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Planning & Budget: Technology

Meeting of the UWM Council on Information Technology

April 4, 2003

Attendance
Approval of the minutes
Accessibility in e-learning
New developments in IT projects
Course management system RFP
Budgeting for core services
SAP

Attendance

John Wanat, Allen Bell, Don Melkus, Darrell Radson representing Susan Kelly, Monica Rimai, Mary Roggeman, Erika Sander, Leslie Schulz, Greg Walz-Chojnacki, and ex-officio members Joe Douglas and Don Weil representing Mike Rupp, and guests Sue Weslow and David Stack (reporting)

Approval of the minutes

The minutes from the December 20, 2002 and February 17, 2003 CIT meetings were approved.

Accessibility in e-learning

A project report on UWM's efforts toward ensuring accessibility in e-learning environments was created by Betty Menacher at the request of Susan Kelly. It is posted on the CIO web site (see http://cfprod.imt.uwm.edu/dept/cio/admin/output.cfm?projectID=121). Erika Sander reported that the ADA advisory committee is continuing to explore the possibility of holding a roundtable.

New developments in IT projects

The OASIS upgrade to version 8 is on schedule with no major problems. A new web site will be published in mid-April for the purpose of distributing information about version 8 to students, faculty and staff.

The portal project has been hosting focus group sessions with students. The students have shown great enthusiasm.

UWM staff have participated in the APBS Conference Room Pilot process.

Course management system RFP

A systemwide task force has finished an RFP process for selecting a new course management system to replace Blackboard and WebCT. They chose Desire2Learn (www.desire2learn.com), which is also known as D2L. Contract negotiations are being finished this week. An implementation team is being formed at UW-Madison. The hosting of courses for the UW System institutions will move from dot.edu, which is located at UW-Milwaukee, to UW-Madison. UWM's courses will still be hosted at dot.edu, as will courses from institutions outside the UW System.

The Provost questioned whether UWM will be cut out of anything if its courses are hosted at dot.edu and not at UW-Madison. Joe Douglas does not believe this will be a problem. He expects that the bulk of the faculty training will be outsourced to dot.edu rather than conducted at the new hosting facility at UW-Madison, The collaborative Nursing and Criminal Justice programs will be hosted at UW-Madison, and students will be taken automatically to those servers when they access those courses.

The Provost also asked if UWM will be bearing any greater costs by hosting courses at dot.edu. Joe Douglas replied that there is a request for funding for UWM, but no current commitment. Other possibilities include dot.edu becoming a backup site for UW-Madison.

Erika Sander asked who from UWM would be on the implementation team. Joe Douglas replied that there would be representation from the LTC, dot.edu and I&MT. A steering committee is also being formed to govern the hosting effort on the UW-Madison campus. Joe expects to participate, along with provosts and business officers.

Don Melkus asked why UWM would want to be separate from the other UWS institutions. Joe Douglas allowed that UWM does have a choice to have courses at UW-Madison, but a degradation of service is expected in going that route. I&MT will be running the Desire2Learn software anyway under contract to dot.edu for their outside clients, and so there is no reason for UWM not to use it as well. There are no extra costs anticipated.

Joe Douglas noted that UW-Madison does not have great experience with the technology underlying Desire2Learn, and they haven't run an e-learning clustered environment before. They also don't have a great deal of experience, or the desire, to provide the faculty and student services that must necessarily surround the courses, e.g., help desk, training, instructional design and accessibility for those with disabilities.

The Provost said he believed there would be no additional cost or downside to running in parallel, at least in the short term. UWM would be spending money from UW System to support the Desire2Learn environment at UWM. Joe Douglas remarked that in a year UWM could switch to having its courses hosted at UW-Madison if their service proves robust.

The Provost announced that dot.edu will formally return to UWM from UW System Administration with no strings attached for any future revenues. No money will change hands because the details of finances and appointments, have always been handled at UWM.

Joe Douglas explained that dot.edu is completely a program revenue operation. UWM has provided them with in-kind support equal to the level of effort it was expending in e-learning in 1996-97 before dot.edu was on the scene.

The Provost posed the question of where dot.edu should exist in the hierarchy when it comes back to UWM. Erika Sander noted that at one time it was part of the LTC construct, which might again be the most logical place given the mission of the LTC. Compared to the rest of UW System, UWM has been at the cutting edge of e-learning from days of Mad Duck products until now. From the beginning, UWM has had good training and support services as well as the highest adoption rates.

Monica Rimai commented that dot.edu is a tidy operation with a smart business plan and a good contract template. It doesn't matter where they land from a support perspective. Darrell Radsen suggested that the issue is where dotedu's business plan would best fit within UWM. The Provost said that the CIT will look at the issue over the next month or so.

Monica Rimai would like to look at UW System's Desire2Learn license agreement before it is signed. She will talk with Chris Ashley in the UW System Legal Counsel. The UW System license will not directly impact dot.edu, because dot.edu tells their external clients they need to arrange a licensing agreement with the relearning software provider. But, the terms of the license are of interest to UWM to insure that there aren't provisions against dot.edu talking to its external clients about proprietary information, running a help desk, etc. Joe Douglas agreed there is a second contract to negotiate with D2L, but D2L is afraid to talk to with dot.edu about an application service provider (ASP) agreement until after the contract is signed with UW System. dot.edu also has ASP contracts with other vendors.

Budgeting for Core Services

Data is being gathered for the development of a campuswide technology plan in the September timeframe. The data is also being used to support the Provost's initiative for identifying a 10% reduction in technology expenditures campuswide. The total technology cuts proposed by the various campus units, including I&MT, in the recent budget exercise have come to about 10%. So, that issue is taken care of for now.

