College Committees – Academic Computing – End of Year Report
Members: Erin Dick, Inkyu Kang, Wen-Li Wang, Thomas Rossi, Scott Mcauley, Boon (Amos) Ong, Thomas Rossi, Safinaz Elhadary (student representative) Chair: Chuck Yeung
Ex Officio Members: Shawn Alexander, Todd Say, Jim Serafin, Matthew Ciszek
The committee met twice during the fall 2019 semester and twice during the spring 2020 semester. We reviewed the charges issued to the committee by the Penn State Behrend Faculty Senate and identified charges for 2020-2021. Our responses to the charges are:
Charge 1: Review the faculty/staff survey taken by ACC the last academic year and make a list of prioritized actionable items for Behrend Information Technology Services (BITS).
The committee thoroughly reviewed the results of the faculty/staff survey of Behrend computing resources taken in the spring of 2019 and identified the following common issues:
- Login speed and program loading speed were the main concerns of the faculty.
BITS informed the committee that significant improvements were made over the summer of 2019 to decrease login and program loading times. This included new hardware and a reduction in the amount of data loaded from University Park during login. Efforts were also made to inform heavy users of how to reduce login time. BITS reported that there was a significant reduction in complaints regarding login times this academic year.
BITS has also identified machine/software configurations that minimize login times and are in the process of replacing classroom podium machines as budget allows.
The committee recommends that the level of complaints regarding login and program loading times continue to be monitored and that another survey of computing resources be taken in the future (although not necessarily this coming year).
- Faculty and students report reliability and speed issues with Remote Lab.
BITS installed new GPU cards in some of the Remote Lab servers for better speed for CPU-intensive applications. BITS also informed the committee that the University is transitioning to a Remote Desktop model in which users log in to individual laboratory machines rather than a few Remote Lab servers. Remote Desktop was implemented in mid-March and committee members report that the model has worked well so far.
Charge 2: Identify ways to make Academic Computing-related training more accessible.
The committee concluded that there is enough training available although what training would be most useful should be revisited in light of the online experience this semester. The main issue was that faculty/staff were not aware of available training since mass emails are typically ignored. The committee identified several ways to publicize the available training:
- Identify training that would be most relevant to faculty at the different schools and have the school representatives on the committee publicize the training at meeting held by each School at the beginning of the academic year. (It appears that in the electronic age, word of mouth is still sometimes the most effective.)
- Periodically identify relevant training that committee members can publicize at department meetings. Notify department chairs so that they publicize relevant training at meetings.
- Work with relevant school committees (such as the H&SS Digital Resource Committee) to publicize training.
- Give the training more detailed titles to make them more attractive to faculty.
- BITS is redoing the college help page to include separate help pages for different software packages. Links will be included for specific training requests.
- Make short training videos available on the help pages.
- The committee is preparing a survey of faculty regarding their online experience/issues. The survey will be issued soon after the end of the semester.
Charge 3: Comprehensive look at computer lab use across campus from a faculty perspective.
This report was completed and forwarded to Ken Miller and Pam Silver in January. BITS has made changes based on the report.
Charge 4: Increase awareness of cyber threats across campus.
The committee reviewed present programs to publicize awareness of cyber threats. BITS also reported that there will new defaults for Zoom that will require meeting attendees to be authorized Penn State users. BITS will also investigate how Zoom can integrate with Canvas.
Submitted: May 7, 2020