISOs or create audio CDs, please use iTunes for Macintosh or Roxio Easy CD Creator software for Windows.


    Writing to CD — Macintosh


    All Macs in the OIT computer lab have CD recorders in them, to enable you to save your work to a CD(sometimes referred to as ‘burning’ a CD). This is often useful for transferring files between the
    university and home, or for archiving your work.

    To prepare files for burning:
    1. Insert a blank CD into the CD drive.
    2. In the Action box select Open Finder, enter a name for your CD e.g. ‘My CD’ in the Name box, Click OK.

    3. An icon for your CD appears on the desktop. Drag files and folders to the CD icon.

    Hint: Before burning your CD, you can double-click the CD icon to view and revise the items that will be burned. If you delete anything,
    remember to empty The Trash.

    To burn your CD:


    1. In the Finder, click the CD icon, then click File then Burn Disc. You can also drag the CD icon to the Trash (it turns into a Burn CD icon).

    2. Select the Burn Speed and click Burn. Wait a few moments while the CD is burned.

    You can also use applications which support disc burning, such as iTunes and iPhoto. For more help with making CDs, click Help then Mac Help in the Finder, in the Search box type burning a CD. Click Search.

    Writing to CD — Windows


    All PCs in the computer labs have CD recorders in them, which enables you to save your work to a CD (sometimes referred to as "burning" a CD). This is often useful for transferring files between
    the university and home, or for archiving your work.

    To prepare files for burning:


    1. Insert a blank CD into the CD drive.
    2. When the dialogue box appears, click Take no action, then click
      OK.

    3. To add items to your CD, right-click on a file or folder, and choose Send To then CD Drive.

    Hint: Before burning your CD, you can click Start then My Computer, then open the CD icon to view and revise the items that will be burned.

    To burn your CD:

    1. Click Start then My Computer.
    2. Right-click the CD icon and choose Write these files to CD.

    3. When the CD Writing Wizard opens.
      Give the CD a name, click Next. Wait a
      few moments while the CD is burned.

    For more help with making CDs, click Start> Help and Support, then type in in the search box making a CD. Click the green arrow to begin your search.

    Posted by anna at 7:00 AM

    September 5, 2006

    More Functions Available in Oracle Calendar Web

    The Oracle Calendar Web client ( http://calendar.umbc.edu )provides you with all the tools you need to effectively manage your time, in an application you can access from anywhere through the Internet. Using the Web client's intuitive interface, you can schedule meetings with other users, schedule and join Web conferences, check for conflicts, book resources, assign designate rights, create notes and manage tasks. Agendas can also be published for people without a calendar account, offering added functionalities such as sending a schedule to a partner or publishing resource availability for all employees. The Web client connects directly to the calendar server so all your changes are updated in real time. Documentation is available on http://www.umbc.edu/oit/software/pages/Calendar.htm.

    Posted by anna at 9:31 AM

    August 9, 2006

    New IT Support Specialist


    James Keys is joining our Help Desk staff and will be working closely with technical support. James brings a technical experience from the Maryland Military Department and is well prepared to meet your specific needs. James will be a technical resource to our student staff. Please join us in welcoming our new fulltime staff. His office is in Engineering room 020.

    Posted by anna at 8:40 AM

    May 25, 2006

    Parental Controls within a Web Browser

    A lot of the information available on the Internet is not suitable for children, such as violent or pornographic sites. Most Web browsers, such as Internet Explorer allow you to filter what sort of materials can be displayed within a web site.

    To set parental controls within Internet Explorer


    1. Open the Internet Explorer program, by clicking on the Internet Explorer icon displayed on the Desktop.
    2. Click on the Tools drop down menu and select the Internet Options command, which will display the Internet Options dialog box. The appearance of the dialog box will vary slightly from one version to another.
    3. Click on the Content tab within the dialog box.
    4. Within the Content Advisor section of the dialog box, click on the Enable button, which will display the following dialog box (or similar).
    5. You can set levels for Language, Nudity, Sex or Violence. To do this select one of these four options and then drag the level pointer to the right. In the example shown the Language has been set to Level 1 (Mild expletives).
    6. You should be aware that very often these parental controls will not work properly and inappropriate material can still be displayed on the screen. They are better than nothing, but sometimes not much better!
    7. You will be asked to set a password; this is to prevent users from disabling the Content Advisor without your knowledge.
    8. Once parental controls are in place and you try to access an inappropriate site, you will see a message similar to that illustrated below.

    Posted by anna at 1:45 PM

    May 18, 2006

    Adding Features to Firefox with Extensions

    Plug-ins allow Firefox to use third-party software to display multimedia and other programs in the web browser, and themes change the appearance of Firefox. Extensions, on the other hand, provide Firefox with new features, or take existing features and extend them in new ways.

    There are several ways you can acquire Firefox extensions, but the official way is by selecting Tools -> Extensions to bring up Firefox's Extension Manager. When the Extension Manager window opens, you will see a list of currently installed extensions (of course, when you first install Firefox you don't have any extensions installed, so this part of the window is blank). At the bottom of the window are three buttons Uninstall, Update, and Options and a Get More Extensions link.

    If you select an already installed extension and press Uninstall, the extension will be fully removed once you restart Firefox. To see if an extension has an update available, select it and then press Update. Firefox will check, and if there is an update, you will be prompted to install it. Finally, if an extension has preferences available, the Options button will be available to press in order to access those preferences; otherwise, the button will be grayed out and will not work.

    The Extension Manager actually allows you do more than just uninstall, update, or view options. Right-click on a selected extension, and a contextual menu opens with several other possibilities.

    Three of the choices on this menu duplicate the buttons at the bottom of the Extension Manager window: Options, Uninstall, and Update. Most of them, however, are new. Visit Home Page takes you to the home page of the extension, which can be really useful if you want to gather more information about it. The About choice opens a small window that lets you know who worked on the extension, what the current version number is, and what the extension is designed to do.

    Disable is a nice addition to Uninstall and Update. What if you just want to turn off an extension temporarily? Maybe it's causing a problem on a web site, or maybe you think it might be causing a problem with Firefox. Disable the extension and see what happens.

    The last three options help you position the extensions in the order you'd like. By default, extensions are listed in the order in which you added them, with the oldest at the top. To reorder your extensions, right-click on an extension and choose Move to Top, Move Up, or Move Down. If you have a lot of extensions, this can grow tedious, and most people probably won't care what order their extensions are in. For those of you who like to have everything just so, however, I'm sure you'll appreciate the ability to reorder your list of extensions.

