Dr. Sam Levy reviews results and describes future plans for Information Resources and Technologies

During the fall semester, I described in a Bulletin article a number of planning activities for information technologies grounded in the framework of the university’s strategic directions.  As we start the new semester, I return with an overview of results to date, and a description of the next steps in our work.  It is important to reiterate that even as we enjoy the benefits provided by information technologies, the technologies’ value lies in being a means to an end rather than an end in itself.  That end is to enable our mission across all disciplines and activities — in the classroom, on campus, on the Internet and in our support services.

Technology and online learning

The work of Information Resources and Technologies is guided in this area by a central question:  How do our faculty, students and staff want to employ information technologies in support of their work?

Academic Affairs and Information Resources and Technologies (IRT) have launched an initiative aimed at gathering information and formulating recommendations related to the use of technology to support teaching and learning at UST. The Learning Architecture Planning Initiative (LAPI) will seek to define the needs of online and classroom-based courses, access to networks, and recommend policies and infrastructure that will enable the university to move forward strategically.  A recent Bulletin article by Paul Wieser issued a call for participation, and he will outline the structure of the initiative in an upcoming article.

Dr. Joe Kreitzer, associate vice president for Academic Affairs, will chair a steering committee.  Several forums and other functions will be held to elicit the community’s ideas.  The committee will draft initial recommendations in March, and seek comments before finalizing the recommendations in May.

We have moved quickly to address issues in support of online learning, including the selection of a new course management system (see under Enterprise Systems below).

Technology and organizational structure

The strategic initiative on this topic commits the University of St. Thomas "to providing the highest level of quality information resources, technology and instructional media in support of teaching and learning and the administrative functions of the institution. To that end it will:

  • Create a new organizational structure that builds upon the competencies of existing departments, specifically Instructional Support Services, Computing and Communication Services and the Libraries, and realigns their services into a stronger whole;
  • Commit to the purchase and installation of a new comprehensive administrative computing system."

By the end of the academic year, IRT will be realigned into three divisions: 

  • Client Services
  • Libraries and Information Resources
  • Information Technologies

There are many areas of collaboration and interaction among the three divisions in managing our information resources and technologies across the university.  Consistent with the ongoing reorganization, and following review and approval by the EVP Cabinet and Affirmative Action Committee, Linda Halverson has accepted an appointment as associate vice president for IRT and director, Client Services.

Client services

The critical importance of client services and information technologies access is at the center of the realignment of our existing departments under Information Resources and Technologies.  IRT Client Services will provide a single point of presence for accessing academic and administrative technology support services — in person, online, or by phone — and the complex coordination, cross-training and support, and knowledge management essential to success.

Based on feedback from the UST community about needs for unified services and support, the Client Services reorganization blends ISS Classroom Services, ISS Learning Center, CCS Technical Services and CCS User Services into one division. 

Client Services will be located in Foley Theater in St. Paul and at the Scholars location in Minneapolis.  Client Services also will support two cybercafes — in the basement lounge at O’Shaughnessy-Frey Library Center and at Scholars in Minneapolis.  These locations will feature workstations for quick access to e-mail and the Web, and self-service beverages.  Support for the cybercafes has come through the Strategic Planning process.  The locations are planned for openings during spring semester.

Libraries and Information Resources

We are realigning together those who have responsibilities for information resources creation, maintenance and distribution. The Libraries and Information Resources division includes those who support instruction, manage the UST Webs, and create media for instruction and other support functions. The UST Libraries staff will bring their expertise in the organization and management of information together with Instructional and Institutional Web Teams. The Web Teams have been formed from the ISS Center for Multimedia Development, Web Campus, CCS Web Developers, and UST’s Information Architect. Lisa Burke-Marose and Rosann Cahill will assume interim leadership responsibilities for the Web Team. The division also will integrate the work of AV Services with colleagues in other areas working on digital video and graphic design.

Though independent organizationally, the Libraries and Information Resources teams share joint responsibilities for content management and support for students and faculty in the effective use of information resources and media.  Librarians and Information Resources teams will work together to make instructional electronic resources an integral part of teaching and learning at St. Thomas.  In addition, staff from these areas will cooperate to develop organizational structures for the institutional Web pages that will add value and meaning to the resources available to the UST community.  Initially, this collaboration will focus on the implementation of the new course management system, described below.  Other collaborative activities will include online interactive reference services, portal development and the selection and implementation of content management systems to assist in the organization of Web-based information resources.  

Information Technologies

The IT division manages our networks, servers, application software and database-management software.  Following a search process last fall, Wayne Paske was selected as UST’s director of Information Services.  A UST alumnus, he has held a number of leadership positions in private sector information technology organizations, most recently as director of information planning and administration at Fairview Health Systems.

Major projects ongoing in IT this semester will include a new directory structure, upgrade to Outlook 2000, new security features, completion of the imaging systems, and other projects.  None is more important institutionwide than the Enterprise Systems project. 

Enterprise Systems

Our work on updating our administrative and academic information systems and resources is proceeding.  Enterprise systems, as these integrated functions have come to be known, represent a great opportunity — and challenge — for the university community.

We will move forward to replace those systems with our current provider, SCT, and upgrade other current resources such as UST’s Diebold systems for housing and smart card systems.  SCT will join us in upgrading the current IA Plus systems to SCT Banner, the most widely deployed university administrative systems.  The Banner system modules will include advancement, human resources, finance, student information systems, financial aid and a number of other functional area modules.  The modules also feature new reporting and Web access components that will increase our management and self-service options significantly.  The SCT systems will reside on a single integrated database management system provided by Oracle.

The Banner system will be integrated with a new course-management system.  Following presentations and workshops by the three leading vendors in this field (Blackboard, WebCT, and Prometheus), a committee of faculty, students and staff has recommended adoption of Blackboard.  We expect to begin limited piloting of course development on Blackboard during spring semester.  Full implementation, including migration of current WebCT courses, will be completed by Fall 2002.  An extensive workshop schedule is planned for spring.

We turned our attention last fall to a number of interrelated initiatives and processes:

  • Upgrade of network services through increased bandwidth to the Internet, redundancy of our connections to our Internet service providers, upgrade of our networking hardware univ
    ersitywide, and a new telephone switching system.
  • Moving ahead immediately with UST’s Enterprise Project by:
  • Appointment of Randy Sauter as project director of the Enterprise Systems Project.
  • Appointment of executive sponsors for the major modules of the new enterprise systems:  student information systems, human resources systems, advancement, and finance systems.
  • Appointment of our Enterprise Project Steering Committee that will begin its work in January.
  • Universitywide engagement in the re-design of our business processes and workflows this spring.
  • Mapping process re-design with similar activities for: 1) NCA accreditation, 2) Strategic Planning, 3) UST’s Learning Architecture Planning Initiative.

In upcoming issues of Bulletin Today, several of our colleagues leading key initiatives for IRT will describe their projects:

  • Paul Wieser on the Learning Architecture Planning Initiative
  • Linda Halverson on Client Services
  • Dan Gjelten, Janice Kragness and Mary Martin on the work and plans of our Libraries
  • Lisa Burke-Marose and Rosann Cahill on the Web and course management systems
  • Randy Sauter and Wayne Paske on Enterprise Systems
  • John Burke on Networks and Servers

What is most important as we begin these undertakings is a deliberative approach to decisions and the enthusiastic and determined participation of the university community as we create new resources for teaching, learning, and research and re-design our processes for efficient and effective business services.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email