Welcome to the 2012-13 ITS Biennial Report

Steve Fleagle

As Chief Information Officer, I facilitate coordination, planning, and delivery of IT services between all IT units on campus, and have oversight of the largest IT organization, Information Technology Services (ITS). 

In addition to tending to the day-to-day IT needs of campus—everything from responding to 80,000 Help Desk contacts per year to maintaining 3,000 access points for wireless service—ITS employees are always looking ahead in the fast-changing world of technology with an institutional perspective, developing and revising the detailed strategic plans called road maps to be sure the university is poised to meet the IT needs of the future. I am continually impressed by the productivity, innovation, adaptability, and collegiality I see exhibited throughout the organization.

For that reason, I asked ITS staff to prepare our first biennial report, focusing on the many accomplishments of the 2012 and 2013 calendar years. I encouraged them to include metrics to illustrate use of the services provided, and to tell stories about how IT supports the teaching, research, and operational needs of the UI. The goal of this report is not only to keep record of the advances made each year, but also to celebrate our achievements, and to help others understand the scope and quality of work ITS does. 

The theme of the 2012-13 report is collaboration. You will notice this common thread throughout the content because virtually every service or project ITS provides is a collaborative effort. To succeed, we must partner with IT professionals in colleges and departments, and work closely with faculty, administrators, and students on projects such as developing websites and applications, supporting high-performance computing, and developing faculty programs around pedagogically-sound use of technology. ITS also collaborates beyond campus borders with other Regents schools, Committee on Institutional Cooperation schools, and higher education IT organizations like EDUCAUSE, Internet2 and the Common Solutions Group.

Below you will find a summary with highlights of the 2012-13 report and a preview of what we will be working on in the year ahead. The report is divided into seven sections: Administrative Information Systems, Enterprise Infrastructure, Enterprise Services, Instructional Services, Research Services, Information Security and Policy, and Business and Administration. Each includes an introduction and look at upcoming projects, stories about featured projects or services, a list of accomplishments, and interactive graphs and charts.

We hope you will find the content interesting and informative, and we appreciate you taking time to learn about how ITS supports the University of Iowa. 

Thanks and best regards,

Steve Fleagle

Associate Vice President and Chief Information Officer

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Highlights 2012-2013

  • 1 of 17

    New guest wireless service

    Visitors to the UI can now enjoy free guest wireless service without having to track down a guest ID. Courtesy of a partnership between ITS and AT&T, the university is now advertising the "attwifi" network across campus. ITS began offering this new service in late 2013 as a convenience to campus guests who want to quickly and easily access the Internet with their wireless devices.

  • 2 of 17

    Wireless enhancements and eduroam

    Use of wireless on campus is growing fast, from about 17,000 total users in 2009 to over 32,000 in 2013. As demand increased, ITS has made several enhancements to the wireless network, including the addition of about 450 access points in existing buildings.

    ITS shifted UI Wireless to eduroam (short for education roaming), an international wireless network offered at participating institutions in 54 countries. Once devices are configured for the eduroam network here, users can connect automatically at other participating institutions using UI credentials.

  • 3 of 17

    Supporting IT communities

    About 800 IT professionals work at the UI, including those in colleges and administrative units, Health Care Information Systems (HCIS), and ITS. And, IT systems are heavily integrated and interdependent. For these reasons, it’s essential to foster IT communities that facilitate communication and collaboration. ITS is committed to supporting and being actively involved in these communities.

    ITS helped to establish a new IT community focused on high-performance computing, as well as a new group for Linux users. There are now about 10 IT communities that bring together UI technology professionals with common interests, such as website development and IT security.

  • 4 of 17

    Tech support, training, and software

    ITS continued to provide excellent technical support, implementing a better system to manage Help Desk tickets, expanding the Extended Technical Support team to meet the need for desktop support in other units, and responding to over 80,000 Help Desk contacts per year in both 2012 and 2013.

    Staff taught Windows, Office, and Lync courses, and made available thousands of online IT and business skill tutorials through Lynda.com. Staff worked to assure legal compliance, negotiate the best possible terms and pricing, and manage the contracts and distribution for software licenses—including a renewed Microsoft Campus Agreement and site licenses for Matlab, Adobe, and ArcGIS.

  • 5 of 17

    Office 365 for students

    In 2013 ITS began transitioning student e-mail to Microsoft Office 365 to provide larger mailboxes and a full portfolio of communication and collaboration tools. Students receive 25 GB e-mail boxes (compared to 1 GB previously) and can access software that’s part of the Office suite (Excel, Power Point, Word, and OneNote) and connect with others through instant messaging, video conferencing, and online meetings. Response has been positive; in fact, many students requested to be moved sooner than scheduled so they could take advantage of the new features and bigger mailboxes. 

  • 6 of 17

    Security awareness and data protection

    Training and outreach efforts continued to raise awareness about IT security in the campus community. A new resource was developed at http://learnaboutsecurity.uiowa.edu, and an awareness campaign called “It’s a Jungle in There” was launched with multi-mode marketing.   