    Firefox gives you a lot of power with extensions, but thankfully, a couple of features greatly reduce the likelihood that an extension will cause a security or stability problem. First, Firefox comes with a built-in whitelist of sites that can install extensions, including update.mozilla.org by default. If you find a cool extension at a site that isn't on the whitelist and try to install it, Firefox shows an alert at the top of browser.

    Firefox does everything it can to ensure that extensions don't damage your installation of the web browser. Still, if you want to install multiple extensions, we recommend installing them one at a time and restarting the browser and testing each extension as you go, and then repeating the process with the next extension. Yes, it's entirely possible to install 10 extensions at a time before restarting Firefox, and things may well work just fine, but if you do have a problem, it'll be far more difficult to diagnose the source. Better to take it slow and install them one at a time, immediately removing any that cause problems.

    Posted by anna at 7:16 AM

    May 10, 2006

    Cut PowerPoint Files Down to Size

    If your PowerPoint files seem to grow, try cutting them down to size. One way to trim the kilobytes is by adding a blank slide (with the default design template) before the first presentation slide. Contrary to logic, this actually reduces file size. Why? Because the blank slide is used as the preview image that PowerPoint uses when you select a file in the Open dialog box. Because the preview image for a blank slide is well, blank, the file size is actually smaller.

    When inserting graphics into a slide, consider optimizing the image. You can reduce the number of colors used with an image editor such as Adobe Photoshop, Macromedia Fireworks, or Microsoft Photo Editor. For example, if you have an image that only has red, white, and blue, you don't need 32-bit CMYK palettes.

    Posted by anna at 6:51 PM

    May 3, 2006

    Troubleshooting a Confused iPod

    Clues that your iPod is confused are the absence of playlists, artists, and songs that used to be there; a capacity that appears to be 5GB on a 10GB iPod; the failure to boot beyond the Apple logo; or the appearance of a folder icon with an exclamation point.

    Missing Items

    1. Reset the iPod (press and hold Play and Menu for 10 seconds). Resetting the iPod is similar to pushing the Reset switch on your Mac. It forces the iPod to restart.
    2. Restore the iPod(run the latest iPod Software Updater). If reset doesn't work, there's nothing else for it than to restore the iPod to its original factory state -- meaning that all the data on it is removed. To restore the iPod, launch the most recent copy of iPod Software Updater, and click the Restore button in the resulting window. Confirm that you want to restore by clicking Restore in the warning sheet (Mac OS X) that appears.
      After the updater does its job, you must unplug and replug the iPod for the restore process to complete. After you replug the iPod, it will appear to restart several times. When the process is complete, the FireWire symbol will appear in the iPod's display screen, and the Updater window will return to its initial state, offering you the option to restore your iPod.
      When you double-click your iPod's icon on the Desktop, you'll see that the device contains only the Contacts folder with the same sample contacts supplied by Apple.
      To put your songs back on the iPod, just launch iTunes and synch the iPod with iTunes.

    Incorrect Capacity

    This problem can occur when you've restored the 10 GB iPod with a software updater that's not intended for that device. The 10 GB iPod should be restored only with iPod Software 1.1 Updater or later. If you restore witht he version 1.0.4 update, for example, your 10GB iPod will be confused. Apple no longer offers this update online, so if the 10 GB iPod is your first iPod, you're highly unlikely to have this problem.

    Failure to Boot

    There are a few possible reasons why an iPod might not boot beyond the Apple logo -- some benign and others not so.

    • The Hold switch is on.
    • Drained battery. Plug your iPod into the power adapter or your computer and let it change.
      In some rare cases, the battery may not be drained enough for the iPod to reset. If you've tried other solutions and failed, unplug the iPod from a power supply for 24 hours; then plug it into a power source and attempt to reset it by holding down the Play and Menu buttons for 10 seconds.
    • Incorrect formatting. At some point, you might have thought it would be a nifty idea to reformat your iPod's hard drive -- partitioned it to install Mac OS 9 on one partition and Mac OS X on the other, for example. Bad idea. If you've formatted the drive in any format other than Mac OS Extended (HFS Plus) the iPod won't play music files. To put things right, you must restore your iPod.
    Your iPod may be so confused that it won't mount on your Mac desktop and can't be restored. Follow these steps to mount the iPod:
    1. Connect the iPod to a built-in Firewire port on your computer (rather than an unpowered FireWire port on a PC Card, for example).
    2. Reset the iPod by pressing the Play and Menu buttons - for 10 seconds.
    3. When you see the Apple logo, press and hold the Previous and Next buttons for 10 seconds. The FireWire icon should appear in your iPod's display.
    The frozen iPod

    Just like a computer, the iPod can freeze horn time to time. To thaw it, attach your Pod to a power source-either the power adapter or a powered Firewire port-and press and hold the Play and Menu buttons for 10 seconds.

    Failure to charge

    There are several reasons why an iPod might not charge. They include:


    • Your Mac's Asleep. The iPod won't charge when it's attached to a sleeping Mac Wake up you Mac if you want the iPod to charge.
    • More than one Firewire device is on the chain. Although you can chain multiple Firewire devices together, doing so with an iPod isn't such a hot idea. To begin with, a FireWire device on the chain before the iPod (a hard drive, for example) may be hogging all the power.
      Second, there have been reports of iPods that have been corrupted when left on a chain with other Firewire devices. To be safe rather than sorry, don't put the iPod on a chain. If you must use multiple Firewire devices, purchase a powered Firewire hub (which costs around $80).
    • A frozen iPod. An iPod that's frozen won't charge. While the iPod is attached to a power supply, press and hold the Play and Menu buttons.
    • A faulty Firewire cable. Cables break. By a different FireWire cable, just in case.
    • A faulty computer Firewire port. It's possible that the Firewire
      port on your computer has given up the ghost. Try charging the iPod from the Apple iPod Power Adapter.
    • A funky power adapter. The Apple iPod Power Adapter could also be bad. Attempt to charge your iPod from your computer.
    • A faulty Firewire port on the iPod. This is not good. As you plug and unplug the Firewire cable from the iPod's FireWire port, it's possible to put too much stress on the internal connectors that deliver power to your iPod's Firewire port, breaking the bond between those connectors and your Pod's motherboard.

    Posted by anna at 6:26 AM

    April 26, 2006

    Tiger Tip: Deleting Locked Files

    You may occasionally find that you are unable to delete files because they are marked as being locked. You may be unable to drag a file to the trash, or unable to empty the trash. Under earlier versions of the Mac OS, you could hold Option when selecting the Empty Trash command, and Mac OS would delete locked files. Under Mac OS X, do the equivalent by holding Option and then clicking and holding the mouse button over the dock’s Trash Can icon. In most cases, this deletes any locked files that are already in the trash. However, this doesn’t help if you can’t move the locked file into the trash in the first place.

