This is a continuation of my interview with the Academic Technology Systems Administrators about technology planning at Palomar College. In this part we focus on some rubber meets the road issues like paperless environments, AV technologies, telephony, and lots of other issues. The written response of the technicians is provided in the post below, and the audio of an interview with them follows the post.
Additional Questions for ATRC Staff
1. Would you support a goal of creating a paperless environment at Palomar College, if it meant that you would not have access to printers and would have to rely on electronic versions of all documents?
Chris: Yes, I fully support creating a paperless environment at Palomar College.
Shay: Yes I would support a paperless environment.
Dave: Absolutely not. On occasion printed materials are necessary; certainly the frequency and scope of printing can be reduced, but paper handouts will always be needed in some numbers.
2. Would you support conversion of desktop computers to laptops for all full-time faculty members and many key staff members?
Chris: Assuming that the laptops are of comparable in speed to the desktop computers they are replacing, I would support this conversion.
Shay: I would support the conversion for faculty if every classroom could be properly wired to allow the use of the laptops for instructional purposes.
Dave: Yes. Current technology makes a typical laptop able to do all needed chores for virtually all employees; portability would be a tremendous benefit to the average faculty member.
3. Would you support purchase of messaging and other academic software to move Palomar applications to a mobile smart phone environment?
Chris: I would support purchasing of messaging and other software only if a pilot project were completed or if the cost is minimal.
Shay: Yes I would support purchasing technology to support mobile device access.
Dave: Yes. Palomar needs to make resources more available via mobile devices to meet student desires.
4. Would you support purchase of installation of newer AV technologies like short throw projectors onto smart boards or large screen LCD monitors in place of digital projectors and screens?
Chris: If the cost of replacing digital projectors and screens is reasonable I would support this idea. At this time, I feel that it would be prohibitively expensive.
Shay: Yes I would support purchase of better classroom AV technologies.
Dave: No. Classrooms on campus could certainly all be equip with built-in data projectors and screens, which would give better visual display than short-throw portable projectors or LCD screens ever would. However, the data projector systems need to be better managed and maintained.
5. What AV equipment should Palomar provide that it is not currently providing?
Chris: Blu-ray players and touch screen tablet computers.
Shay: Smart board or touch screen input systems for classrooms. A campus wide lecture capture system.
Dave: Palomar does not need to provide a wider range of AV equipment,but does need to more consistently implement and manage the equipment they currently offer.
6. Would the use of document cameras with built-in processors able to browse the web and display PowerPoint presentations be an adequate substitute for classroom computers?
Chris: I think the likelihood of new technologies that require a classroom computer would make the use of “smart” document cameras less appealing.
Shay: Only if said devices could keep up with future web technologies.
Dave: No. Very few classroom environments are used exclusively for presenting PowerPoint presentations,and the average “web browser” built into a projector are incapable of meeting the wide range of web site requirements that are typically used in class.
7. Would “thin client” technology be an adequate replacement for full desktop computers in various student and staff areas where the vast majority, if not all, work is web-based?
Chris: Thin clients could be very cost effective if used in certain areas, such as public use labs.
Shay: Yes. Using virtual machine technology with thin clients could meet the needs of the average user.
Dave: In most cases, thin-client workstations would make perfect replacements for many desktops currently in use. Library database access machines, enrollment office desk stations, most academic computer lab machines, these could all be served by thin-clients rather than dedicated machines.
8. Should the college increase the number of digital camcorders and audio recorders available for faculty checkout?
Chris: There should be enough camcorders and audio recorders so that faculty have access to one when they need them.
Shay: No. The college should invest in a campus wide capture system with central control.
Dave: Only if there are actually times in which the current numbers have been insufficient to meet needs.
9. How important is achieving 100% wireless coverage for Internet Access across the San Marcos campus?
Chris: 100% wireless coverage across the San Marcos campus is very important.
Shay: To save costs going into the future wireless access campus wide is a must.
Dave: Wireless Internet access across not only the San Marcos campus but ALL Palomar campuses is of vital importance.
10. Would you support purchase of a self-paced training system, like lynda.com, for all faculty and staff members? Should students be included in the purchase?
Chris: Self-paced training, such as lynda.com, would be very useful to faculty and staff members. If the training covers topics that are useful to students completing their studies I would support that as well.
Shay: Yes, self-paced training should be purchased for faculty, staff and students.
Dave: No, and no. The sorts of training materials available on lynda.com teach whole applications, but do not address specific uses to which employees will be completing. It would be far better to invest in customized training materials and workshops to teach employees not just tools, but how to use these tools to do specific tasks required of them by their jobs at Palomar.
11. Would you support abandoning Microsoft Office products in favor of web-based “cloud storage” products like Google Docs?
Chris: The web-based products like Google Docs can be used for most purposes. There are certain things that stand-alone software does better.
Shay: No. Although cloud based programs can meet some needs they cannot meet all needs. They should be used in conjunction with each other.
