Minutes November 17, 2014 (approved)

Attending: Alan Isaac (CAS/Economics), Brian Yates (CAS/Psychology, Amin Mohseni (Cas/Econ), Sonja Walti (SPA), Jason Fabrikant (SPExS), Joseph Mortati

Minutes by Brian Yates


  • Approval of minutes of past meetings
  • Progress reports on focus agreed upon focus areas
  • 2 year budget cycle discussion: amend / approve our recommendations and lending our support as needed
  • Report from Senate, in particular: Social Media Committee and prepare for meeting between members of the Senate Budget & Benefits committee and CIS on Wednesday the 19th at 3:00
  • Report from ATSC
  • CIS operations: additional ATSC representation, someone to update and enhance our WordPress site


  • Approval of minutes from our October meeting was delayed until they are circulated for review.
  • CIS decided to meet December 1, not December 15.
  • Spring 2015 meetings of CIS will likely be on Mondays, likely 10:30-11:30 AM but a Doodle pool will solicit input from more members.
  • Sonja solicited reports from meetings the Senate and ATSC. Sonja reported that students use CTRL for just-in-time training on basic wordprocessing, spreadsheets, and spreadsheets. She noted that Microsoft offers low-level help services, and that ATSC had considered the feasibility of purchasing these.
  • Alan suggested that AU instead develop peer-help for Microsoft Office products. Students could be trained and then paid to provide assistance. (Sonja noted that the training could be tiered, with more expert students handling harder inquiries.) CIS endorsed this recommendation and encouraged its inclusion in budget discussions.
  • Brian suggested that AU not favor one office suite over others. Brian also noted that Macs of all sorts have a free office suite (iWork’s Pages, Numbers, and Keynote) that works on both Windows and Mac computers, and may be easier to use as well as important to support.
  • Joseph noted that the lack of a database app in the Mac suite, like Access, was the issue. Joseph also noted that the Virtual Computing Lab can be used to run all Microsoft Office suite programs.
  • Joseph noted that the Business School had implemented a “soft” requirement for all students to have access to the Microsoft Office suite including Access, and will be implementing a hard requirement for this suite in the Spring of 2015. He also noted that other universities, including George Mason, have formed partnerships with Microsoft to give students free or low-cost access to Microsoft’s Access, Excel, Project, and Visio.
  • Sonja announced that, according to Mike Pillier, an improved version of Collaborate will be part of the upcoming Blackboard upgrade and may obviate the need to use Adobe Connect.
  • Progress report on priorities. Amin said progress was being made on placing student photos on Blackboard for access by faculty. Amin said that faculty websites were being worked on my campus marketing, but that there is as yet no single standard as to what should be on faculty website. OIT will have a new, more customizable template for faculty websites that will not require the need for .html coding for tight control over the website. Alan suggested the faculty templates should pull data from FARS.
  • Brian noted that there was there would be outages of Blackboard 12/19 through 12/22, and that the AU network would be down for maintenance Friday 11/21 10 PM through 11/22 8 AM, and that faculty, staff, and students might find these outages inconvenient.

Minutes 2014-10-20 (approved)

A meeting of the Computer and Information Systems (CIS) Committee was held on Monday, October 20, 2014 at 12:00 PM in the Library Conference Room. Attendees were:

Name School
Nancy Davenport Library
Terry Fernandez OIT
Alan Isaac CAS
Joseph Mortati Kogod
Alayne Mundt Library
Chris Simpson SOC
Amy Taylor WCL
Sonja Walti SPA
Bryan Yates CAS/PSYCH

Chair Chris Simpson reviewed the agenda and asked that after calling for a vote to approve the May Meeting Minutes (which passed unanimously) that we adjust the agenda to focus on the following two items first:

Item 1: Library Budget Review

Nancy Davenport then briefed the committee on the Library’s priorities and prefaced it with that the Library has requested a Standard Inflationary Increase (in the 6-7% range), primarily to towards item #1 below.

1. Reserves and Journals – while some faculty members have very specific requests, negotiation and pricing should be done at the university-level and not on a journal-by-journal basis.
2. Classroom Support – there are four tiers of classroom capabilities based on audio-visual and computer support.

Nancy continued by talking about working on Open End Resource (OER), a joint effort with CTRL on reducing textbook costs. She also mentioned the Geospatial Information Systems (GIS) Lab (Anderson B16) recently opened and that an “Idea Space” that demonstrates the various types and levels of classroom technologies is also available.

Nancy went on to explain that the Provost has been consistent for the past 5 months that budgets will be “tight.” In reply, Chris recommended that CIS come up with a working list of what IT improvements we support. Alan added that while CIS can make recommendations, how will they be received given the constraints? I.e., recommendations are not made in isolation.

Item 2: CIS Wishlist

Chris Simpson briefed the committee on the status of all 19 CIS-related items on what’s referred to as the “Wishlist” (perhaps this should be referred to as an issues or items list); academic units in parentheses are those identified with the entry and committee discussion is prefaced with >>:

Student photos with rosters (OIT, CIS)

>> Chris explained that Student photos with rosters is actively being worked with an expected implementation date of end of Spring 2015 but noted that this feature was previously expected to be implemented in Fall 2014.

Accessibility management upgrade [2016] (CIS)

>> Chris called for a vote on whether CIS supports this item and it passed unanimously.

Alternatives to Blackboard Collaborate sharing platform

>> Considerable discussion followed and the issue was clarified from “Campus-wide Adobe Connect licenses” (a solution) to alternatives to Blackboard’s built-in tool called “Collaborate” (a problem statement), which has proven difficult enough to use so as to cause many faculty members to pursue other options.

While Adobe Connect is a robust platform that is used by other universities, its license fee – over $100,000 – is cost-prohibitive. Nancy explained that the University has a license for GoToMeeting that is a flat fee based on AU’s participation in the consortium. Skype and Google Hangout were also mentioned as potential, low-cost alternatives to Collaborate but faculty have a need not just for screen-sharing but also for interaction (webinar features like “raising your hand” to ask questions, etc.)

The committee finished discussion of this item by agreeing in principle that we should come up with a list of features that need to be supported by any platform (e.g., price, features, number of users, bandwidth required) rather than making recommendations on specific products. Additionally, Nancy recommended that any list of features be compared to the Library’s Statement of Principles on Information Systems to see what does or does not comply.

On a related note, this discussion spilled over to a discussion of Adobe Acrobat licenses (the full version, not the free reader) for select faculty, especially those doing research. A robust discussion of bulk licenses and who should get the money if funded – Library or CTRL? – ensued. Amy Taylor summed it up well by saying, “You cannot be a top-tier researcher without Acrobat.” This led to the question of how many one-off Acrobat licenses are there and if the total costs are close to or greater than a site license, then the University should consider consolidating them into one (because in many cases, license costs come out of research budgets).

Alan asked if the committee supports the purchase of licenses and Chris then called for a vote, which passed unanimously.

Online Learning review and updates

>> Chris Simpson then called for a vote on asking the Senate for a status update about online learning at AU, which passed unanimously.

Additional items discussed were:

Mobile/Social Media Policy: Provost is of the opinion that drafted policy isn’t strong enough (i.e., the line between use of such technologies in furthering academic goals and being seen as speaking for the University). New committee made up of representatives from all the schools. CIS should be a part of that discussion. Brian Yates will represent us in that committee.

Sonja will send around ATSC meeting days and times.

There being no other business to discuss, the meeting adjourned. The next CIS Meeting is Monday, November 17, 2014 at 12:00 PM in the Library Conference Room.