    To unlock a file in Mac OS X, select the file’s icon and select the Finder’s Show Info command (or press the CMD+I hot key combination). This displays the Finder’s General Information dialog box.

    If the checkbox beside the Locked entry is selected, deselect it. Now you should be able to delete the file or empty the trash.

    If the Finder displays a dialog box indicating that you do not have permission to unlock or modify the file, use the OS X Terminal application and the sudo command to unlock and delete the file. Start the Terminal and change to the directory where the file is located, then issue the command:

    sudo chflags noschg,nouchg filename

    Replace filename with the name of the file that you want to unlock. Now you should be able to delete it.

    Posted by anna at 7:00 AM

    April 24, 2006

    Why do E-mails Bounce?

    A bounced e-mail is one that never arrives in the recipient’s inbox and is sent back, or bounced back, to the sender with an error message that indicates to the sender that the e-mail was never successfully transmitted. But what happens when someone sends an e-mail out into cyberspace, and why do e-mails sometimes bounce back?

    When one attempts to send an e-mail, he is telling his e-mail system to look for the domain of the recipient and the domain’s mail server. Once the e-mail system makes contact with the recipient’s mail server, the mail server has predetermined that it is not accepting e-mails from the sender’s address (for example, if it has blocked the address for anti-spamming purposes), the server will reject the message and it will subsequently bounce back to the sender. The message will also bounce back to the server if the mail server on the recipient’s end is busy and cannot handle the request at that time. When an e-mail is returned to the sender without being accepted by the recipient’s mail server, this is called a hard bounce.

    Once the e-mail has been accepted by the recipient’s mail server there are still ways for the message to be rejected. The mail server has to determine if the recipient actually exists within its system and if that recipient is allowed to accept e-mails. If the recipient’s address does not exist on the mail server, then the message will be rejected because there is no one to deliver the message to. If the sender misspells the recipient’s address then the system will recognize this as a nonexistent address and bounce the message back. If the recipient exists but dies not have enough disk space to accept the message (i.e.,if his e-mail application is filled to storage capacity) then the message will bounce back to the sender. Some mail systems predetermine a maximum message size that it will accept and will automatically bounce the message if it exists that size and some mail systems predetermine a maximum amount of disk space the user is allowed to occupy on the server. When an e-mail is returned to the sender after it has already been accepted by the recipient’s mail server, this is called a soft bounce. Some mail servers are programmed to accept incoming e-mails and store them for further analysis without initially checking to determine if the recipient exists or is even capable of receiving the message. Occasionally, a network failure at the sender or recipient end will cause an e-mail to bounce back to the sender. Typically, a bounced e-mail returns to the sender with an explanation of why the message bounced.

    Posted by anna at 9:49 AM

    April 18, 2006

    Application Crashes in Mac OS X

    Most application crashes in Mac OS X will not bring down your entire system, nor will they require you to restart your Mac. Thus, in many cases the cure for an application crash is to simply ignore it, relaunch the crashed application, and hope the crash does not occur again (or at least happens only rarely). If this is not sufficient, consider the solutions described in the following sections.

    Freeze/hang

    Applications occasionally stop functioning often while attempting to perform some action, such as opening a document or receiving an e-mail. In such cases, the spinning wait cursor appears and just remains; the intended action is never completed. At the same time, attempts to otherwise interact with the program (such as choosing menu commands) also fail to work. This is your standard application freeze.

    Occasionally, issuing a Cancel command (Command-. [period]) will end the hung action and return control of the application to you; however, there is only rare success with this technique in Mac OS X. Also occasionally, waiting and doing nothing will succeed which means the application was just taking an unusually long time to complete its task. More likely, though, something has gone awry, and simply walking away from your Mac won't fix it.

    The silver lining is that the effects of these freezes are almost always limited to the affected application. That is, if you simply click the window of another application, the spinning cursor vanishes and your Mac is working normally again. Return to the problem application, and the symptom returns. Still, on the assumption that you would like to use the frozen application again, you'll want to fix the problem. To do so, try the following:

    Force-quit the application.

    If force-quitting doesn't work, but you can still access the Apple menu, choose Log Out from there. When you log back in, things should work normally.

    If the Log Out command doesn't work, try choosing Restart. The logic is the same.

    Occasionally, an application will fail to launch, leaving its Dock icon to bounce endlessly. At this point, it's possible that no menu commands will work. Even so, you should still be able to force-quit the application.

    Systemwide freeze

    Occasionally, a frozen application will cause the entire system to hang that is, you get no response from any application, the Finder, or the Dock. In addition, the pointer may no longer respond to the mouse and the Force Quit command fails to bring up the Force Quit window. When this happens, there's typically been a freeze or crash of some critical process, such as login window.

    Two well-known cases where you may get a systemwide freeze:

    File sharing. If an attempt to connect to a server is unsuccessful, or if you are unexpectedly disconnected from a server from which you had already connected, a systemwide freeze can occur.

    Web browsing. What starts as a simple failure to load certain Web pages may spread to a systemwide freeze. The most likely cause is the freeze of a process called lookupd (used to match network domain names to their IP addresses).

    If you can still get the Force Quit command to work, force-quitting the Finder (and/or your Web browser) may be sufficient to get things working. If the freeze has not progressed to the point that you can no longer use Terminal, you may be able to fix the problem by killing and restarting the lookupd process. Otherwise, disconnecting and reconnecting the network hardware (such as a router or cable modem) may work. As a last resort, you will need to hard-restart/reset your Mac.

    Force Quit

    The Mac equivalent of CTRL-ALT-DEL to bring up a system tasks profiler for force quitting unresponsive tasks is CMD-OPTION-ESC (or Windows-ALT-ESC if you are using a PC keyboard). Just select the frozen application and hit Force Quit. If a program is completely frozen, it will appear in red text.

    Posted by anna at 7:53 AM

    April 4, 2006

    HowTos Recently Posted: iTunes

    iTunes is software that lets you organize and listen to your music and other audio files on your computer, using the audio hardware in your computer. The following are some of the things you can do with iTunes:

    • Listen to CDs. Listening to music with iTunes is as easy as putting a CD into your computer and clicking Play. When you insert a CD, iTunes starts, and the CD appears in the Source list.
    • Add music from CDs or from the Internet to your iTunes library. After you import music to your library, you can play it, transfer it to your MP3 player, edit the song information, and more. To listen to a song, you double-click it in your library.
    • Buy songs from the iTunes Music Store. You can even have the music automatically downloaded to your hard disk and imported into your library.
    • Create lists of your favorite songs. iTunes lets you organize your music into playlists. You can create playlists to suit a specific need, such as a party mix.

