Minutes, September 18, 2019 (Approved)

CIS Meeting Minutes – September 18, 2019

A meeting of the Committee on Information Systems (CIS) was held Wednesday, September 18, 2019 from 11a-12:30p in MGC 327. The attendees were:

  1. Stefano Costanzi (CAS)
  2. Nancy Davenport (LIB)
  3. Jennifer Gumbrewicz (by phone)
  4. Reuben Jacobson (SOE)
  5. Stefan Kramer (LIB)
  6. Kiho Kim (CTRL)
  7. Joseph Mortati (KSB – by phone)
  8. Rick Semitian (SPEXs)
  9. Mauro Tiso (CAS)
  10. Stef Woods (CAS)
  11. Brian Yates (CAS)
  12. Guest: Scott Vanek (OIT)

Before the beginning of the meeting, for future remote participation, Kiho Kim offered the use of CTRL’s collaboratory or Zoom account.

The following items of business were discussed.

Chair Stef Woods called the meeting to order. The minutes of the April CIS meeting were approved.

LMS Update: Scott Vanek (Assistant. Dir. e-Learning & Instructional Design Services, University Library) provided an update on the future Learning Management Systems (LMS) evaluation (see also https://blogs.library.american.edu/lms-evaluation/#). Eight faculty courses with over 100 students and various staff accounts had been set up. It has been recommended to the Academic Technology Steering Committee (ATSC) to move to “Canvas,” but any final choice has to wait until the new Chief Online Officer (COO) is in place. (It was clarified that this a new position, not that of a new CIO; and that candidates are being interviewed now.) 

OIT will also have to be involved with some parts of infrastructure implementation.  At other universities, including Vanderbilt, Georgetown, Cornell, and UMD, LMS switches have been made in a little as three and as long as two years, in the latter cases sometimes with two platforms (the old and the new) available in parallel. Students at those schools were reportedly not fazed by the switch, regardless of how it was undertaken. If we operated multiple platforms at AU, they would feature single sign-on. 

Contrary to some rumors, Blackboard (BB) is not abandoning the higher education market, but has lost significant market share to other platforms. If the COO wanted AU to keep BB, we could consider its “Ultra” version. But, the e-Learning unit does not recommend it because it lacks essential functionalities. Videos with demos of Ultra are available online. Operating more than one LMS at the same time would be more difficult to support, but could ease the transition for faculty. UMD transitioned over one summer and offered extensive faculty training during that time. There are also cost implications to running parallel LMSs. Vanderbilt hired a dozen staff for their LMS migration. More AUx students have asked for help with BB this year than last; therefore, an LMS orientation may be offered to students during Welcome Week 2020. 

Kiho Kim suggested that the new CTRL Tech Talks series could include one on LMSs. The Chairs, Deans & Directors meeting could be leveraged to disseminate info about the LMS evaluation to faculty. Scott will also ask Mike Piller to communicate the evaluation outcome to faculty. The School of Education is using Canvas and is satisfied with it. The e-Learning unit likes the grading system in Canvas. AU students in the evaluation pilot cared more about how the LMS is used by faculty than the platform itself, but had a slight preference for Canvas over Brightspace. The mobile device experience provided by BB is rough.

Bylaws and Vice Chair: The CIS bylaws were changed in the spring. The Faculty Senate requested that the Chair and Vice Chair serve staggered terms. The CIS internally approved that the Vice Chair will become Chair the next year, but that did not make it into the bylaws. The bylaws also don’t reflect that there are now 12 rather than 11 faculty members, with the addition of the School of Ed. Incorporating the language from the spring CIS meeting minutes, the Chair will send a revised version to the CIS, and a vote on the revised bylaws will be taken online.

In the past, the CIS Vice Chair has taken meeting minutes and created the meeting agendas. The CIS Chair is on the Faculty Senate as a voting member. CIS members should send self-nominations for Vice Chair to Stef; eligible members are those in their first year on the committee, since the Vice Chair will become Chair in the second year of their term.

FOSS Award: The Provost wants CTRL to cover the cost of the FOSS (free and open-sourced software) Award (see April 3, 2019 minutes for background). CIS could make a recommendation selecting an awardee organization, which could be a different one each year. A survey of faculty for input would have to come from the CIS. Stefan volunteered to draft a survey in Qualtrics, with a list of FOSS (such as R) to be suggested by the CIS, and an open-ended response for other nominations.

FARS Alternatives: Stef attended several meetings with the Dean of Academic Affairs (DAA) over the summer regarding the selection of a new FARS (AU’s faculty activity reporting system) platform. There may be a piloting phase in 2020. Does the CIS want to be involved, be it by looking at demos or testing? Data migration from the old to the new FARS would be an important consideration, as are costs. Platforms being considered are Interfolio and Symplectic Elements. (Symplectic is now part of Digital Science, which is part of Holtzbrinck.) The CIS might set forth the functional requirements for any platform to replace the current FARS. Simultaneously changing the LMS and FARS platforms would create a burden on faculty. Simplicity and flexibility in the new FARS would be important. Should CIS take a recommendation to the Faculty Senate? What does the vendor of any FARS system do with the collected data is an important question. Interfolio does not pull in publication metadata, while Elements can. What information the new FARS makes public would have to be configurable, since the FARS database also contains information not for public consumption. The CIS Chair will give the DAA feedback on this CIS discussion and offer manageable involvement. It was noted that LMS reviewers who completed a semester-long pilot were compensated.

Grading: The in-progress/incomplete grading process was changed last year. Faculty can input final grades from an Incomplete easily, but are required to submit a Grade Change Form to update an In Progress grade. The website does not note this process, when faculty issue a temporary IP grade. This particularly affects faculty supervising multiple, multi-year theses/dissertation writers and internships. The CIS voted to request the Registrar to provide guidance and information to faculty on the change.. 

Upgraded Classrooms: The “Upgraded technology in classrooms” agenda item will be moved to the October meeting. Classrooms of the School of Communication and the College of Arts and Sciences are not managed by the library. Clarity is needed what classroom require what equipment. There is a problem with classrooms being reconfigured, to the surprise of the next faculty teaching there. A list of which classrooms are CAS-controlled would be useful; Stef will forward a list from Mike Piller.

Final Items: The library is currently setting up a “One Button Studio” on the lower level, to open within a month.

CIS members should send agenda items for future meetings to the Chair or the LISTSERV. The next two meetings are expected to be in the library. Please note the location on the agenda close to the meeting, since it may change, as was the case for this meeting.

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