Minutes, November 14, 2018 (Approved)

A meeting of the Committee on Information Systems (CIS) was held Wednesday, November 14, 2018 from 9:00-10:30 AM in Library Room 143. The attendees were:

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

The following items of business were discussed.

Chair Alan called the meeting to order. The October 2018 minutes were reviewed and approved with two small modifications.

Robert attended the November 9th ATSC meeting about LMS and provided Stef with notes. Blackboard Ultra was evaluated and found unsatisfactory. Two potential replacements for Blackboard (Canvas and Brightspace Desire2Learn) are being piloted by a small subset of faculty. Scott Vanek gave an update at the ATSC meeting on the piloting process. Initial ATSC impressions of the two options largely favor Canvas. There was also a briefer discussion of how to manage a transition to a new LMS. (For example, would all faculty have to switch at once, or would two different LMS be an option during a transition period?)

The Committee agreed that we should invite Scott to an early 2019 meeting to discuss why Blackboard Ultra was deemed unsatisfactory and provide updates on the Canvas and Desire2Learn pilots and timeline.

Several instructors noted that they’ve used Canvas before and found it easier/more functional than Blackboard. Other instructors commented that even if Blackboard isn’t perfect, they’ve gotten used to the LMS. Kiho indicated that there were fall info sessions for faculty and staff to see how Canvas and Desire2Learn operate. He also shared that the Blackboard contract runs out at the end of the academic year.

Kiho further provided context for possible switches to a new LMS. The absolute list of functionalities between LMS is almost the same, but how you access the functionalities is different. Canvas is open-sourced, quick and flexible, and it ties into the registration system.  The front end is easier on Canvas, and expected to be easier on faculty to learn and easier for faculty and students to navigate. The back end is easier on Desire2Learn, but the differences are minimal.

We will maintain a legacy version of Blackboard. Kiho explained that everything will be transferred to Blackboard in a way that is almost seamless and done from the back end. When faculty log on to the new LMS, everything from their courses will be there.

Shifting to the next agenda item, Alan provided some background for the importance of posting working papers online. Core question: You look at what normal professional practice is and you ask are they being able to participate in normal ways. If not, how can this be improved upon? We need to express solidarity with faculty who require these functions just like we would hope that they would express solidarity with us.

Mary Clark, Terry Flannery and Rachel Weatherly joined us to discuss the issue of posting working papers online. How can there be equal and accessible opportunities, while also fostering the scholarly work of faculty? Terry shared the laws that have influenced web accessibility and discussed the web accessibility committee, WCAG 2.0. She further discussed that there are different interpretations as to what’s an equal experience and that complaints can be filed against schools through the Department of Education in 30 minutes.

AU is undergoing an audit focusing on captioning and accessibility of PDFs (image IDs – alt tags, colors, etc.). The working group is focusing on data visualization, LATeX, and captioning for theater or dance. WCAG 2.0 has made headway with faculty and works with colleagues at other institutions to find an equal experience for people who have physical or cognitive limitations. In most instances, captioning can be taken care of with new sets of tools. 80% of these captions are accurate, and then the rest is addressed by hand. The goal is not just access, but an equal experience.

The working group is still trying to make headway with equations. GMU’s ASAC works with faculty and students to make scholarly work accessible. With two weeks’ notice, GMU has helped to make 98% of work accessible. But, how can we get work all the way there? How can we meet the principle of equal opportunity, meet what the law requires, and allow faculty to conduct their scholarly and artistic work? GMU works with faculty on scholarly documents to make anything accessible with two weeks’ notice. For most documents, it takes minutes or hours, but some few documents take days.

At AU, in a circumstance with a PDF with equations that we can’t translate with the available tools – faculty will have to work to describe what the equation is saying (data visualization). If that doesn’t work and there’s a piece that we can’t translate, we need to include a reference to the scholar and a contact point. This contact points allows for further discussion between fellow scholars. This applies to all sites that are created with an AU email or on an AU webpage.

The working group will work with CTRL to determine what a similar pilot like what GMU did could work. Conversations will need to happen, using economics documents to help develop a solution that mines both values – reputation and accessibility.

Further specifics discussed include:

  • Captioning tools will go to all faculty before the end of the semester
  • Adobe license to make PDFs accessible – available to all faculty who need it
  • Some need for templates. Steve Casey will work with colleagues at GMU, specifically for Math. Site visit to Mason in the future.
  • Microsoft Office – PP, Word, etc, available in accessible templates
  • Rachel working with Steve for tech templates. That much closer to accessibility
  • Working on an accessible abstract
  • Notifying faculty about tools and templates: Mary asked who should notify faculty about the tools and templates. Stef recommended that the email comes from Mary. Alan indicated that there’s a webpage with descriptions of available tools and expectations.
  • Training: Kiho indicated that CTRL is handling this. Anyone who is interested at this point can sign up for available trainings (Adobe, for example).
  • Kaltura – way to host video content. Enterprise licensing and they provide AI captioning thru hosting fee. Less expensive.
  • Anticipatory vs. responsive. A little anticipatory (someone will be in your class and how can you make the class and material accessible). We hope to get to the point where we’ll be making things accessible from the get go. Translation is an intermediary step.
  • Stefano inquired about the types of documents that fall under this category and how it’s made accessible. An example was provided in the power point.
  • How can instructors begin to do this? There are 45,000 pages for web content for AU. There will be an analysis of what’s ROT (Relevant Obsolete Timely). Other items will be archived.
  • It was recommended that Econ and Math/Stat should work with Thomas Meal in CAS, and there will be a meeting within the next week or two.

Alan concluded the meeting, saying that this meeting exceeded his expectations!

There being no additional business for the good of the order, the meeting was adjourned. The next meeting will be held in 2019 at a date and time to be determined.