    All iTunes documentation are indexed on http://www.umbc.edu/oit/software/pages/iTunes.htm. Contact the OIT Help Desk (410-455-3838 or helpdesk@umbc.edu) if you would like to request specific 'HowTo' documentation for OIT supported software.

    Posted by anna at 9:24 AM

    April 3, 2006

    Understanding Shared Folders

    You probably have access to drives that aren’t located inside your PC but are located instead in one of the other computers on the network. These network drives can be located on a dedicated server computer. At UMBC, network drives are on the Active Directory server or the AFS server.

    Shared folders can be set up with restrictions on how you may use them. For example, you may be granted full access to some shared folders on your I:/ or W:/ drive so that you can copy files to or from them, delete files on them, create or remove folders on them, and so on. On other shared folders, your access may be limited in certain ways. For example, you may be able to copy files to or from the shared folder but not delete files, edit files, or create new folders. You may also be asked to enter a password before you can access a protected folder. The amount of disk space you are allowed to use on a shared folder may also be limited.

    For specific instructions on how to map AFS directories to Microsoft Windows drives, please visit http://www.umbc.edu/oit/classroomtechnology/labs/map_Afs/index.html

    Posted by anna at 1:52 PM

    March 27, 2006

    Google Search: Choosing the Right Keywords

    Google is possibly the most forgiving search engine ever created. You can type just about anything into it and get good results. Sometimes you can even get away with sloppy spelling — Google often catches it and suggests the correct spelling.

    The golden rule in Internet searching is that more keywords deliver fewer results. So pile them on to narrow your search. With that technique, however, you run the risk of having conflicting keywords, creating a mixed bag of search results. Ideally, you want to concisely convey to Google what you need. Two is the golden number of keywords to use in Google searches.

    On the other end of the spectrum, many people get good results by typing entire sentences in the keyword box. Google always eliminates certain little words such as what and why, which might seem to devalue questions but doesn’t in practice.

    Beware of words that have more than one meaning, especially if you search for one keyword at a time.

    For power searching, in which the goal is not more results but fewer, better results, use the Advanced Search pages or the search operators

    Posted by anna at 5:53 PM

    March 23, 2006

    How to Read Blog Elements

    Most blogs follow a standard layout, as shown below, using a customizable template, allowing users to change the background color and design, typefaces, and text placement.

    Many blog template designs are available for reuse. The majority of these designs contain the elements discussed in the table below.
    Blog Element Definition
    Blog layout Blogs are typically laid out in reverse chronological order; whereby the most recent entry is listed first, and older entries are pushed farther down the page.
    Posts The main text on a page is called a post. Depending on the blogging software system, the post has a fairly consistent format comprised of a headline, link to the main source or web page under discussion, a description of the material, commentary, image or photo, permalink, or quotations from the original source. All these elements can be used in various combinations.
    Link The main link is the mechanism that connects the primary source to the post. Most users create the link so that they can retrieve it later or provide their readers with a way to read the material under discussion.
    Headline The headline is the title of the post and is often displayed in a headline style. Many people like to write their own snappy headlines or just use the title of the source material.
    Permalink The permalink short for permanent linkis an unchanging link to the specific post as it is located in the larger database that powers the organization of blogs. The permalink is the linking information you send to another person who wants to read that specific entry. Permalinks make it easier to share links because otherwise a general URL for a blog will bring up the entire blog rather than a specific entry, and the reader must wade through all the blog posts to find the desired information.
    Comments Most posts contain an area where readers can respond to what has been written in the post. Depending on the software publishing system, blog posts contain a link to a supplemental area containing a response box where readers can leave their comments. Most of the time these comments are visible to future readers. In this way, a conversation can be recorded about a particular topic.
    Trackback Another common element on posts is an area that allows the blogger and his visitors to see what type of impact his post has had in the larger blogging community via a program that tracks where the post has been linked on another blogger's site.
    Sidebars Bloggers can supplement their posts with additional information placed in columns on the sides of the blog's main page. The typical blog layout includes Blog Rolls, Calendar, Archive, Search Box, and About page.
    Blog rolls A list of links to other like-minded blogs that the blogger can recommend. In addition, the blogger may post links to informational websites.
    Calendar A common feature in most blogger software systems, the calendar displays the dates of posts.
    Archive When a post is pushed down and off a blog's main page, it is archived in a database. Some blogging software makes it easy to read past posts by displaying links to older posts on a weekly or monthly basis.
    Search box Visitors can look for older commentary or specific information by typing in a search query in a search box attached to a blog's sidebar.
    About page Bloggers customarily include contact information and short biographical sketches in pages located via a link on the main blog page.

    Posted by anna at 7:00 AM

    March 21, 2006

    Common Symptoms of Virus or Worm Infections

    Most computers that are infected with a virus or worm exhibit common symptoms.

    Crash! This could take many forms: “fatal error” messages (often referred to as the “Blue Screen of Death”); “illegal operation” messages; the computer shutting down unexpectedly; or being unable to start Windows.

    Freeze! Your computer suddenly enters a state of suspended animation in which everything onscreen freezes (or perhaps you can move your mouse around the screen but you are unable to click on anything).

    Soooo slow! Your computer is slower than normal. Windows takes longer to start up or shut down. Your programs take longer to load or use.Your mouse cursor has a delayed response when you move it. When surfing the Internet,Web sites take much longer to load.Your digital music or video files do not play normally. When using a word-processing program, the words you type do not appear immediately onscreen (there is noticeable lag). Or it takes an unusual amount of time to open a folder or a window.

    If your computer isn’t experiencing these symptoms, don’t assume it is safe. It could be infected with a stealthy worm or Trojan horse that operates silently behind the scenes, gathering data from your system and transmitting it to criminals via the Internet.

    Antivirus download and information can be found at http://www.umbc.edu/oit/sans/security/awareness/antivirus.html

    Posted by anna at 7:00 AM

    March 14, 2006

    Optimizing Images for your Web Site

    On the Web, lighter image files that consume relatively smaller amounts of disk space download faster than heavier files. A light image load improves the performance of your site. At the same time, lighter image files contain less visual information than heavier image files, so they're more likely to look cheap and cheesy, which doesn't help anyone. Your images have to look good. But they also have to download quickly. This is the balancing act called web optimization. For every image that you plan to use, your goal is to achieve the lightest possible image file while maintaining the overall image quality.

