Information Technology

Five-Year Strategic Technology Planning Goals: 2005 – 2009

Every five years since 1989, Computing & Information Services (CIS) has conducted a strategic planning exercise to identify opportunities, problems, and new directions in computing. During the 2004 planning cycle, CIS staff met individually or in small groups with faculty, students, staff, alumni, senior officers, and others. As part of the process, potential technology goals are reviewed by Reed’s Technology Advisory Council, the Web Policy Committee, the Computing Policy Committee, and the President’s Senior Staff. The ten goals listed below have been weighed carefully to assess their responsiveness to user needs, alignment with institutional objectives, feasibility, and overall cost-effectiveness.

1. Equipment replacement –– The Interim Report for Reaffirmation of Accreditation prepared by NWASC October 13, 1999 urged that “[r]econsideration … be given to the expected productive life of computing equipment for student labs and teaching faculty.” This recommendation was based on a concern that Reed’s budgeted replacement cycle of seven to ten years was unrealistically long and therefore failed to meet the growing technology needs of the College. In April 2004, Reed’s Computing Policy Committee (CPC) recommended to the President that funding be increased to achieve an average computer replacement cycle of five years (three years for high priority equipment).

2. Network services –– Electronic mail, the web, databases, library resources, search engines, news media, and other sources of information are increasingly critical to the College. In order to insure uninterrupted availability of these resources, we need to address several issues:

(1) Network security requires increased vigilance due to the proliferation of worms, viruses, and other types of network assault.

(2) Rapid growth in curricular and administrative uses of digital materials such as images, audio, and other multimedia objects, requires us to increase network speed substantially on a regular basis.

(3) Enabling users to have reliable and convenient network access requires ongoing modifications in wireless technology, high-speed data capabilities, voice and data integration, and seamless off-campus dial-up facilities.

3. Cross-platform services –– Approximately 85% of college-owned desktop and laptop computers are Apple; the rest are Windows and Linux. Although support for Windows and Linux users has improved substantially during the past few years, management of underlying network and system services for those platforms continues to be problematic. Improvements in file services, security, shared software, and other areas are needed to insure that users of Windows and Linux computers do not find themselves to be “second class technology citizens” at Reed.

4. Digital asset management –– The term “digital asset” is used to cover a wide range of materials, including audio and video recordings, databases, software, still images of drawings, photos, charts, tables, and many other items. Keeping track of these objects, making them easy to locate, providing convenient online access to them, and supporting copyright compliance are all parts of the evolving technology of digital asset management. The need for this type of technology is beginning to be felt throughout the curriculum for objects as diverse as crystallographic images in chemistry to symphonic recordings in music. Reed needs to implement a campus-wide digital asset management system that can be smoothly integrated into curricular, research, and administrative activities.

5. Web support and content management –– Reliance on the web for teaching, research, recruitment, public relations, and scores of other tasks has grown dramatically at Reed. During the past five years, the number of faculty using the web in their teaching or research has risen to nearly 90%. Both faculty and staff have indicated that more support for web page development is their top technological priority. Two things are needed: (1) appropriate staffing to train and assist users in building and maintaining web pages and to program complex web resources such as interactive forms and data entry tools; and (2) a content management system that will enable academic and administrative departments to organize, update, and manage web materials easily and promptly. The current lack of such a system puts us at risk of having web links that point nowhere and pages that have outdated and incorrect information.

6. Information access integration –– Faculty, students, and staff face a dizzying array of ways to access, share, and maintain information on Reed’s computer network. The multiplicity of login procedures, data entry methods, and search methods poses a growing obstacle to the use of digital resources such as email, web forms, image libraries, and course materials. We need to establish a simpler, more unified web interface (a “portal”) to provide easy and consistent access to Reed’s electronic resources, customized for faculty, staff, board members, friends of the college, and students –– from applicants to alumni. A portal-type interface would expedite the processing of a wide variety of requests while enabling different offices, such as admission, payroll, financial aid, and career services to share information more efficiently.

7. Curriculum and research –– In order to attract and retain top faculty, it is important to provide suitable information technology resources and support. Although most Reed faculty express a high degree of satisfaction with technology support, there are a number of areas where faculty have requested improvements, for example:

(1) more support for use of web resources in their classes;

(2) more classrooms with reliable and easy to use computer projection capabilities;

(3) more assistance with image scanning and the use of video, audio, and other multimedia;

(4) uniform access to image libraries, specialized software, and preference settings from anywhere on Reed’s network;

(5) faster network speeds;

(6) more wireless access in labs;

(7) technology enriched spaces for the performing arts;

(8) better off-campus access to library resources;

(9) more access to student programmers; and

(10) assistance with specialized software support for their students (e.g., for statistics packages).

Several faculty suggested that it might be beneficial if there were more collaboration among academic support units such as CIS, the Library, Audio-Visual Services, and the Quantitative Skills Center.

8. Student services and student life –– There are a number of ways in which technology can be applied to improve student services and student life such as:

(1) simplified, unified capture of new student and orientation information via the web;

(2) integrated online web tools for housing, meal plans, financial aid, campus employment, student organizations, campus events, and CSO alerts;

(3) expanded use of OneCard building and room access;

(4) wireless network access and improved printing resources in residence halls;

(5) a secure database and web interface for Health Center appointment and diagnosis data;

(6) expanded support for communication tools such as email listservs, blogs, wikis, etc.;

(7) more convenient access to off-campus resources such as streaming video, and news feeds; and

(8) development of appropriate policies and strategies to promote legal peer to peer file sharing.

9. Planning, development, and collaboration –– Technologies that could assist with activities such as planning, decision-making, development, and inter-office collaboration include simplified ad-hoc inquiry and reporting tools, datamart enhancements, database self-service features, and digital dashboards (web pages that provide quick and easy access to recruitment, enrollment, financial aid, development, and other types of information). The Registrar’s Office and other administrative offices have an urgent need for tools to facilitate document storage (i.e., an imaging system) and to make workflow more efficient (e.g., a groupware package). An easy to search, web accessible repository for all college policies and procedures has also been requested by staff in several offices.

10. End-user support –– In order to enable faculty, administrative staff, department secretaries and academic staff to use technology in their work more effectively, it would be desirable for CIS to provide more training, consultation, and trouble-shooting services. For example, there have been a number of requests for proactive, annual “house calls” by CIS staff to assist with software settings, version control, backup procedures, use of classroom projection equipment, and other items. The acquisition of new software by administrative offices such as the Banner Financial Aid package, the Human Resources Perspective system, the Events Management System, the College Relations Web For Alumni/Development system, and others has also increased the demand for more training and consultation.