101 BEST PRACTICES >> Connectivity

Edited By Mary Grush

ConnectivityNothing has changed the landscape of higher education IT more than connectivity. From “on-demand” services for our net-gen students and advanced eLearning systems for faculty, to high-performance computing grid resources for researchers, IT is now dishing out more networked services than ever to connect campus constituents to each other and to the world. Expectations from students, faculty, researchers, administrators, their professional communities, and the general public will only grow as IT leaders grapple with the challenges of providing distributed, secure, interoperable networked services for today’s connected campuses. On the next pages, we’ve highlighted some of the best examples of how campus IT is meeting the connectivity challenge.

33 :: WHAT D'ES WIRELESS CONNECTIVITY LOOK LIKE?

BALL STATE’s Shafer Tower

BALL STATE’s Shafer Tower became
part of a multisensory network experience.

Artists and IT managers at Ball State University (IN) collaborated this past spring on an interactive digital sculpture project depicting the school’s wireless network infrastructure in a multisensory experience, incorporating projection screens, cameras, computers, speakers, lights, and even the carillon bells in the campus’ Shafer Tower. The sights and sounds reacted to changes in network activity and traffic location as they happened, including the activity of local participants using their handheld 802.11g wireless devices to interact with the sculpture in real time. The digital sculpture will be recomposed and displayed permanently on a series of wall-mounted plasma screens; plans are to overlay real-time and historical data that illustrate the full spectrum of campus wireless traffic.More info here.

34 :: MULTI-INSTITUTION CONNECTIVITY

LSU’s Brian Voss

LSU’s Brian Voss

Louisiana State University CIO Brian Voss says that supercomputing is a priority at LSU: “One of the things we’re very focused on, because of the presence of Ed Seidel and the Center for Computation and Technology at LSU, is high-performance and grid computing for the advancement of science. And the LONI project—the Louisiana Optical Network Initiative—g'es beyond what we’re doing on our own campus. What differentiates it from many of its regional optical networking peers around the country is that LONI is not only a network; it is also a scientific grid computing environment. In addition to buying the fiber pathways, optical gear, and network switches to bring up LONI as a regional network, we’ve also purchased high-performance computing resources to distribute to state institutions so that we can use LONI to form a computational grid.” This plan will include six Dell server clusters running at 30 teraFLOPS. Adds Voss, “LSU is also a member of SURA, the Southeastern Universities Research Association. SURA has a project called the SURAgrid that allows member institutions to put computational assets or resources into a broader grid across the SURA community, to provide that resource to researchers working collaboratively within SURA. And that is moving forward at a rapid pace over the next few months.

“Both LONI and the SURAgrid are initiatives that help advance the collaborative nature of 21st-century science, and show how building IT infrastructure can really enable scientific advances that go beyond the borders of an individual lab or campus, or even, say, to a broader region,” he says. “And that fits well with our role in the national infrastructure in terms of our involvement with national high-performance networks such as National LambdaRail.” More info here.

35 :: P2P AND COLLABORATIVE LEARNING

Judith Boettcher reflected in her June 2006 eLearning column: “The P2P paradigm is not restricted to music sharing or moviemaking. Clearly, two key P2P features are fast becoming essential to the future of eLearning: instant communication between peers, and file sharing (which includes more control over content). Add in the growing culture of sharing and collaboration, and sprinkle with the continuing evolution of the faculty member into the role of producer and director, orchestrating learning from the sidelines. These are the elements of the eLearning experience we should be preparing and designing for. The relationship between faculty and students will continue to change, and adjusting our tools and systems to benefit, not collapse, from these changes is our challenge. Where P2P services will lead is yet unknown, but their future application to collaborative eLearning will no doubt hold surprises for us all.” More info here.

36 :: NEXT-GENERATION WIRELESS

At the University of Texas-Austin, Nortel is getting some expert advice on the development of tomorrow’s wireless technology. Through the university’s multidisciplinary Industrial Affiliates Program, students and professors are carrying out pre-competitive research on wireless technology. UT’s Wireless Networking and Communications Group, a research center within the department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, is working with Nortel and other wireless, software, and semiconductor company sponsors on research in such areas as propagation and antennas, modulation and coding, signal processing, sensor and ad-hoc networks, network security, and network architectures.

