Minutes, March 16, 2016 (Approved)

A meeting of the Committee on Information Systems (CIS) was held on Wednesday, March 16, 2016 at 1:00 PM in Library Classroom 306. The eleven attendees were:

1. Kara Andrade (GLC)
2. Alan Isaac (CAS)
3. Stefan Kramer (Library)
4. Carl LeVan (SIS)
5. Michael Manson (Dir, UG Research and Integrity)
6. Joseph Mortati (KSB)
7. Lindsay Murphy (CTRL)
8. Chris Simpson (SOC)
9. Lyn Stallings (Vice Provost, UG Studies)
10. Sonja Walti (SPA)
11. Chenyang Xiao (CAS)

Co-chair Joseph Mortati brought the meeting to order and the following business was conducted:

1. A motion to approve the draft minutes of the previous meeting was made and approved.

2. The remainder of the meeting was dedicated to Lyn Stallings, Vice Provost for Undergraduate Studies, and Michael Manson, Director, Undergraduate Research and Integrity, who were seeking CIS inputs on an issue related to undergraduate research opportunities. (As an FYI, Lyn also has a faculty/staff undergraduate research committee exploring these options and advising her along with convening some student focus groups.)

The problem-to-be-solved is that AU currently lacks a robust process of identifying and disseminating undergraduate research opportunities (such as publications, conferences, and mentorship) and then “match-making” them with students who could serve as research assistants. A corollary issue is that other faculty are often not aware of these opportunities. The current process is mostly ad hoc whereby most of the matches between research opportunities and students are the results of professor and students who happen to know each other.

A potential part of the solution is to adopt a platform where faculty post research assistantships, summer research experiences, and other research opportunities, and students search and apply, as well as a clearinghouse for research opportunities elsewhere (these could be in the student’s hometown over the summer, undergraduate research journals, opportunities within the consortium, etc.).

A very good example of such a solution is Boston University’s Research Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (http://www.bu.edu/urop/), which Michael Manson demonstrated. (The appendix of these minutes includes the various options under consideration.)

Given that introduction, Lyn and Michael ask the committee members for thoughts. X main issues were identified.

Issue 1 – How are research opportunities identified? FARS is a possible source but because data entry is inconsistent in both content and format, it’s problematic to use it as many opportunities can be missed. Joseph Mortati (KSB) suggested that perhaps research funding data (less likely to be inconsistent) could be used as a starting point. A related question is, until we know the opportunities size, how can any kind of cost-benefit analysis be done?

Issue 2 – Chris Simpson (SOC) raised several, related issues, the first of which is, how do the people, processes, and systems overcome existing obstacles to students participating? That is, lack of interest or time or pay have historically been problematic. Likewise, how do we measure the potential student population interested and available for such opportunities? Knowing this could be used to determine how much money should be invested in any system solution. Lyn mentioned the population is at least 200 students + honors students.

Issue 3 – How hard is it for faculty to post opportunities and search for matches? What is the incentive for faculty to use any system?

Carl LeVan (SIS) raised two, related concerns that self-selection and timing (if I post a research opportunity, am I first or last in the sequence and would this create competition?) raise issues of fairness.

Chris Simpson (SOC) questioned the need for such a system given free and ubiquitous social media platforms frequently used by UG students. Chenyang Xiao (CAS) questioned the wisdom of soliciting the Committee’s inputs because it runs the risk of coming down to opinions or individual experiences.

Stefan Kramer (Library) added that AU doesn’t have the ability to systematically and effectively share faculty research with other faculty.

Alan Isaac (CAS) asked why opportunity sharing isn’t being done via Career Web (http://www.american.edu/careercenter/AU-Careerweb.cfm). Michael replied that this is an option in addition to the platforms listed at the end of these minutes. This could be done via another link.

Lyn and Michael closed by thanking the Committee for our inputs and promising a follow-up on whatever decisions are made.

There being no other business to discuss, the meeting was adjourned. The next meeting will be held Wednesday, April 20, 2016 at 1:00 PM in the Library Conference Room (BLIB 143, the conference immediately to the right of the main entrance to the Bender Library).