    Optimizing Resolution

    The first, best thing that you can do to optimize your images for the Web is to reduce the image resolution to 72 ppi. Web designers have adopted this number as the universal standard for all web graphics, and that number has stuck. It's one of the few things that most of us agree on. The reason why it's 72 instead of 96 isn't because most of us are on Macs. An image at 72 ppi looks fine on Windows screens, despite the slightly better Microsoft pixel density. More importantly, 72 ppi means fewer pixels, so the 72-ppi image weighs less.

    Optimizing Image Size

    Reducing the physical dimensions of an image to the precise size that you need for your page is another sure remedy for excess weight on the Web. If an image is physically smaller than another image, and both have the same resolution, then the smaller image contains fewer pixels, and fewer pixels equals less weight.

    When you place an image on a web page, you specify, among other things, the image's width and heightbut nothing prevents you from making up your own numbers. You can scale down a 1600-by-800-pixel image very easily in this way by reporting the width as 400 pixels and the height as 200 pixels instead of their true 1600 and 800 values. This gives you, in essence, a 75% reduction in size. The problem with this approach is that, while the images on your page appear to be smaller, they really aren't. The image files themselves still retain their full width and height; the browser simply makes them look smaller. And of course, they remain as heavy as before the browser scaled them.

    Your best bet is to figure out the exact width and height that you need for each image and then physically change the images to this size. If you know this information ahead of time, that's great. Fire up your image editor and shrink those images. Don't forget to save the smaller versions under different filenames than the originals. It's always good to be able to go back to the large version and make a new smaller version if your size requirements change.

    Reducing the Number of Colors

    In GIF and PNG images, each color in the palette contributes a little extra weight to the image file. So, if your image is in the GIF or PNG format, you can modestly decrease the weight of the file by reducing the number of colors in the palette.

    Posted by anna at 5:00 AM

    March 11, 2006

    Putting Your PowerBook/iBook to Sleep

    If you shut down your Macintosh computer, it completely turns off, and when you want to use it again, you'll need to start it up from scratch (which takes a minute or two). However, if you're just stepping away from your computer for a few minutes (or even an hour or so), rather than turning the computer off, you can just put it to "sleep." An advantage of putting it to sleep (rather than shutting down) is that it "wakes up" almost instantly, so you can immediately get back to whatever it was you were doing before it went to sleep. This means that when it wakes, all of the documents and applications you had open are still in place from when you last left it (versus when you shut down, which closes all applications and open documents). The Sleep option also saves battery power, because if you stop using your computer for a few minutes, it automatically goes to sleep. You can put your PowerBook/iBook to sleep in one of four ways:

    1. Just close the lid and it will immediately go to sleep.

    2. Choose Sleep from the Apple menu.

    3. You can configure your PowerBook/iBook so it goes to sleep on its own after a period of inactivity that you choose.

    4. Press your PowerBook's/iBook's Power On button and a dialog will appear with a Sleep button. Click on that button to put your Mac to sleep.

    To wake from the Sleep mode, open the lid or (if it's already open) press any key or click using the scrolling touchpad (or if you have one, use your two-finger scrolling touchpad).

    Posted by anna at 7:00 AM

    March 8, 2006

    Shifting from Outlook Express to Outlook

    Outlook Express is a free basic e-mail program that doesn’t allow you to manage your appointment and tasks. Outlook Express users often install the Office 2003 package without using the wizard to move all their Outlook Express content, thus arriving in Outlook 2003 automatically and painlessly. This article covers the basic steps for upgrading to Outlook 2003 while keeping your data intact.

    Moving from Outlook Express to Outlook 2003
    If you’ve been working with Outlook Express as your mail program for some time and finally decided to move to Outlook 2003 so that you can benefit from the Calendar, Tasks, and other features, you may be wondering how you can transfer your Outlook Express data to Outlook 2003 without losing any information. The Outlook 2003 Import and Export Wizard enables you to move all your Outlook Express data, including the mail account, all mailboxes, the address book, and rules into Outlook 2003, in a few easy steps.

    Importing Internet Mail account settings
    Outlook 2003 Importing wizard detects the Outlook Express data installed on the same PC. To migrate from Outlook Express to Outlook 2003, you first need to import your Internet Mail account settings:

    1. In Outlook 2003, choose File->Import and Export.
      The Import and Export Wizard appears.
    2. Select Import Internet Mail Account Settings from the list box.
    3. Click Next and follow the wizard until the end.
      The Internet settings are installed in your Outlook 2003.

    TIP: Before importing your older mail to Outlook 2003, clean out all undesired mail from all your mail folders so that you can start a new application without junk mail.

    Importing mail folders and other data
    If you’ve been running Outlook Express for some time, you probably created mail folders, an address book, and maybe even some mail rules. Don’t worry. You can import all your data with the Import And Export Wizard. Follow these steps to import your mailboxes, address book, and mail rules:

    1. In Outlook 2003, choose File->Import And Export.
    2. Click Outlook.
      The Import And Export Wizard appears.
    3. Select Import Internet Mail And Addresses from the list box and
      click Next.
      The Outlook Import tool moves to the next page (see Figure E-1).
    4. Select the Internet mail application you want to import from.
      In this case, choose Outlook Express.
    5. Check the Import Mail check box to import all your e-mails.
    6. Check the Import Address Book check box to import your address
      book.
    7. Check the Import Rules check box if you want to import your older
      Outlook Express rules and click Next.
      The Import Addresses page appears. If you’re already using the Outlook
      contacts folder, you may have some duplicate addresses after you import from an external source.
    8. Select one of three options: Replace your duplicates with items you import, allow the duplicates to be created, or don’t import any duplicate items.
    9. Click Finish.

    At the end of the import procedure, you’re running Outlook 2003 with all your previous Outlook Express data.

    Changing your default mail system
    Even though you’ve imported your Internet account settings and your date, your computer’s Internet Explorer settings still selects Outlook Express to create a new message. To change the default mail system from Outlook Express to Outlook 2003, follow these steps:

    1. In Internet Explorer, choose Tools->Internet Options.
      The Internet Options dialog box appears.
    2. Click the Programs tab.
    3. Select Microsoft Outlook from the E-Mail list box.
    4. Select Microsoft Outlook from the Newsgroups list box.
    5. Click Apply and then OK.

    Your Internet settings are now linked to Outlook 2003.

