We are excited to be starting another semester at Palomar College. This article will briefly outline some of the major services performed by the Academic Technology department—known as the Academic Technology Resource Center (atrc). We are physically located on the ground floor of the library building on the San Marcos campus, but most of our work, except for the physical computer labs and in-person training, is virtual.
First, we maintain the Blackboard system used for online and technology enhanced education. Actually, it is systems, not system. In addition to our production Blackboard Learn platform we maintain a test system, where we test new service packs, patches, building blocks and the other components of Blackboard; and we maintain a sandbox Blackboard system, where faculty members can build courses for later deployment and play with the system to get a feel for how it works, without having to worry about messing something up in a live class.
Closely related to the Blackboard system is our technical support function. We provide technical support for all educational technology issues, not just Blackboard, but Blackboard is a major effort for our technicians. This summer we converted our former helpdesk system to a self-hosted system, which means you can now use your Palomar login credentials to login to it if you want to create a help request ticket and track its progress. If y0u wish to submit a help request via email, you must use your Palomar email address to do so. If you want to call and speak with a technician or leave a voice mail, call (760) 744-1150 ext. 2862 to do so. Of the three methods, file a ticket, send an email, or call, the quickest and most efficient method for obtaining assistance is to submit a ticket. Actually, there is one quicker method: live chat. On our helpdesk system home page, and on our web site home page you will see a button that looks like this:
If it says ONLINE, it means there is a technician standing by to assist you with a live chat session. This is actually the very quickest way to get assistance. From any Blackboard login page, or from various pages in this blog, the live support button looks like this:
(it will be floating along the left margin of the page). As long as it is lit up bright green, as you see it here, clicking it will also initiate a live chat session with one of our techs. If the techs are busy doing something else, or it is after hours, the Live Support button will say “AWAY” and the live help button will be dimmed out.
As always, we maintain four computer labs on the ground floor of the San Marcos campus library. There are two 30-seat classroom labs (rooms LL-109 and LL-104), a large central public lab (LL-103), and a small faculty technology center (room LL-111). In addition, there are four specialized ADA computers available for those certified to use them. Each lab is equipped with a projector.
If you wish to bring a class into the lab for a one-off visit, please call one of our lab managers at ext. 2657 in order to reserve a time AT LEAST ONE WEEK IN ADVANCE. All the labs are generally heavily impacted during prime times—around 8 a.m. til around 3 p.m., so the earlier you arrive the better. Printing is available in the labs via the Go Print system, 10 cents per page for B&W and 30 cents per page for color.
Each semester we offer a mix of in-person and online training workshops available for professional development and professional growth credit. Further, we offer Wednesday morning Blackboard with Cream & Sugar sessions (you come on by on Wednesday mornings with your questions, we provide the coffee, tea and answers), and we also conduct many small group and individual training sessions. Our training session descriptions may be found here, our grid schedule of in-person workshops here. Many focused, training screen videos can also be found in the training section of our web site and on our YouTube channel.
Web Authoring and Web Services
We have a new WordPress implementation and are recommending WordPress as the web site (and blog) platform of choice. In fact, we have just gone through a migration of all WordPress sites from a Microsoft SQL database to a MySQL database. Performance should be much better. WordPress is by far the easiest way to build and maintain a web site or blog, though we still offer site creation and management through Dreamweaver or Expression Web. If you want a web site, or need to update your old one, please contact us for assistance. Other web and document services include web site design, graphics creation, document scanning, and 35mm slide conversions.
We are still in the streaming media business. If you have media you wish to present for distance education purposes, and it clears TEACH Act requirements, we can encode/stream it for you. We can also encode/stream fair use media, and media for which the instructor has obtained permission or is the copyright holder. Copyright is a complex topic, but we have created a guide that attempts to spell out the requirements for using copyrighted media in the classroom and online. If you want us to stream your media, bring it to room LL-108. Remember, if you are using TEACH Act authorization, 1) bring a completed TEACH Act agreement form, and 2) if you have VHS media and a DVD of the title exists, you must use the DVD.
Our media servers have virtually unlimited storage now, so bring in materials as you need them.
We provide guides to the best downloadable (often free) software from our web site, and also administer the MSDN Academic Alliance program whereby faculty members and students can receive free copies of valuable Microsoft software products such as Windows 8, Visual Studio, and many others. With new versions of Office and Windows out over the next few months we will be offering training materials as they become available.
We have an array of hardware products for faculty checkout, including digital audio recorders, web cams, PowerPoint remote controls, video camcorders, microphones, eReaders and tablets, and laptops. See the Hardware menu on our web site for details.
Much of our job has to do with communicating news about educational technology to faculty members, staff and students. Therefore we maintain an active blog (the one you are reading right now—and if you haven’t yet subscribed, please do so), a monthly e-newsletter (subscribe now to that also), a facebook group, an active twitter feed, and a YouTube channel. There are plenty of opportunity to stay informed about what is going on in Academic Technology.
I suppose there is lots more I could mention, but these are the basic Academic Technology services we hope you will find useful.