There are four platforms being considered:

Research Connection – https://researchconnection.com/

Scholar Bridge – http://www.scholarbridge.com/

Student Opportunity Center – https://www.studentopportunitycenter.com/

AU Career Web – https://american-csm.symplicity.com/students/

Minutes, February 17, 2016 (Approved)

A meeting of the Computer and Information Systems (CIS) Committee was held on Wednesday, February 17, 2016 at 1:00 PM in Library Classroom 306. The eight attendees were:

Terry Fernandez (OIT)
Alan Isaac (CAS)
Joseph Mortati (KSB)
Lindsay Murphy (CTRL)
Yana Sakellion (CAS)
Amy Taylor (WCL)
Sonja Walti (SPA)
Chenyang Xiao (CAS)

Co-chair Joseph Mortati brought the meeting to order and the following business was conducted:

1. A motion to approve the draft minutes of the previous meeting was made and approved.

2. The Committee discussed the issue that some student roster pictures (e.g., those in PUAD606-001) show up as distorted in Blackboard (described as “adding several pounds to their faces”). Fernandez explained this is a function of the images being loaded and is not a Blackboard import issue. She provided the following link that lists Photo Submission Requirements for the AU ID Card System (which includes the requirement to be at least 300 x 375 pixels): http://www.american.edu/ocl/housing/auidphotosubmission.cfm. Faculty who notice distorted images should advise their students to submit a revised photograph.

3. Co-chair Joseph Mortati then proposed the committee research the topic of leveraging smartphone technology in the classroom as an aid to teaching. This is not whether or not devices should be allowed – that’s normally left up to the instructor – but in cases where they are allowed, how can faculty best use them as a teaching aid?

This led to a spirited discussion of personal experiences with a prevalent issue of using such devices for non-class use during class time and a few success stories. The Committee agreed this is an appropriate topic for further investigation and discussion and the following aspects were discussed:

Textbooks on devices (which seem to work well).

Photographing project screens instead of taking notes (creates an issue with memory recall).

Syllabus statement regarding recording lectures and content presented.

Lindsay Murphy pointed out that Naomi Baron (CTRL) has already created some guidelines for using technology in the classroom: http://www.american.edu/ctrl/techinclass_resources.cfm and they are organized around the following functional categories:

Presenting Course Content
Facilitating Student Feedback
Annotating Course Content
Delivering Course Materials
Visualizing Course Content
Building Collaborative Environments

Additionally, the Ann Ferren Conference features a session on “Technology in the Classroom”.

All that said, it would be useful for this Committee to provide the larger AU Community information on best practices without regard to specific technology. To that end, the Committee agree to the following steps:

Amy Taylor will do a literature research review.
We will look at crowdsourcing lessons learned from the community
Legal implications of such technology (e.g., social media guidelines) need to be considered

4. Chenyang Xiao raised the issue that some department websites have outdated content with respect to registrar prerequisites. For example, the following Sociology courses list incorrect prerequisites:

Sociology Course Prerequisites
This remains an open issue and was tabled to our next meeting.

5. There is an issue of some faculty email addresses being incorrectly identified as spam and the sender may not be aware of this. Terry Fernandez provided the following information showing that OIT is aware of this issue and has a fix:

In March of 2014, the Office of Information Technology undertook a professional services engagement with Sophos, the vendor of our anti-spam solution, to perform a health check of our system. This process was thorough and productive; and we have implemented several suggestions from Sophos to improve our detection of spam and phishing messages. One of these suggestions was to improve our existing detection rule for incoming messages that originated outside of our network, but had forged sender addresses so that they appeared to come from AU (spoofed email address.) As a result, a long-standing anti-spam rule, the spoofed email check, is now much more effective. Customers will no longer be able to send email from outside providers using their AU email address, a practice that only worked previously, due to poor spoof detection.

Customers who use Gmail can configure an alternate address to send from, specifying that the mail is sent through the AU outgoing mail server, mailout.american.edu, to avoid this problem. To do so, please follow the instructions found here: https://support.google.com/mail/answer/22370?hl=en

We regret and apologize for any inconvenience that this may cause, but look forward to continued improvements in the detection of unwanted email. Please contact the Help Desk at x2550 or helpdesk@american.edu if you have any further questions.

There being no other business to discuss, the meeting was adjourned. The next meeting will be held Wednesday, March 17, 2016 at 1:00 PM in Library Classroom 306.