    Posted by anna at 7:00 AM

    Checking Your Web Site with Different Internet Browsers

    The visual representation of your web page is useful as a guide, but it isn't exact. It's an approximation of how your page actually looks in a web browser. And because different browsers tend to display the same web page differently, the only way to be sure about your pages is to test them often in a variety of browsers.

    It isn't hard to assemble an arsenal of browsers for testing purposes, and you'll definitely like the price: it's free. The table below shows you which browsers to get and where to find a free download.

    Windows 95/98/ME Windows NT/2000/XP Macintosh Classic Macintosh OS X
    Internet Browser
    Internet Explorer

    Download
    (file size: 45Mb)

    Approx. download time:
    1 hr 45min - 56k modem
    46 min 11 sec - Cable modem
    4 min 5 sec - T1/On Campus

    Download
    (file size: 45Mb)

    Approx. download time:
    1 hr 45min - 56k modem
    46 min 11 sec - Cable modem
    4 min 5 sec - T1/On Campus

    Download
    (file size: 4.74Mb)

    Approx. download time:
    12 min - 56k modem
    4 min 51sec - Cable modem
    25 sec - T1/On Campus

    Download
    (file size: 7.20Mb)

    Approx. download time:
    18 min - 56k modem
    7 min 23 sec - Cable modem
    39 sec - T1/On Campus

    Mozilla Firefox

    Download
    (file size: 83.6Kb)

    Approx. download time:
    2 min 6 sec - 56k modem
    51 sec - Cable modem
    4 sec - T1/On Campus

    Download
    (file size: 83.6Kb)

    Approx. download time:
    2 min 6 sec - 56k modem
    51 sec - Cable modem
    4 sec - T1/On Campus

    Download
    (file size: 8.93Mb)

    Approx. download time:
    26 min 12 sec - 56k modem
    11 min - Cable modem
    57 sec - T1/On Campus

    Download
    (file size: 8.93Mb)

    Approx. download time:
    26 min 12 sec - 56k modem
    11 min - Cable modem
    57 sec - T1/On Campus

    Posted by anna at 6:00 AM

    March 6, 2006

    Getting an Error Message? Include a Screen Capture When Reporting the Problem

    When you get a long error message in a Microsoft Windows computer, it may help us research the problem better. You may wish to take a snapshot of your Windows desktop or the files inside a folder or window. Here’s how:

    1. Do one of the following:
      • To capture an image of your entire screen, press the Print Screen key.

      • To capture an image of a particular window or folder, open it, and then simultaneously press the Alt key and the Prt Scr key.

    2. After the image is captured, you can edit or print it by pasting it into Microsoft’s Paint program as follows:
      1. Click the Start button in the lower-left corner of Windows.
      2. Click on All Programs.
      3. Select Accessories.
      4. Select Paint.
      5. After Paint opens, click the Edit drop-down menu.
      6. Select Paste.
      7. To print the screen capture, click the File drop-down menu.
      8. Select Print.

    3. Another option is to paste the screen capture into a photo-editing program like Adobe’s Photoshop or Microsoft’s Digital Image.

    Posted by anna at 7:00 AM

    March 2, 2006

    Laptop Battery Care for Windows and Macintosh

    With a little bit of care you can maximize the battery life and lifespan of your new laptop.

    To view the current battery level, use the icon as indicated below:

    Windows Battery Meter


    Macintosh Battery Meter

    Battery saving operating tips:
    For Windows:

    • Optimize power settings by selecting Power Options from the Control Panel.
    • Reduce the screen brightness by holding the Fn key and using the < and > arrow keys to decrease and increase the screen’s brightness.
    • Place the laptop on a well ventilated surface.
    • Use basic, low-activity screen savers.
    • Turn off wireless features such as Bluetooth and WiFi when not in use (the silver buttons on front of laptop, flashing blue or orange lights indicate feature is turned on).
    For Macintosh:
    • Optimize power setting by selecting System Preferences > Energy Saver.
    • Reduce the screen brightness through: System Preferences > Displays.
    • Use basic, low-activity screen savers.
    • Turn off wireless features such as Bluetooth, WiFi, and AirPort when not in use.

    Optimal battery temperature The optimal operating temperature range is between 10° and 35°C. The optimal storage temperature range is between -25° and 45° Keeping your laptop as near room temperature (22°C) as possible is ideal.

    Prolonging long-term battery life

    • Frequent full discharge of Li-Ion batteries is not recommended.
    • For proper maintenance of a lithium-based battery, it is important to keep the electrons in it moving occasionally. An ideal usage pattern would be to use it plugged in at your desk, but run it from battery power when commuting, in meetings or at home.
    • Li-Ion batteries don't like heat. Storing your laptop in a hot car for example will greatly reduce the effectiveness and life span of your battery.

    Posted by anna at 7:00 AM

    February 28, 2006

    Adobe Photoshop: Auto Correction

    Adobe Photoshop 7 is installed in the Macintosh computer labs located in the Engineering building rooms 021 and 336.

    You can change the Auto Correction options in the Levels or Curves dialog box by clicking on the Options button. There are three options to choose from: Enhance Monochromatic Contrast makes the highlights lighter and the shadows darker; Enhance per Channel Contrast produces a more dramatic correction and changes color castes; Find Light and Dark Colours finds the average lightest and darkest pixels and uses them to maximise contrast. You can select any of these as a default algorithm for all colour adjustments.

    Palettes and moveable dialog boxes are always saved in the same place in Photoshop whenever the application is quit. But if you prefer to save your own workspace, open and position the palettes you require and choose Window>Workspace>Save Workspace and type in a name. You can create several workspaces for different uses.

    To duplicate an open Photoshop document without having to OK it in the
    Duplicate image window first, hold down Option/Alt when choosing Duplicate from the Image menu. The copy of the file will then open as a separate document.

    To create a text knockout effect, place a text layer over a layer with a shape or painted area to knockout from over an image background layer. Choose Blending Options from the Palette menu and set the Knockout option to Deep to reveal the background layer. This technique can be used on several overlaying layers with Layer Styles to add special effects.

    Photo from Adobe

    Posted by anna at 7:00 AM

    February 26, 2006

    Email Best Practices: Common Courtesies

    Read your email regularly - daily if possible - ignoring a message is discourteous and confusing to the sender.
     
    Always reply, even if a brief acknowledgment is all you can manage. This will avoid doubt in the mind of the sender that you have received the message.
     
    Reply promptly - email systems often do not have the conventional ‘pending’ trays of the desktop, so it may be easy to forget an email message.
     