37 :: COLLABORATION VIA THE PORTAL AND BEYOND

Loyola Marymount University (CA) turned its SunGard Higher Education Luminis campus portal into a two-way web application to support document sharing and collaboration for the whole campus. By integrating Xythos Digital Locker applications within its portal, LMU is encouraging users to store all of their content in the portal, making it much easier to share with others. Single sign-on authentication and encrypted file transfer provide improved content security and compliance. The Xythos solution will also help support the university’s strategic initiative to increase its focus on research, because it provides web-based tools for securely sharing research-related materials among different organizations that connect via public networks such as the internet.

38 :: HANDHELDS IN THE FIELD

In New York City’s borough of The Bronx, Hostos Community College of CUNY students are taking their Palm Tungsten E2 PDAs to city parks, to study forest ecology. The devices are part of an initiative at the college that will introduce mobile technology into curricula across various disciplines, including mathematics, nursing, and biology. More info here.

39 :: HOW TO LIVEN UP THE CMS

One of the largest distance education programs in the world, with some 1,000 online courses offered annually, UMass-Online is moving to Horizon Wimba’s Live Classroom to support all live classes and meetings. The live virtual classrooms feature audio, video, application sharing, and content display. A seamless integration with Blackboard’s Vista Enterprise (UMassOnline’s course management system) was at the heart of the decision to use Live Classroom. Brian Douglas, chief technology officer and director of operations for UMassOnline, explains, “Through integration with Vista, we will enable faculty to use Live Classroom as they see fit for their programs and courses.” Horizon Wimba’s synchronous platform will support live interaction in many of UMassOnline’s professional programs, including the RN-BS in Nursing and other high-touch, highly interactive professional areas. More info here.

40 :: PARTNERING UP TO GET THE MESSAGE OUT

CCSN’s digital signage solution

CCSN’s digital signage solution
involved the combined effort of
several tech vendors.

The Community College of Southern Nevada is already one of the largest community colleges in the country, and it’s growing fast. With communication as a top issue, IT leaders are using video over IP in a simple, yet innovative way to get targeted messages out via large display monitors strategically placed throughout the main campus and in surrounding high schools in the Las Vegas area. The system is the result of a partnership among SunGard Higher Education, VBrick Systems, Brainstorm Networks, and Cisco Systems, blending technologies from those companies to create capabilities for streaming video in MPEG-2 and MPEG-4, video-on-demand, ticker information, and more. The Cisco Application and Content Networking System and VBrick Systems set-top boxes are used in combination with various sizes of wall-mounted LCD monitors.

41 :: BIG COMPUTERS SOLVE BIG PROBLEMS

STANFORD’s CEES Center

STANFORD’s CEES Center
tackles complex geologic
simulations and predictions.

This past June, Stanford University (CA) officially opened the Stanford Center for Computational Earth and Environmental Science, a research partnership among Stanford’s School of Earth Sciences and affiliates from the Stanford Computer Systems Laboratory, government, and private industry. The center will serve as a portal to computational geosciences, featuring access to CEES Grid, a powerful computational resource. The CEES Grid hardware is organized into three resource clusters connected by a 1GbE network to two Sun Microsystems V40z machines running Linux, a 10GbE network to a Sparc Cluster running Solaris 10, and an InfiniBand network to an AMD Opteron cluster comprised of 64 Sun V20z dual CPU nodes running Linux. The center will take on complex computational problems surrounding analysis, simulation, and prediction of geologic processes and systems, while working toward significant advances in relevant computing technologies.

The chief Silicon Valley partner, Sun Microsystems, contributed hardware, software, and program support for a new High Productivity Technical Computing Center (one of three thematic units at CEES). Sun donations for CEES have amounted to $3 million in hardware and cash. A major affiliate, Cisco Systems, contributed $250,000.