Dave: As the next generation of MS Office products supports “cloud storage”, this is a poor question. However, I am far more comfortable using commercial products which we can reasonable expect to keep using, rather than abandon them in favor of free products which may or may not work at any given time, and could be discontinued by the provider without any warning should they so desire.
12. Would you support deployment of a non-proprietary email system, like Gmail, rather than the current proprietary Microsoft Exchange system used by the college?
Chris: Yes I would support moving to an email system such as Gmail. Many organization have switched to Google apps with success.
Shay: Yes. A cloud based system would allow users better uptime and access to their e-mail. This would also allow alumni and emeritus faculty to keep their e-mail address.
Dave: Yes and no. I feel the technologies offered via the Exchange Server system extend usefully beyond just email, in ways which Gmail would not support fully. However, I do know that Palomar could be taking advantage of Microsoft-hosted, Palomar-branded Exchange-based email service for free, really begging the question of why this was not done years ago.
13. Would you support purchase of a “coursecast” system that would allow any faculty members to record their lectures for simultaneous broadcast and archive them for future playback?
Chris: A coursecast system would be very useful and I would support the purchase of one.
Shay: Yes. A campus wide lecture capture system would only benefit students learning options.
Dave: No, in my experience the technical requirements of an “on-demand” course-cast system are too great for a typical faculty member to deal with on their own, and the limitations of a “pre-scheduled” course-cast system are too great to be at all useful. Without dedicating a significant staff and large amount of equipment to such a project, it would be better left undone.
14. Would you support further reduction in physical holdings in the library in favor of more electronic holdings?
Chris: Assuming that the electronic holdings are easy to access and use I would support that.
Shay: Yes, as long as the digital copies can be accessed easily on a variety of devices.
Dave: Provided that the electronic holdings would be paired with the tools to allow ANY patron to still use those new materials as easily and conveniently as a book (as in, without needing to have a computer at their home), then yes.
15. Are you aware of an existing plan, or do you have a plan to restore the data on your work computer when the hard drive fails?
Chris: I backup all data to an extra hard drive and can restore from that drive if needed.
Shay: I am not aware of a district plan to restore data on individual computers but I do my own backup of my system.
Dave: I am vaguely aware of the organized backup schemes used by many employees, but have opted for my own independent backup strategy for my files using third-party products connecting up to cloud computing technologies.
16. Are you aware of Palomar College policies for data security, privacy of data, intellectual property rights, or copyright compliance? If not, how would it be best to train faculty and staff in these policies?
Chris: I am aware of some policies. It would be useful if all of these policies were combined into one document or site and made available to everyone.
Shay: I am not aware of the policies in place currently. Mandatory training on these policies would be the best way to inform all employees of these policies.
Dave: To the best of my knowledge, Palomar does not have any intellectual property rights or copyright compliance policies on record. I have some vague knowledge of the Telecommunications use policy at Palomar, which in part deals with data privacy.
17. Have you seen a technology used at another college that you would like to see deployed at Palomar?
Chris: None that I can think of.
Shay: A card access system to secured areas of the campus.
Dave: Credit-card based pay-for-print systems appeal, as our current system works on a cash-only basis.
18. Would you support the idea of a “technology access index,” whereby the college would commit to funding student computer access based on some commitment to publicly available access hours based on FTES or some other student population number?
Chris: Yes, that sounds like a good way of gauging the “access” that a student has to a computer.
Shay: Yes. I’d also like to see a push to help students find access to or purchase computers for use off campus.
Dave: This idea is too vague as presented for me to put forward any opinion. I would need more information on how such funding would be calculated.
19. Would you support purchase of a “search appliance” that would make it possible to search the Palomar intranet?
Chris: Yes, I would support the purchase of a “search appliance” because it will make locating information and documents easier.
Shay: Yes. It is getting harder to find electronic documents on the system.
Dave: I do not see how such an appliance would end up superior to simply doing a Google search restricted to the Palomar.edu site, so… no.
20. Do you feel student “technology competency” is high enough, or should there be basic instruction in this for some students based on an assessment test?
Chris: I am in favor of assessing students “technology competency” as long as the correct skills/abilities are assessed.
Shay: Palomar already offers many computer skill classes in various departments. Students should be guided to these classes to help them succeed in a digital world.
Dave: Our students have inconsistent competency, looked at across the spectrum of students. Therefore, of course some need basic instruction in technology basics, while some do not. Palomar should make such instruction available, but certainly never require it for all students.
21. Should governance of the use of technology by the college be improved? If so, how?
Chris: I do not advocate governing the “use” of technology but I would like to see more governance of the selection, evaluation, and purchase of technology.
Shay: Yes. There needs to be one governing body responsible for developing policies and reviewing them as technology changes over time. They should also be focused on the goals of the district when choosing the use of any technology.
Dave: Yes. As stated above, the decisions to fund improvements to current technology or to acquire new technology needs to be connected via metrics to needs which are not being properly met.
Here is the audio of my interview with the AT systems administrators. It expands upon their written answers above. In this interview we get down and dirty with specific issues, rather than more general questions. Play time = 47:26.