    Put your reply at the top of the message.
     
    Be tolerant of others’ mistakes. Some people are new to email, and may not be good typists, or they may accidentally delete your message and ask you to resend it.
     
    If you quote in email information received from any source, you should properly acknowledge it, just as you would in an academic essay or published work. The same applies if you reproduce in another medium, information you received in email.
     
    Never assume that because you have sent a message, it has been read.
     
    Do not label every message as high priority.
     
    Do not send “chain letters”, and do not forward such letters.

    Signatures
    Your signature should be brief (4 - 5 lines maximum) and informative (include a phone number).
     
    Do not include drawings, quotations or anything non-business related in your signature.

    Keeping Out of Trouble
    Never say anything in email about a third party that you would not say directly to that person. If this was to come to that person’s attention you could be unpleasantly surprised to discover that defamation by email can carry the same consequences as by any other medium.
     
    Remember that your message can be redirected to a third party without your knowledge or consent.
     
    Do not Flame. Flaming is intemperately aggressive and abusive language used to criticize others. If a discussion is becoming emotionally charged, get out of email and use the phone, write a letter, or go and see the person.
     
    Use humor, sarcasm and irony sparingly: they may not be self-evident to all readers. Email lacks the cues such as facial expression and body language. You can easily convey the wrong impression.
     
    Do not pretend you are someone else when sending email. To pretend you are someone else is fraudulent, and could lead to legal consequences.
     
    Do not make changes to someone else’s message and pass it on without making it clear where you have made the changes. This is misrepresentation/ plagiarism.
     
    Sending email from your university account is similar to sending a letter on university letterhead, so be aware that your communication is identified as such.

    Posted by anna at 7:00 AM

    February 24, 2006

    Advantages of Using PDF Files for Online Viewing or Printing

    A PDF file looks the same as a printed copy of your document, even when being displayed on the Internet. When a document is viewed, it is exactly as the creator intended it to appear, including features difficult to recreate on an Internet page such as headers & footers and multiple columns. The PDF file takes on the page layout attributes set by the selected printer driver when the file was created.

    In the case of PowerPoint documents you are able to create presentations that can run on the Internet from a single file – try to do a similar action from within PowerPoint (Save as HTML) and you end up with many files and folders for the one presentation.

    PDF files generally, but not always, take up less disk space than the original file. For example a Microsoft Word file of 2.3Mb was reduced to approximately 350k using the PDF Writer (only available in the full version of Adobe Acrobat - not Adobe Acrobat Reader). Smaller file sizes are important when transporting a file (trying to fit it on a floppy disk) or downloading from the Internet. Please note that the size of the resulting file compared to the original document varies greatly depending on the content of the file (text/graphics) and the options you select when making the PDF.

    Additional Adobe Acrobat Reader documentation can be found on http://www.umbc.edu/oit/software/pages/Acrobat.htm

    versus

    Posted by anna at 7:00 AM

    February 21, 2006

    Podcasting: Frequently Asked Questions

    What Is Podcasting?

    Podcasting is a relatively new phenomena becoming popular in late 2004. It allows you to easily create and publish your own radio shows which can be easily accessed within the need for a broadcasting infrastructure. From a technical perspective, Podcasting is an application of the RSS 2.0 format [2]. RSS can be used to syndicate Web content, allowing Web resources to be automatically embedded in third party Web sites or processed by dedicated RSS viewers. The same approach is used by Podcasting, allowing audio files (typically in MP3 format) to be automatically processed by third party applications - however rather than embedding the content in Web pages, the audio files are transferred to a computer hard disk or to an MP3 player - such as an iPod.

    The strength of Podcasting is the ease of use it provides rather than any radical new functionality. If, for example, you subscribe to a Podcast provided by UMBC, new episodes will appear automatically on your chosen device - you will not have to go to UMBC's Web site to see if new files are available and then download them.

    Note that providing MP3 files to be downloaded from Web sites is sometimes described as Podcasting, but the term strictly refers to automated distribution using RSS.

    What Can Podcasting Be Used For?
    There are several potential applications for Podcasting in an educational context:

    • Recording of lectures, allowing students to easily access the recording as a revision aid, to catch up on missed lectures, etc.
    • Asking students to record their own Podcasts on, for example, project reports.
    • Automated conversion of text files, email messages, RSS feeds, etc. to MP3 format, allowing the content to be accessed on mobile MP3 players.
    • Maximising the impact of talks by allowing seminars, lectures, conference presentations, etc. to be listened to by a wider audience.
    • Recordings of meetings to provide access for people who could not attend.
    • Enhancing the accessibility of talks to people with disabilities.

    Podcasting Software

    Listening To Podcasts

    It is advisable to gain experiences of Podcasting initially as a recipient, before seeking to create Podcasts. Details of Podcasting software is given at [3] and [4]. Note that support for Podcasts in iTunes v. 5 [5] has helped enhance the popularity of Podcasts. You should note that you do not need a portable MP3 player to listen to Podcasts - however the ability to listen to Podcasts while on the move is one of its strengths.

    Creating Podcasts When creating a Podcast you first need to create your MP3 (or similar) audio file. Many recording tools are available, such as the open source Audacity software [6]. You may also wish to make use of audio editing software to edit files, include sound effects, etc.

    You will then need to create the RSS file which accompanies your audio file, enabling users to subscribe to your recording and automate the download. An increasing number of Podcasting authoring tools and Web services are being developed [7]

    References
    Podcasting, Wikipedia,
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Podcasting

    RSS 2.0, Wikipedia,
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Really_Simple_Syndication

    iPodder Software,
    http://www.ipodder.org/directory/4/ipodderSoftware

    iTunes - Podcasting,
    http://www.apple.com/podcasting/

    Podcasting Software (Clients), Podcasting News,
    http://www.podcastingnews.com

    Audacity,
    http://audacity.sourceforge.net/

    Podcasting Software (Publishing), Podcasting News,
    http://www.podcastingnews.com/topics/Podcasting_Software.html

    Posted by anna at 11:58 AM

    February 1, 2006

    New Destructive Internet Worm Scheduled for February 3rd

    Internet Worm Aliases: MyWife; Blackmal; Nyxem; Tearec; Kapser; Worm_Grew

    Description of the Threat:
    There is an Internet worm scheduled to activate on the 3rd day of each month. February 3rd is this Friday and OIT wanted to make you were aware of possible issues associated with it. While this worm is classified as “Low Risk” by McAfee it is of a particularly nasty nature. Specifically it is designed to overwrite many common Microsoft Windows file types on your workstation rendering them permanently unusable. Macs are unaffected by this worm.