    The security team also focused on data protection and risk assessment initiatives, including institutional data classification, enhanced monitoring of the network, a multi-factor authentication pilot for web services, and development of guidance for achieving regulatory and policy compliance.

  • 7 of 17

    Web accessibility

    ITS made great progress in guiding the campus to meet web accessibility standards that provide equal access to web resources for all individuals, regardless of ability, impairment, or environment. 

    Since approval of the campus web accessibility policy in October 2011, ITS-led accessibility efforts have focused on helping units assess and improve their websites. This has included over 700 site assessments, training, and development of self-assessment practices and reference materials. The result has been significant improvements in accessibility scores for sites that were redesigned.

  • 8 of 17

    Mobile development

    Catering to growing use of smartphones and tablets, ITS is ramping up mobile development efforts. New and enhanced mobile apps provide easy access to useful information about the university, and the campus can look forward to even more apps and mobile-friendly websites in the future.

    HawkTools, a new mobile app designed just for UI students, allows them to find open laundry machines on campus, access course-management and student record systems, check e-mail, and view dining hall menus. It provides a connection to Bongo (Bus on the Go), where they can track arrival times of Cambus and city buses. They can also connect to the On Iowa website for orientation details.

  • 9 of 17

    Website and application development

    There has been a significant increase in the demand for application and website development across the campus. ITS is meeting these needs by offering new tools for web development, and by providing services on a for-hire basis. This model gives units access to full teams of experts with a variety of skills, and allows them to pay for services on an as-needed basis, rather than hiring a staff member.

    ITS launched a Drupal-based content management system for campus website hosting and development. It improves the consistency, accessibility, and mobile rendering of UI websites, but maintains the flexibility for each unit to customize their site and content. The new SiteNow Service offers do-it-yourself capabilities with user-friendly tools and customizable templates, or units can hire ITS for more complex sites. Since implementation, the web team has built over 100 custom sites.

  • 10 of 17

    Learning Commons completion

    The Main Library Learning Commons is a one-stop academic resource center and tech-infused comfortable study space. Open 24 hours a day, five days a week, it offers both group study space for collaboration and individual study space. The 37,000 square foot renovated space includes desktop and laptop computers, multi-media resources and a 45-seat TILE classroom.

    Students provided significant input in the design of the space throughout the planning process, and the project was a joint endeavor of the Office of the Provost, ITS, and University Libraries. Construction began after the Spring 2012 semester and was completed for the Fall 2013 semester.

  • 11 of 17

    Supporting student-centered learning

    ITS continued its focus on the creation of learning spaces geared toward student success and retention. Staff helped open and plan for more TILE (Transform, Interact, Learn, Engage) classrooms that facilitate active learning environments, and worked closely with the Center for Teaching to provide training and support as faculty developed teaching strategies for student-centered learning.

    ITS and the Office of the Provost co-sponsored a “large lecture transformation” project aiming to morph large courses into more active learning environments through technology and innovative teaching techniques. And, in collaboration with the College of Education, ITS embarked on a pilot project to understand how students use e-textbooks and whether the digital format has an effect on learning outcomes. ITS' new assessment coordinator is analyzing how these efforts impact students.

  • 12 of 17

    Deploying all-in-one ID cards

    ITS is playing an important role in the transition to new university identification cards that will also serve as electronic door access cards for buildings or rooms on campus. These electronic door access cards offer higher security than keys because when they are lost or when a cardholder leaves the university, the card can be deactivated remotely. The Iowa One Cards are used for meal plans and checking out library materials. They can also be used for financial transactions like charging purchases to a U-bill, or as an ATM/debit card when tied to a Hills Bank checking account.

  • 13 of 17

    Modernizing electronic research administration

    Funded research accounts for over $430 million annually at the UI. To stay competitive and in compliance with changing rules and regulations, the UI has begun modernizing its electronic research administrative systems. 

    ITS teamed up with the Vice President for Research Office on a multi-year proposal bringing together resources to improve sponsored research administration. This resulted in the development of an application suite that integrates process, data, and information across the research enterprise, creating the foundation to meet future administrative, compliance, and reporting needs.

  • 14 of 17

    Research computing initiatives

    High-performance Computing (HPC) supports research that would not otherwise be possible at the UI—in some cases condensing the time required to run simulations from years to days. The number of users soared from about 50 in 2011 to 450 in 2013, and the user base now represents 52 units from all corners of campus. The Helium HPC cluster provides more than 2 million compute hours per month to UI researchers, and in 2013 work began on building the next-generation HPC cluster, Neon.

    In addition to operationalizing HPC, ITS deployed two new research data storage services, and worked to build good support staff for research computing. ITS Research Services continued to serve researchers and scholars by gaining visibility, building partnerships, participating in humanities efforts, and contributing to campus conversations about cyberinfrastructure and informatics.