The OIT also had an assignment from the Provost to look for wiser uses of technology resources. The OIT has therefore been working on a reinvestment proposal. Meanwhile, the UTRs got together and wrote a memo and a set of policy proposals regarding core IT services. The three endeavors all emanate from the shared notion that providing core services on a campuswide basis would remove the burden and cost of delivering those services locally.

The UTR proposal was well received by the OIT. It contains a bit of "us versus them" language, but it is absolutely on the right track.

Meanwhile, Joe Douglas has been working on a reinvestment plan based upon the articles the Provost published in the UWM Report. Although there isn't going to be an influx of new money or people, the demand for technology services will undoubtedly continue. The challenge is to define and support core services with the current campus resources.

In addition to I&MT staff, there are some 92 people scattered around campus who are engaged in IT support roles. I&MT has a similar number of staff working in technology support. The challenge is to keep all of these people working on tasks that are important to the campus, instead of providing duplicate, local services. The UTR memo lists five or six possible core services, the OIT proposal lists more.

The campus has a severe "have versus have-not" situation that needs to be addressed. By pooling resources it should be possible to increase service for everyone. Another goal is to create a similar environment from classroom to classroom and from lab to lab for the sake of efficiency.

One way to approach these issues is through teamwork. I&MT is just one resource available to the OIT for forming campuswide teams that could work on developing, supporting and assessing campuswide core services. Meanwhile, student workers could do the routine, day-to-day chores, to free up the talented full-time staff. For example, the current help desk, which is staffed primarily by students, has cut down on interruptions of the I&MT permanent staff, and allowed for the recovery of some 30% of their time.

Distributed IT staff are often creating duplicate services in their respective units. As core services come online and obviate some of the duplication, these people will have the opportunity to serve on campuswide teams. The IT staff across campus will get more career development, training and opportunities to work on projects of global scope. The I&MT staff will also get exposed to people who are fleet of foot and used to solving things quickly.

Reaction to this proposal has been mixed. So far no group has strongly objected to it. There is a broad consensus within the UTRs, and across campus, that the way UWM acquires desktop hardware isn't optimal. Too many people are allowed to spend however much they want for whatever they want.

Over the last three years, campuswide expenditures for computers from all funds have gone up from $2.9M to $3.9M. In addition, a half million dollars of these purchases are made with credit cards, which go largely untracked.

There are about 6,000 computers on campus. In bulk, standard computers cost about $1,050, but those who don't buy via that mechanism often spend on the order of $1,500. This situation has resulted in the campus owning an $8M asset that isn't being effectively managed.

In response to this situation, a person has been charged to lead the first team to define a campuswide desktop hardware acquisition service in conjunction with the UTRs, There are many volunteers to serve on the team, which will be founded next week.

By increasing volume, or reusing monitors, the cost of new acquisitions could be reduced significantly over a four year cycle, which could represent a savings of $750K - 800K per year. The team will try to verify these numbers and define a service to actualize these savings. The savings could then be reinvested to provide hardware and software for the campus core services, in conjunction with team labor.

The Provost asked how this proposal would fit with the CAP program. Joe Douglas described the CAP program as a smaller version of this approach. In addition, part of the monies spent with Microsoft are for the upgrading of operating systems, which isn't necessary. If we buy some people new computers with new operating systems, their old computers can be given to those who have even older computers without spending any additional money with Microsoft. Student labor could be used to refurbish and upgrade computers at little cost. The key to managing the asset is to figure out the how to routinize the acquisition and upgrade schedule.

In addition, Star Office is being tested by the software testing class in Computer Science to see if it is a viable replacement for MicroSoft Office. They will write a report and submit it to Sun. Not every power user may be able to run Star Office, in which case they should have MicroSoft Office.

Don Melkus inquired about the impact of this proposal on the workload within Purchasing. Joe Douglas believes it will reduce the workload because a web site will be used to create fewer orders of bigger magnitude through one vendor with less paperwork. The aforementioned team would have to figure out how to handle exceptions in an expeditious fashion, and how to assess the success of the program.

The Provost observed that other core services on the list would probably not yield such large savings. Joe Douglas agreed that there would not be monetary savings, but the services could make people more efficient in doing their work, e.g., a common calendar, fewer email services, a perpetual user ID, etc. Some of the potential core services are currently offered through I&MT for a small fee, but a basic principle advocated by the UTRs is that core services should be free. In order to get the money to offer core services, there would need to be economy in purchasing the hardware.

Don Melkus inquired as to how the savings would be captured. Joe replied that he will be discussing this question with Mike Rupp. Don also noted that the disposal of used equipment is not inexpensive and recommended that John Krezoski be involved in the planning.

Allen Bell recalled that questions were raised by the ITPC, e.g., how will grant funding, startup packages and the need for non-standard computers for special purposes figure into this plan? The Provost believes there are not that many exceptions on campus and Joe Douglas said the working group will have to consider all these possibilities.

Since no one was objecting to the concept of a core service for purchasing computers, the Provost recommended that the OIT go ahead and take the next steps.

SAP

Darryl Radson asked about the status of the SBA SAP project which was mentioned in the minutes from the previous meeting. Joe Douglas referred him to the details in the status report on the CIO web page (http://cfprod.imt.uwm.edu/dept/cio/admin/output.cfm?projectID=166) and commented that it appears to be doing well and contributing financially to the School of Business.