University technology workgroup discusses redundancies

Cassie Buchman, News Editor

Getting data on what software and technological programs could be improved, made more efficient, consolidated, or outsourced was discussed at Workgroup no. 2’s meeting on Monday.

Workgroup no. 2 is the subcommittee in the vitalization project that focuses on university technology.

Biology professor Billy Hung said the group is planning on talking to specific groups that use technology on campus, such as housing and dining, ITS, CATS, Health Service, the Booth Library and Student Disability Service.

The group is also planning on sending out a campus-wide survey.

“Right now, we are thinking of possible topics we will address after we get the data,” Hung said.

This data includes what people think could be improved, what would help with marketing, what could be made more efficient, and what sort of things could be consolidated or outsourced when it comes to technology.

They will then take into account everyone’s feedback when making their recommendations.

“Things people like and what to see more of, things people want and think that we should have, things that people think we should eliminate and replace,” Hung said. “We’re looking for all those three things.”

During the meeting, Hung suggested training for online programs such as Desire 2 Learn.

“If we’re going to pay so much for D2L, it will be a shame to use it as an online grade book when it could be so much more,” Hung said.

Hung asked whether software called Banner was one of the programs that suck up a lot of resources.

Josh Awalt, interim assistant director for information security, said Banner is good if used in its “vanilla” form, but the university has taken different fields and manipulated them to mean different things, which adds a lot of additional work.

“When we do an upgrade to a system, there’s a long, long process to get all the custom stuff that we’ve done up to par with whatever the update changed,” Awalt said. “We have to re-change our code to match whatever changed in Banner.”

Banner has helped Eastern meet some needs across campus, but because of these new additions, it is taken so much time, he said.

Awalt said with the reduction in staff, no new development is going on right now, so they are trying to maintain everything that has been customized.

As of now, however, Awalt said there are not really any products that fit the Eastern’s needs better than Banner, as it is widespread among a lot of universities.

One of the issues brought up was the fact that there is not a lot of standardization across the board.

Awalt said this lack of standardization could cause problems.

One of the things the group discussed standardizing was how long people kept their panthermail address after graduating or retiring.

Hung said many of these problems came down to needing a centralized structure that coordinates these things.

The Workgroup discussed software and programs that are redundant and could be consolidated.

These included video capture, document imaging, Electronic Medical Records, reporting software and E-textbooks.

Awalt said they collaborated as a group to come up with a list of programs or software that provided the same function as others that were being used.

Gibson said the recommendations the group made do not necessarily mean something is done, but that someone will explore the suggestions they made.

“If we tell them that they need to explore it, they could give a report back to the president of the rest of the task force to say, this is what we found out, it makes sense to outsource it or it doesn’t,” Gibson said.

He suggested asking different groups.

Workgroup no. 2 is planning to meet their job’s objective.

“You could look and say why do we have people doing development over here and development over here, or training over here and training over there,” Gibson said. “You could also see where your money is going, is it supporting the students directly, is it supporting faculty? I think it helps you have that breakdown- is the proportion of dollars going to our core mission appropriate?”

Hung said it is unfortunate that eliminating a certain type of technology could affect the two or three people on campus who use it, from a cost/benefit point of view there are things the university can not afford to spend money on.

“What will make it easier for people is if we provide a reasonable alternative,” he said.

Cassie Buchman can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]