Says Stanford President John Hennessy, “If you want to solve big problems—important, critical problems to human society and to our environment—you need big computers.” More info here.

42 :: DEVICES AND NETWORK ACCESS

CMU

CAMPUSWIDE network access
control saves the day at CMU.

For the IT staff of Central Michigan University, the threetimes- a-year crush of students, faculty, and staff returning to campus is now little more than another day at the office. Instead of a semester-long backlog of work orders created by opportunistic viruses and lack of usage policy enforcement, CMU enjoys the order and automated security that comes from campuswide network access control.

CMU implemented Bradford Networks’ Campus Manager, an out-of-band NAC solution that manages, secures, and controls all devices accessing the network while enforcing network registration and authentication policies. The system automatically pinpoints and isolates problem users (correlating users to systems via their MAC addresses) to enforce campus usage policies and to mitigate the introduction of viruses onto the network. Problem users and their machines are quarantined in an isolation VLAN, notified via e-mail, and given directions to have their network access restored without calling the help desk.

Last year, to prevent the propagation of the Nachi and Blaster worms, for three months one staffer did nothing but port activations/reactivations, traveling to dorms and wiring closets to manually drive the viruses from the network. But that’s all changed with the new system. Network Manager Mark Strandskov remarks on the difference: “This fall went smoothly. Two weeks into the term we were dealing with two pages of work orders; less than a dozen cases in all.”

43 :: ‘ON-DEMAND’ DEMAND

NEU’s Bob Weir

NEU’s Bob Weir

Northeastern University (MA) VP of Information Services Bob Weir sees a growing trend in higher ed toward “ondemand” services.

“Incoming freshmen, born in 1988, have never known life without PCs or the net. To be relevant, higher ed must reflect the real world…an ‘on-demand’ world,” he says. In that world, “all course-related software is available to faculty and students anytime, anywhere, potentially eliminating the need for computer labs. Students become knowledge manipulators and generators: Faculty can expand assignments to focus on experiential versus rote learning.” More info here.

 

44 :: CONNECT TO YOUR LOYAL FANS

SCHOOL SPIRIT

SCHOOL SPIRIT comes
to the cell phone.

At many institutions, fight songs are now playing all over campus: on the quad, on the bus, in the cafeteria, and sometimes (though not ideal) even in class. Just about any place you’d find a cellular phone, you can hear a school’s fight song in all of its rah-rah glory. Thanks to a new and lucrative form of content delivery, the songs actually come from the phones themselves, as special polyphonic ring tones that students can purchase, program to replace the phone’s traditional ring, and play every time they receive a call. And at the University of Pittsburgh (PA), school spirit is more than just a song: The school recently signed a deal with Collegiate Images to offer a variety of logos and other images for users to install on their phones as wallpaper. In some cases, trailblazing schools are also inking mammoth licensing agreements for anything and everything: sports scores via text messaging, breaking news updates, sales on merchandise, and more. Though these latter deals are rare right now, Mike Merrill, chairman and CEO of content provider Smartphones Technologies, says they are becoming increasingly common, and the sky’s the limit for what happens next. More info here.

45 :: REACTING TO SECURITY BREACHES

What can endanger connectivity more than a security breach? The break-in to an administrative database at the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas-Austin this past spring may have compromised the personal data of a very large number of individuals (about 197,000 database records, according to media reports). CT asked UT-Austin’s VP of IT Dan Updegrove, What are some of the key steps in the process of reacting to such a breach? “Several processes should be engaged immediately: (1) Contact the institution’s Information Security Office (if they were not the ones who discovered the problem) so their technical expertise and incident response protocols can be engaged immediately. The incident response plan should include not only forensic analysis of data, systems, and networks, but also communication with executive management, law enforcement, legal affairs, and public affairs. (2) Unless advised otherwise by ISO, take the vulnerable/ breached machine off the network. Under certain circumstances it may be advisable to keep the host on the network to enable ongoing investigation of the intrusion’s source, in which case special precautions must be taken to protect data on the machine. One approach: Replace institutional data with a bogus dataset that may serve as a ‘honey pot’ to keep the intruder engaged while the ISO and/or law enforcement track the rogue activities. (3) Take immediate steps to avoid deletion of system and network logs, which can be immensely valuable for determining not only the source of the break-in, but also what damage has been done and what data may have been exposed or tampered with. Since such analysis in a complex case can take weeks, logs cannot be allowed to expire according to a routine schedule measured in days.” More info here.