    OIT Actions:
    OIT has rules in place on our Intrusion Prevention System (IPS), also known as the Tipping Point, that will block this worm within the UMBC campus. In addition all machines that are joined to our centrally managed Active Directory should have McAfee AntiVirus installed. If a machine is running McAfee and has DAT file 4642 or higher then McAfee should detect and clean the infection prior to any file loss. McAfee will detect this worm as “MyWife”.

    Home Users:
    Customers should check the following:
    • AntiVirus Software is installed and has been updated (UMBC’s version of McAfee automatically updates the DAT file) Click Here to Download McAfee
    • Backup any important files to CD, DVD or a USB Key. It is important that this backup not be located on the computer as the worm can detect these files too.
    • Turn on Windows Automatic Updates Click Here for Information about Automatic Updates

    Method of Infection:
    This is a mass mailing worm that infects machines via an e-mail message. The message will contain an attachment with a *.PIF, *.JPG or *.ZIP file. Execution of these files will infect an unprotected machine. Please visit http://vil.nai.com/vil/content/v_138027.htm for full details.

    Impact:Below are the file types that it will render unusable. These files will not be able to be recovered once overwritten.
    • DOC
    • XLS
    • MDB
    • MDE
    • PPT
    • PPS
    • ZIP
    • RAR
    • PDF
    • PSD
    • DMP

    Posted by mikec at 4:17 PM

    January 22, 2006

    OIT Sends E-mail to Campus About Changing E-mail Client Settings

    OIT is sending out e-mail messages similar to the one below. The recent legislative audit identified some account and password practices that OIT should strengthen. One practice we need to discontinue is allowing people to send their username and password unencrypted to a server.

    Please do not be alarmed by this messages. Please do not mistake these messages for Spam or a Phishing scam of any type. We have posted this message to verify that the messages you are receiving are in fact legitimate.


    ----------Email Message Begins Here-------------------------------

    Dear "Enter Name Here":
    The Office of Information Technology is sending you this message to inform you that we have plans to strengthen our e-mail security. While much of this can be done centrally on our servers, the remainder must be completed on your local e-mail client (e.g. Outlook, Thunderbird etc.). We plan on making these changes permanent on May 25th, 2006

    Many UMBC account holders have some form of e-mail client installed on their PC or Mac computers. In order for you to utilize the increased security features we are requesting that you modify your e-mail client settings. In most cases this is very easy to do.

    Instructions regarding these configuration changes can be found at:
    http://www.umbc.edu/oit/sans/helpdesk/configuremail.html

    ***Which Machine Should I Change My E-mail Settings On?***
    Part of the challenge we face is identifying the machine or machines that you have connected from. This is important because your office machine may in fact be setup with the most recent security features while your home PC or Mac may not be. To help you identify which machine needs to have the e-mail client settings updated we have included the IP Address or domain name where you last connected from.

    Don't worry if this is a little confusing for you. We are including this information for those that may find it useful. If you are just not sure what this means then we simply recommend that you check the settings on all of the e-mail clients that you use. Below you will find the hosts where your connection was detected from.

    Our logs over the past week have detected that you have
    used an unencrypted "IMAP or POP" session to access your MyUMBC email
    account named "USERNAME HERE". These logins occurred from the following hosts:

    "HOST INFORMATION HERE"

    *** How Soon Do I Need to Make These Changes?***
    Don't be alarmed, you are not in imminent danger of being compromised. We are taking these steps as part of a campus wide security campaign. We plan on disabling unencrypted IMAP and POP e-mail on May 25th, 2006. You have until this date to update your e-mail clients.

    For more information about making these changes please visit:
    http://www.umbc.edu/oit/sans/helpdesk/configuremail.html

    If you have any questions, please feel free to contact the OIT helpdesk via email (helpdesk@umbc.edu), or at 410-455-3838 (x5-3838)

    Posted by mikec at 10:05 PM

    November 1, 2005

    Quick Reference to Computer Cables and Connections

    Connecting all the various pieces and parts of your computer may get confusing especially if you do not know which cables go with which connector. Manufacturers use color-codes to make the connection even easier. If you're not sure what color cable goes with what device, you can view this quick reference explaining the different types of connectors in the back of your computer. System Connector Reference

    CAUTION: Make sure that every cable is firmly connected both to the system unit and the specific piece of hardware. Loose cables can cause all sorts of problems.

    Posted by anna at 1:44 PM

    October 26, 2005

    Top 10 Spyware Applications Blocked

    During the Fall of 2004 OIT deployed an appliance, known as an Intrusion Prevention System (IPS), by the vendor Tipping Point. This appliance works from a list of established rules that are updated daily in a method similar to the virus detection files which are updated by McAfee. The purpose of this device is to prevent known worms, viruses, spyware and adware from entering or leaving the campus.

    We have been running the IPS since then with great success primarily targeting worms and viruses. To date it has saved IT staff immense amounts of investigative time that was being spent tracking down and disinfecting hundreds of machines on campus annually.

    At the beginning of this Fall OIT enabled the Spyware and Adware rules on the Tipping Point appliance. Our goal in all of this was to prevent the accidental exposure of non public information from campus machines. This too has been quite successful. Attached to this blog you will find a PDF report of the number of times each of the top ten Spyware rules has been triggered (i.e. blocked something).

    You can see from the report that there are a significant number of times each of the top ten Spyware rules have been triggered. There are few basic things you can do to protect yourself. Click Here to see the PDF Report.

    • Patch Your Machine
    • Install McAfee AntiVirus (Make sure it is set to update daily)
    • Make sure there are no blank passwords on your machine
    • Install Spybot Search and Destroy

    For more information on how to get these applications or how to use them please visit
    http://www.umbc.edu/oit/sans/security/awareness/index.html

    Posted by mikec at 3:47 PM

    January 27, 2005

    Spring 2005 Computer Lab and Help Desk Hours of Operation Starting Sunday, January 30th

    Our Spring 2005 hours of operation for computer labs and Help Desk will start on Sunday, January 30th. They are as follows:

    • Sunday - 12 noon to 12 midnight
    • Monday - 8:00am to 12 midnight
    • Tuesday - 8:00am to 12 midnight
    • Wednesday - 8:00am to 12 midnight
    • Thursday - 8:00am to 12 midnight
    • Friday - 8:00am to 12 midnight
    • Saturday - 8:00am to 12 midnight

    If you have any questions please contact the Help Desk at 410-455-3838.

    Posted by OIT at 1:20 PM

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