  • 15 of 17

    Decommissioning the Jessup Hall data center

    Mainframes powered decades of UI academic and administrative functions. (Sometimes called “big iron,” a mainframe is a large-scale computer that can support thousands of users simultaneously and run vital operations reliably and securely.)

    As the UI transitioned to its new student record system, ITS was able to remove applications from the mainframe in Jessup Hall by retiring them or converting them to new platforms. The Jessup Hall data center was decommissioned in 2013, and the mainframe powered down for the final time on April 1 of that year—50 years after mainframes first brought high-performance computing to the UI.

  • 16 of 17

    MAUI milestones

    Project MAUI (Made at the University of Iowa), the new student information system custom developed by UI software engineers, achieved several milestones in 2012-13 as components for student records, admissions, degree audit, financial aid, and billing launched. MAUI manages vast amounts of data; in just a year’s time, that includes nearly 1 million communications with current and prospective students, disbursement of $300 million in financial aid, and collection of $450 million in tuition, fees, and charges. Course registration generates as many a million transactions per day. 

    Development kicked off in 2006, after the UI found that products on the market didn’t meet the institution’s needs for replacing its 30-year-old record system. The homegrown system represents tremendous collaboration between ITS and Provost Office functional units and may even become a model for other schools that have expressed interested in developing similar solutions of their own. 

  • 17 of 17

    Putting ITF into production

    With construction of the new Information Technology Facility (ITF) complete, ITS staff members devoted countless hours in 2012 to putting the new data center into production—including the migration of more than 500 servers from the Jessup Hall data center. ITS security specialists designed, built, tested, and implemented the network firewall architecture, and subsequently created over 27,000 access control rules in the firewalls.

    ITS was extremely proud to see the ITF become the first building on campus to achieve LEED Platinum certification. This is an especially noteworthy accomplishment, given the energy needs of a data center. Only a handful of data centers across the nation have earned LEED Platinum status.

The Year Ahead

A high-level summary of what ITS will be working on in the coming year:

Research computing

  • Improve support and awareness of existing research computing services
  • Provide support for the Iowa Informatics Initiative, and continue to actively participate in campus conversations about cyberinfrastructure and informatics 
  • Establish the Neon high-performance computing cluster as a productive tool for campus

Records and administration

  • Continue work on a universal electronic workflow system that routes electronic forms for financial, human resources, and other purposes for approval by the appropriate individuals. Complete routing engine and convert forms to use the electronic workflow architecture
  • Develop proposal for a Shared Service Center for Business Intelligence with dedicated resources; architect a BI infrastructure
  • Expand Enterprise Financials application portfolio beyond PeopleSoft Financials
  • Second-phase initiatives for the new student-information system, MAUI (e.g. syllabus repository, prerequisite checking, course renumbering, academic advising replacement system, enhanced guest accounts, advanced reporting, universal workflow integration)

Communication and collaboration

  • Complete migration of student e-mail to Microsoft Office 365
  • Implement Unified Communications via Lync 2013; expand Lync offerings to include web-based online meetings, audio conferencing, and improved mobile clients 
  • Upgrade SharePoint to improve collaboration and document-management capabilities
  • Launch new cloud-based file storage service (OneDrive, formerly known as SkyDrive Pro), providing employees with 25GB of storage, easy file sharing, and access from anywhere with web or mobile devices

Security initiatives

  • Conduct enterprise-level IT security risk assessment
  • Enhance network monitoring to better correlate log information between systems, enabling quicker response to problems and helping to prevent costly exposures of information
  • Continue bolstering databases and applications for protection against security threats
  • Remediate Social Security Numbers from electronic records, create “vault” for secure storage
  • Continue enablement of door-access systems to accept Iowa One Card credentials
  • Develop isolated virtual network for credit card transactions; investigate an e-commerce gateway for processing the transactions in compliance with evolving security standards

Learning technologies

  • Complete major upgrade to ICON (Iowa Courses Online), allowing instructors to more easily add and rearrange course content, providing new progress-tracking tools, and enabling text or e-mail alerts for deadlines, grades, and discussion posts
  • Continue exploration of new instructional technologies related to student learning analytics, digital content solutions, and MOOCs (massive open online courses)

Infrastructure and technology management

  • Upgrade core network routing infrastructure to increase speed, capacity, and features
  • Review campus wireless network architecture, evaluate wireless equipment vendors, and begin to deploy the next wireless standard (802.11ac).
  • Establish a Mac management service via Casper, in partnership with the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
  • Encourage migration from inefficient data centers to more efficient ones

Explore the Sections

Collaborating with campus partners to build customized IT systems that meet the UI’s unique needs
Partnering to provide reliable, sustainable IT infrastructure that’s vital to the institution’s operations
Working with customers to implement IT solutions and services that benefit the entire campus
Joining forces to mitigate IT security threats with education, protective policies, and detection tools
Teaming up to develop learning spaces, tools, and teaching strategies that promote student success
Cultivating a sense of community in ITS, and uniting IT professionals from all corners of campus
Supporting scholars with high-performance computing, consultation, training, and storage services