46 :: MISSION-CRITICAL CONNECTIVITY

At the New York University School of Medicine, high-definition videoconferencing is a necessity, not a luxury. The teaching hospital has built three fully HD-enabled operating rooms, incorporating Sony videoconferencing systems and an IP network. The operating rooms, a guest viewing area, a conference room, and a physician’s office are connected with Sony’s IPELA visual communications technology. The equipment is used not only in the teaching practice at NYU and for distance learning, but also to streamline and improve procedures: “I can even watch the preparations being made for surgery [from my office],” comments Dr. Stephen Colvin, chairman of cardiothoracic surgery at NYU.

47 :: SUPPORT SERVICES TO KEEP STUDENTS CONNECTED

LINDA THOR at Rio Salado

LINDA THOR at Rio Salado

President Linda Thor on what makes Rio Salado College (AZ) successful in serving some 45,000 credit and 15,000 non-credit students each year, as a non-campus college: “While we are seeing a rush of virtually all higher education institutions to get into online learning, simply putting a class online d'es not get the job done. What we believe leads to our success—and we enjoy about an 80 to 85 percent retention of our online learners—is the support services we have in place, and our systems approach in dealing with the online learner. You can’t expect a faculty member to put a course online and then be able to meet all of the students’ needs for tutoring, advising, testing, and logistical questions. You’ve got to have the entire college positioned to support that online learner.”More info here.

48 :: STATEWIDE VIDEO NETWORKING

In the state of Arkansas, higher ed institutions, along with K-12 and other public entities, have a distinct advantage when it comes to video networking. Although Arkansas is not a wealthy state—the 10th poorest in the country, according to the US Census Bureau—the state’s Department of Information Systems has built a statewide video network called VNET that offers high-quality, cost-effective interactive videoconferencing to rival IP video services almost anywhere. The centralized IP network is based on AT&T services and technology. Max Kolstad, manager of video services at DIS, comments, “AT&T has the resources to develop innovations that enable users to get the most from videoconferencing. We get a big R&D benefit that d'esn’t add to the state’s network cost. I think that’s one of the reasons the network works as well as it d'es.”

49 :: ENTERPRISE-WIDE EDUCATION PROGRAMMING

Sonic Foundry’s Mediasite Rich Media Server software andML series recorders.

Sonic Foundry’s Mediasite Rich
Media Server software and ML
series recorders.

East Carolina University (NC) is ramping up lecture capture and delivery with Sonic Foundry’s Mediasite Rich Media Server software and ML series recorders. ECU’s Global Classroom Video Producer Emily Jones now uses Mediasite to capture 40 recordings per week within multiple colleges across the campus. With 17 recorders and three servers, ECU webcasts more than 530 hours of classroom content per semester—but that’s expected to double over the next six months. For the next phase of Mediasite deployment, the university plans to start with an installation of 16 new units in its Allied Health Sciences facility—and it is working on plans for additional units to be placed around the campus.

50 :: CELL PHONES BUILD COMMUNITY

At Baruch College in New York City (one of 10 senior colleges of The City University of New York), CIO Arthur Downing is working with Rave Wireless to supply students with cell-phone-accessible applications for academic-oriented uses. Downing explains that although the school’s 15,000 students have good access to computers on campus, and wireless coverage is fairly pervasive, students wanted more. “Rather than [adding more computer] labs and kiosks, we wanted an easier way to get our web-based applications to them.

“We don’t have a wealthy student body,” Downing says, and most students don’t carry a laptop or PDA. And since all Baruch’s students commute, spending less time on campus than conventional students, there’s little time to connect with others or take advantage of university services. “So, right now anyway, our [cell phone] applications are meant to help them use their time between classes most efficiently,” he says. “We’re trying to build a sense of community.”

