Minutes, October 17, 2018 (Approved)

CIS Meeting Minutes – October 17, 2018

A meeting of the Committee on Information Systems (CIS) was held Wednesday, October 17, 2018 from 9:00-10:30 AM in Library Room 143. The attendees were:

  1. Robert Adcock (SIS)
  2. Stefano Costanzi (CAS)
  3. Nancy Davenport (LIB)
  4. Alan Isaac (CAS)
  5. Katie Holton (CAS)
  6. Kiho Kim (CTRL)
  7. Joseph Mortati (KSB) (by phone)
  8. Rick Semiatin (SPEX)
  9. Scott Talan (SOC)
  10. Stef Woods (CAS)

The following items of business were discussed.

Chair Alan Isaac called the meeting to order. The September 2018 minutes were reviewed and approved unanimously.

Steve Kelly from Office of Information Technology attended the meeting to discuss the new virtual application platform (AU Apps). VCL will be retired as soon as AU Apps is fully tested. URL: apps.american.edu. The client is already available to the general community and uses Duo multi-factor authentication. Duo will also be available for students to access the VPN. The web development team will transpose the AU portal to the ADFS, the same system used by Blackboard. An AU mobile app will also be released.

With respect to the OIT ticketing system, Steve clarified that Blackboard just moved to the OIT ticketing system, which should solve any issues with customer interactions. Tickets with OIT and Blackboard issues can be found at help.american.edu.

Photos on Blackboard are only uploaded/updated twice a year. This leaves many rosters without photos. It would be good to change this policy. CIS will write a note to Lee Ruble to raise the issue.

Stef Woods gave her availability to be Vice Chair. CIS elected her unanimously.

Robert Adcock gave his availability to be the contact point for ATSC.

Stef gave an update on the online learning platforms. There is a dispute as to what falls within AU responsibility or within the partners’ responsibility with respect to rendering the courses accessible. Scott mentioned that this is a case of legalization, not customization. There is still an open question regarding videos that are shown in class. All videos that are shown in class should be captioned. It is unclear whether recommended (but not required) videos posted on Blackboard and not shown in class should also be captioned. The youtube automatic captioning system might be adequate, but instructors should check it for accuracy.

Faculty in mathematics, economics and statistics need to be able to post working papers online. Faculty members could post their material on personal websites. However, this is not standard practice. Most economics departments have official departmental websites for posting working papers. The econ department is prohibited from posting its working papers on a website, even though the site does not have an american.edu url.

The meeting with Mary Clark and Rachel Weatherly had to be rescheduled due to a scheduling misunderstanding. The committee proposed to postpone the meeting to November.

However, Mary Clark was able to step in for a few minutes. She mentioned that at GMU, they have found a solution to render working papers accessible (including complex figures and tables) by a dedicated office. Alan will reach out to GMU and stated that accessibility goals should not be allowed to impose an excessive burden on the ability of faculty to practice their ordinary professional activities.

Kiho Kim and Bill Harder gave an update on the reorganization of CTRL. Staff roles have been changed to reflect the shift to bringing your own device. There has been no change in the software available to students. The only changes are open source software. For instance, students should be able to download R software on their machines,  although there are certainly some challenges with the configuration. Moreover, some students only have tablets or chrome books, and the app runs on a Windows operating system. Shared computers are still available in Anderson. The application runs on a remote server, but you can save on local drives.

Kiho and Bill stated that although CTRL is primarily a faculty-facing unit, it also supports graduate and undergraduate students when they work with faculty. Regarding STATA, the cost to have licenses for individual installations is about $30,000. This is separate from the virtual STATA application. Individual licenses are $250 (and they are perpetual). The main problem is whether the departments that use the software or CTRL should bear the costs.

There being no additional business for the good of the order, the meeting was adjourned. The next meeting will be held on Wednesday, November 14, 2018, from 9:00-10:30 AM in Library Room 143.