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September 2, 2004

From the CIO

By Jack Suess, Chief Information Officer

As we prepare to start another academic year I want to give you an update on changes you will see upon your return and also highlight ongoing developments. I am privileged to lead an organization that has a great staff and great leadership. While I have been focused primarily on PeopleSoft you will see that OIT continues to provide a quality technology infrastructure.

One of the most visible changes faculty and students will see is that we have upgraded from Blackboard 5 to Blackboard 6. We continue to see increased usage with Blackboard and expect to have almost 500 courses utilizing it this fall (twice as many as 2 years ago). As part of this upgrade, OIT upgraded the hardware infrastructure that Blackboard utilizes and enhanced some of the software integration services we offer to the campus. For example, we are able to auto-create courses in Blackboard, auto-enroll students in the course, and provide options for integrating the Scantron exams into the Blackboard grade book. As we evolve Blackboard 6 you will see better integration with the UMBC portal and more services integrated into the Blackboard portal.

A second initiative, though not as visible, is our work this past year focusing on enhancing IT security. As the risk of worms, viruses and hacking continues to increase we have had to rethink and reengineer the way we provide IT services. Our goal is to make sure you have a safe computing environment in which to work or perform scholarship. Some of these projects are driven by State audit requirements but many of these are also something we feel are necessary to ensure that you can safely use your computer. Over the spring and summer we have implemented the following initiatives:

Installed a campus firewall to begin adding a layer of initial protection for many of the computers on campus (generally those on our Novell network) ;

For windows machines using our Novell servers we have integrated those machines into a Microsoft System Management Domain. This allows OIT to install critical patches and updates on your machine as needed;

We have made a major effort on enhancing security on the residential network. We developed a special CD that students can load that will install our virus protection and configure their machines to use OIT's Microsoft System Update Service (SUS) to keep them patched;

We have added authentication to our campus wireless service to limit unauthorized access and also to allow us to identify machines with viruses or worms and work with that person to get the machine corrected;

Finally, over the fall semester OIT will be launching a campaign to inform people about the dangers of spyware, provide tools and instructions for removing spyware, and work to make sure you can protect your privacy.

A third initiative has been focusing on our mail processing infrastructure. Because of Spam and email-based viruses we have been seeing tremendous increases in mail volumes. It is not uncommon to see UMBC process over 1 million messages in a single day! In addition, with the use of attachments now common we see much larger mail messages on average. We have turned spam filtering on by default (level 4, which is a safe level with few false positives) for all users who are not currently using it, changed the mail box format to speed up message folder searching, and added more capability into our mail processing environment to support virus and Spam filtering. During the academic year we will be working on an initiative to raise all student and faculty disk quotas to a minimum of 100 megabytes.

A fourth initiative is working to improve classroom technology. We have updated the projectors in lecture halls two and six, updated the laptop carts, brought two new classrooms online in Chemistry with integrated technology and added technology to three additional classrooms in Social Sciences. Our goal is to continue to make certain we can provide faculty with a quality classroom environment.

Beyond these projects, our major work this academic year will be planning a replacement for the myUMBC portal. This portal was launched in 1999 and among the first in higher education; however, it is clear we need to move on. Today, portals are expected to provide much more customized content, have a finer granularity of roles and provide better integration with applications like PeopleSoft. Our intent is to work this fall and select a new portal technology to build upon. During the winter and spring we will integrate our existing content into this portal and launch the portal before next fall. OIT is working closely with the campus eMedia group on this project and will keep the campus informed as we go forward.

Posted by dwinds1 at September 2, 2004 12:00 AM