Rave Wireless’ software allows the school to deliver academic information to virtually any cell phone. The applications also allow students to use cell phones to check on the availability of loaner laptops and study rooms, and students can join cell phone “channels” to correspond with students of similar interests. They can receive text message alerts about class changes or cancellations—crucial news for Baruch’s commuter students. For example, Downing notes, during New York City’s recent transportation strike, the cell phone service would have been an invaluable way to immediately reach all students with schedule changes or other updates. More info here.

51 :: WHEN CONNECTIVITY ISN’T ENOUGH

Just having connectivity to learning resources is not enough to guarantee effective use of those resources. Lorie Roth, assistant vice chancellor for academic programs at the California State University Office of the Chancellor, speaks out about the need for improved information literacy: “For two decades, 51 US newspapers and magazines have featured articles about new technologies; the information explosion, information overload, and information illiterates. They frequently report on students’ (and some professors’) egregious lapses of integrity and judgment in dealing with information. By comparison, the higher education establishment has been relatively feeble in its attempt to raise awareness of and adapt to the shifting demands of the information age. Due to the advance of the dot-coms, dot-orgs, dot-govs, and dotedus, what students learn and how they learn will have to be reconceived.”

So in addition to making an investment in the teaching and learning infrastructure, CSU attempted to find an assessment that would measure students’ information literacy skills, says Roth. “Our most recent [work] has been a collaboration with the Educational Testing Service and several other universities, including UCLA, the University of Washington, Purdue University (IN), Portland State University (OR), and the University of Memphis (TN). This assessment, called the ‘ICT Literacy Assessment’ [ICT stands for information and communications technology], is an online, scenario-based simulation that asks students to perform real-life information tasks. Skills assessed include the ability to use basic tools such as word processing and spreadsheets and, most importantly, higher-order cognitive skills such as retrieving and evaluating information resources and the ethical use of information.” More info here.

52 :: UBIQUITOUS WIRELESS COVERAGE

STEALTHY ANTENNAS at Notre Dame

STEALTHY ANTENNAS at
Notre Dame provide wireless
coverage without compromising
campus vistas.

Early versions of cellular data service were so slow as to be practically useless, but this is changing. Current offerings provide end-user bandwidth of 300 Kbps to 1.2 Mbps downstream (much superior to a modem and nearly as good as DSL). The key advantages of this technology, from a campus perspective, are that it is already quite pervasive (similar to cell phone coverage), no campus support is required, and there is little or no start-up cost. The primary downside is the fact that you are limited to whatever coverage your carrier’s network provides.

Dewitt Latimer, deputy CIO and chief technology officer at the University of Notre Dame (IN), overcame this last problem by inviting cellular providers to participate in a carrierneutral distributed signal system. Cell providers had been itching to get into the university’s athletic venues, but Notre Dame has a strict policy against cell towers on campus property. The new system places 16 mini cell sites across campus (including classroom buildings and dorms) with “stealthy” antennas (camouflaged to look like lamp posts or other common tall objects). A third-party vendor, NextG Networks, maintains the system and negotiates and coordinates with the carriers. Notre Dame supplied some dark fiber to interconnect the mini cell sites and is compensated for space it provides to house the vendors’ equipment. www.campus-technology.com/article.asp?id=19106 More info here.

53 :: NETWORKING TO SECURE NETWORKS

CISO Brian Nichols

CISO Brian Nichols

To keep connectivity alive and well on your campus, share information suggests Brian Nichols, Louisiana State University CISO. As a member of the Educause/Internet2 Computer and Network Security Task Force, Nichols is active in community efforts to improve overall security in higher ed. “Part of becoming a member of this community is giving back as you’re taking from it,” he says. “One way to share information is to join an Information Sharing and Analysis Center [ISAC]. ISACs provide a means to obtain information from reliable sources, report anonymously, and obtain expertise. The REN-ISAC [Researching and Education Networking ISAC] at Indiana University’s Global Research Network Operations Center is an effort to improve network security in higher ed. By ‘linking up’ with an ISAC, you’re no longer in the deep end by yourself.” More info here.

54 :: GOOGLE AS CONNECTIVITY CONDUIT

In February 2006, Google unveiled its beta of a Gmail-hosted e-mail service that allows organizations to keep their own domains. The idea, of course, is to leverage the hosted services to avoid some of the resource allocations and costs of running onsite systems. By August, the company expanded on the idea by offering a broader range of communications applications. Besides Gmail, Google Apps for Your Domain currently includes the Google Talk instant messaging and voice calling service, Google Calendar for collaborative calendaring, and Google Page Creator for web page design, publishing, and hosting. The apps are available free to approved education beta users, through Google Apps for Education.

San Jose City College (CA) is among the institutions already using Google Apps for Education, citing easy implementation and student familiarity with Google software. And in October, Arizona State University made the first large-scale deployment, creating 65,000 new “Gmail for ASU” accounts at the rate of 300 per hour. More info here.

55 :: KEEP CONNECTIVITY SURGING

A MONITORING solution from Neon Software manages bandwidth to keep Carnegie Mellon’s network traffic flowing—and CM students connected.

A MONITORING solution from Neon
Software manages bandwidth to keep
Carnegie Mellon’s network traffic flowing
- and CM students connected.

Carnegie Mellon University (PA) Network Manager for Electrical and Computer Engineering Lou Anschuetz has an easier way to monitor network activity in real time, as well as document trends. Neon Software’s CyberGauge 7.0 allows network administrators to monitor and manage network bandwidth by automatically creating real-time utilization graphs as well as daily, weekly, and monthly quality of service (QoS) and billing reports. “We who do networking want to know what the historical bandwidth usage is on interfaces,” explains Anschuetz. “In the past, a number of scripts were used to poll the network devices and get that data. You had to do a lot of manual, time-consuming configuration. [With this software], configuration amounts to typing in the password to access network devices, and then just picking from a list which interfaces with the device to monitor.”

56 :: CONNECTING DISCIPLINES TO SUPERCOMPUTING POWER

IU’s Michael McRobbie

IU’s Michael McRobbie

In April, Indiana University announced its acquisition of “Big Red,” a supercomputing system since proven to be the fastest owned and operated by a US university, and the 23rd-fastest supercomputer in the world, as noted in the recently released Top500. Michael McRobbie, interim provost and VP for academic affairs at IU-Bloomington, says the system gives IU scientists and researchers “the best cyber infrastructure at any university in the US, if not worldwide.” The supercomputer, boasting a peak theoretical capability of 20.4 teraFLOPS, is an e1350 BladeCenter Cluster based on IBM’s latest technology, paired with over 1 petabyte of high-speed disk storage and an additional petabyte of tape.

Major funding comes from the Indiana Metabolomics and Cytomics Initiative, or METACyt, which is funded by a $53 million grant from the Lilly Endowment, and from the National Science Foundation. While the investments represent a big first step in IU’s new Life Sciences Strategic Plan, there’s a lot of supercomputing power that will be accessed by researchers in numerous disciplines, leveraging a services model for advanced research computing. A few of the broad discipline areas to be served include astronomy, informatics, computational physics, and the humanities. The system will also connect to global research networks and play a role in TeraGrid, NSF’s flagship effort to create an advanced national cyber infrastructure. More info here.

57 :: DISPARATE APPS CAN BE CONNECTED

At Rice University (TX), researchers are collaborating with IBM on the development of an openstandards- based, service-oriented architecture (SOA) that will ultimately tie diverse types of academic software applications together. Says Kamran Khan, vice provost for IT: “Discrete, open source applications such as courseware management systems, digital libraries, and content commons are becoming central to the life of a university. It is important to tie these standalone applications together into a more coherent whole.” IBM donated BladeCenter hardware technology, software for an SOA platform, and related services, for a total grant valued at $700,000. Rice will provide a working demonstration environment that already includes implementations of Sakai, DSpace, and Rice’s own Connexions software. Connexions founder Richard Baraniuk comments, “Fusing Sakai, Connexions, and DSpace will make it easy for large and small institutions to get involved in this important movement.”

58 :: VULNERABILITY SCANNING

When it comes to network vulnerability scanners, know your tools and clarify your goals—or be sorry later, asserts CT columnist Doug Gale. Just detecting the vulnerabilities on your campus isn’t enough to protect ongoing network connectivity. The results of the vulnerability scan must be centrally organized into some kind of report that prioritizes the problems found and identifies remedial action. One of the advantages of commercial products is that they usually include sophisticated report writers— extremely valuable in environments (like higher ed) that include tens of thousands of nodes.

The good news for colleges and universities using open source scanners is that the National Institute of Standards and Technology maintains the National Vulnerability Database that integrates all publicly available US government vulnerability resources and provides references to industry resources. The NVD is updated on an hourly basis on business days, and is based on and synchronized with the Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures naming standard. Another resource: Cassandra (cassandra. cerias.purdue.edu), operated by Purdue University’s (IN) Center for Education and Research in Information Assurance and Security. Cassandra uses the NVD database to provide customized e-mail notifications of vulnerabilities. More info here.

59 :: INTERACTIVE KIOSK RESEARCH

Smart Technologies and the FedEx Institute of Technology at the University of Memphis (TN) are collaborating in a research project called the Memphis Intelligent Kiosk Initiative, to investigate the preferred and most efficient forms of human interaction with information kiosks. Across the campus, Smart’s Actalyst interactive overlays fasten over large flat-panel kiosk displays to offer a touch-enabled interface; a camera and speech-recognition system allow the kiosks to identify approaching users and interact with them verbally. Researchers are studying kiosk recordings to determine how visitors access information. More info here.

60 :: CONNECTING STUDENTS TO SUCCESS

ePortaro’s online portfolio system

ePortaro’s online portfolio system

Social networking sites such as Friendster, Tribe, Facebook, and MySpace have collectively linked millions of individuals in ever-expanding circles, based on common interests and self-describing profiles. Columbia College Chicago hopes to tap into students’ yearning for such networking, and strengthen it with the kind of content that only a college community can provide. The institution will be using ePortaro’s online portfolio system—custom integrated with the school’s Jenzabar student information and portal software—to provide ways for students to display their talents for the benefit of potential student co-collaborators and also for potential future employers. Jenzabar’s student system will handle authentication of students and verification of academic data about students, such as their majors and course enrollment. More info here.

61 :: STUDENTS CONNECT 24/7

The 6 and 7 of 24/7 are critical to many students’ success, as are the hours after 5 p.m. Cary Israel, president of the Collin County Community College District (TX), notes, “Many students have full-time jobs and are students outside ‘8 to 5’ only.” CCCCD has a Weekend College program, allowing students to take a full load of classes on the weekend, and those students, especially, need around-the-clock access to many campus resources and services via the web.

Besides accessing distance learning courses online, students can utilize such online services as admissions and registration, tutoring and writing labs, grades and transcripts, and bookstore and library resources, all optimized for student success. Israel adds, “Learners reach their intellectual peaks at various times, and they have a better chance of meeting their goals with 24/7 access. By being flexible and eliminating time and space barriers, we enable our students to participate and, ultimately, to succeed.”

62 :: SECURING THE PERIMETER

Nothing can stop connectivity cold faster than an internet security violation. At George Washington University (DC), technologists implemented a technology from Reconnex to ensure that certain internet traf- fic complies with federal privacy regulations laid out in the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999. The tool, dubbed iGuard, sits on the network perimeter and scans all outgoing web traffic for sensitive files or data that could violate the law. The tool searches e-mails for sensitive information such as Social Security and credit card numbers. If the device identifies something that violates campus policy, it blocks the message and notifies the sender immediately.

Amy Hennings, assistant director of information security, says iGuard has become the school’s primary defense against identity theft. Though skeptics have questioned whether the school is invading the very privacy it’s trying to protect, Hennings’ team is working to fight this perception. “We want to make sure that everyone knows we’re not interested in reading their e-mails,” she says. “We just want to make sure all of the e-mails satisfy compliance requirements.” More info here.

63 :: CYBER INFRASTRUCTURE IS BURGEONING…

…and services connected through that infrastructure will bring benefits for education and research. Krishna P.C. Madhavan, a research scientist for the Rosen Center for Advanced Computing at Purdue University (IN), reflects: “Top-notch models of central IT support for research and learning have emerged at US universities. Centralized consolidation of IT services (such as storage, network, computational power, software support, and security) is the new paradigm. Such central services allow researchers and educators to focus on an institution’s dual mission of research and education. Time and space are now referred to as ‘anytime, anywhere.’ The maturity of IT services has led to mobility, social networking, and the ability to contribute to one’s field more easily than ever.” Yet very large, growing, centrally supported systems have their challenges, as Steve Acker, director of special projects at The Ohio State University points out: “About two years ago, OSU moved from a campus version of WebCT to an enterprise version of Desire2Learn. Although the central server infrastructure, access to network bandwidth, and security have supported a rapid increase in use of the eLearning system, size comes with its own set of costs. For example, the migration process took us approximately 18 months.” More info here.

64 :: GRAPHICAL AUTHENTICATION

There is an alternative to old-fashioned, username-and-password security. The Engineering department at California State University-Chico has deployed AuthGard, a system from Authernative that provides knowledge-based (“what the user knows”) strong authentication for web logins. The key authentication factor is graphicsbased, offering higher levels of security while making the user’s experience easier and more engaging. Instead of a textbased password, users select a “passline”—a series of positions plotted on a grid on which each position is represented by a number that the system changes with every login. The passline forms a shape that’s both easy for the user to remember and extremely difficult to hack. Each time the user logs in, the numbers representing the memorized shape have changed, and the system can add yet another level of security by asking only for specific parts of the passline to be transmitted as a login (a different request each time).

65 :: WHAT IS PRIVACY IN A CONNECTED WORLD?

A principal analyst for identity and privacy strategies at the Burton Group, Bob Blakley gave a talk this past September at Digital ID World in Santa Clara, CA, titled, “What is Privacy, Really?” In a separate interview, CT logged Blakley’s comments relative to privacy and technology: “Conventionally, people think of privacy in terms of secrecy. They think that privacy means the obligation to protect information that we have observed, maybe in the course of our job, about other people. There’s another part of privacy that we don’t speak of so often—which is equally important, or perhaps more important— and that is our obligation not to pry into other people’s affairs; to avert our eyes or close our ears if we come across something that is obviously private. And our obligation as a society is to censure people who don’t fulfill that obligation, because that kind of behavior—voyeurism and gossip—is destructive to civil society. There may be a way to construct a right to privacy on these grounds, if it continues to be the case that lots of private information is exposed.” More info here.

66 :: GOOGLE GHOSTS

Staff at the Office of News and Information at the University of Washington in Seattle were surprised when they received a barrage of responses to older press releases they had issued as far back as 1997. It seems that the Google spider crawled not just their main news page, but also some of the subsidiary pages, without sensing the correct creation date of each news story; older releases were being picked up by internet searchers as freshly indexed stories via Google News. Bob Roseth, UW’s director of news and information, advises, “Recognize that some aggregators are probably going to get it wrong at some point. Be vigilant, identify the problems quickly, and move swiftly to minimize them.” More info here.

67 :: CONNECTING TO CAMPUS INFO

This past January, to provide students with a steady stream of vital information, St. John’s University (NY) installed five 46-inch LCD displays from NEC in the Queens campus’ student center, cafeteria, residential students’ dining hall, library, and on the school’s Staten Island campus. The digital signage now notifies students of emergencies or schedule changes; promotes special campus and community events and broadcasts them via live video feed; displays student information, services, location maps, registration dates, and other campus information; promotes athletic events and schedules; and more. St. John’s manages all digital signage content internally; proposed messaging is submitted to a team of campus web desigers, then reworked to give everything a consistently branded look and feel. Content is refreshed daily to ensure it continually attracts students’ attention.

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