Information Technology

Subgroup Members:

Lead: Iain Blair email
Connie DiGiuseppe (Anthropology) email
Alexandre Gauthier (Arts IT) email
Kareem Ibrahim (AUS) external [dot] aus [at] mail [dot] mcgill [dot] ca (email)
Kim Reany (Dean's Office) email
Lisa Stevenson (Economics) email
Andrew Stoten (Political Science) email

Key Issues for Discussion: key_issues.pdf


Meeting Summaries:

January 17
Our first meeting consisted of brain-storming where we debated what we would cover in the committee.  Possible areas of examination included:
The Call Center model and its use in the Faculty of Arts (Student Affairs etc.).
The use of the VOX phone system instead of the present traditional line model.
Pertinence of paper forms for Method of Evaluation and for instructor’s submission of exams.
Suggestions that we speak with Andrea Emrick about what the Exam Office is considering.
Consideration about all the data entry done across the Faculty and how much this work is replicated rather than being better shared and distributed.
Uprint and its implementation/distribution across the Faculty.
Training and lack of an IT Training program across the Faculty: need more communication about what training is offered at McGill; need more analysis of what training is needed.
Focus upon POPS and Payment Methods: how this could be better managed in the Faculty.
Role of websites to communicate better with students and the general public.  Great variety in quality of website across Faculty (each unit currently responsible for its own).  Need for centralized web services?  Role of Social Media?

January 24
Iain Blair told that group that Gillian and Helen had suggested that we should be studying the student computer labs.  Iain will discuss with Donald Sedgwick what aspects of these labs he might be covering in his group.  Iain will also investigate further budget and staffing of the labs, and with what they are equipped.  It would be useful to have some information on use also (number of users, peak periods).
We will want to discuss with HR some ongoing IT issues, most particularly the Notice of Termination form.
-Who is in charge of information policy in the Faculty?  Who is in charge of contacting the IT sector regarding training?  Why is there no faculty policy on new social media?
-Must discuss the intersection of IT with Communications (Johanne Bilodeau’s Events and Communications Group).
-How many Listservs are there in the faculty, and are they used effectively?  Should they be rationalized?
-Finally, for McGill websites, is a centralized updating/web page creation service desirable?  Should we implement faculty standards for how the information is presented?  What to do with the French department and its special needs (no drupal template in French)?  How do we reconcile broadly-based training (giving all staff members the capacity to update sections of their unit’s websites) with the need for uniformity and standardization?

February 14
Connie Di Giuseppe updated us on the actions of the Project Team.  In particular, we would shortly be given firmer guidelines and a timetable for the subgroups.  She also said that the Process Mapping subgroup was plowing ahead with its work, and that this would help other groups define tasks as they are done across the Faculty.
The bulk of the morning’s talk centred on ACCESS and PERMISSIONS.  In particular, we are interested in ways of streamlining and harmonizing access across the Faculty, and increasing staff members’ cross-training capacities.  It is also important to speed up the access of new staff members to the systems which they need to accomplish their work.  There are questions of confidentiality and information security, however.  For example, what information is PERSONAL and must be safeguarded?
We would like to discuss this issue more comprehensively with whoever at McGill is responsible for information security and access issues.  It was suggested that the Office of the Chief Information Officer would be ultimately responsible.  (Currently, HRIS, SIS, FIS have different security protocols gatekeepers.  Who overlooks all of these systems…?)  It was decided that Iain would contact the Office of the Chief Information Officer and see if we can arrange an information session.

March 25
The discussion focussed on key processes concerning IT within the Faculty.  Iain Blair would be meeting Ernie Kinney and Anna Coscia that afternoon to choose the three key processes for the IT Process Mapping.  Suggestions included:  Security access;  method of evaluation forms; Web page maintenance; NCS telephone/network coordination; file sharing and network management; digital file management; retention policy (data files) and management of email service accounts. Discussions also focussed on what generic email addresses (resource accounts) the Faculty would need in the near future when positions and services might be shared more generally among persons and/or units.
Process Mapping:  That afternoon, Iain Blair met with Anna Coscia and Ernie Kinney.  The list of process which they had pulled from the list had some extraneous choices.  We narrowed it down to focus upon the three most important processes to map.  It was decided to map, as a priority, FIS, SIS and HRIS security access procedures. 

April 4
Discussions this morning centered on the decision to give the Process Mapping Sub-Group the three main processes of FIS, HRIS and SIS Access to map.  Some members queried whether these were three separate processes, or just variations on one process.  It will be interesting to see who is included in the process mapping group for this.  It will be important to get the perspective of the Security Designates and see what happens “behind the scenes” of which Arts Faculty staff members are not aware.
Members also said it would be useful to see ALL the training courses taken by Faculty employees, in order to have a better sense of who has what access across the Faculty.  We also decided to ask Kathy Lauer and the HR Subgroup to look at the training and access that is necessary for each job description/role profile.  Similarly, Nancy Prsa and the Finance Subgroup could consider what access and training are necessary for financial administrators, FSTs etc., while Donald Sedgewick and his Student Affairs Sub-group could consider what applies to them.  Perhaps all these subgroups might collaborate on the process mapping of security access.

April 8
Iain Blair had a meeting in the afternoon of Monday, 8 April, with Helen Wilicka, Daniel Trotto and all the Security Designates to learn from each others' experiences and to plan future actions.  At this meeting, we did learn more about the creation of new IDs from an HR point of view (the 24-hour “push” to create a new ID but only when appointment letters are received) as well the personnel constraints which impede any new developments in Minerva and Banner that could speed up the security access process.  Some members at the meeting stressed that access should be more closely aligned with positions and role profiles rather than with individuals, because an individual could be given access more quickly to a variety of tools based on his/her role profile.  Queries were also raised as to how feasible it would be to develop one web form for all types of access which is then directed to one person or service, rather than sending multiple forms to multiple individuals.  It was decided to pool intellectual resources and align the Faculty’s Process Mapping of security process with the proposed process mapping of the IT Group.  Iain will coordinate the communication between Ernie Kinney, Anna Coscia and Daniel Trotto.

April 11
Iain Blair briefed the group on the meeting which he had with Helen Wilicka, Daniel Trotto and various security designates and IT Trainers.  The key outcome of the meeting was that Daniel Trotto’s group would participate in a Process Mapping of the “access process” and thus help in the creation of a better mapping.  Members of the IT Subgroup discussed how access could be broadened across the Faculty to enable more effective work-sharing: most members agreed that the most sensitive issue would be salary information, but that otherwise it would be beneficial for employees in one unit to work for or with another unit.
How do we want to restructure access within the Faculty?  Would it be within “clusters” or “hubs”, or would we widen it so that everyone could work for/with anything within the Faculty?  We will ask Helen and Gillian.  Members queried who was ultimately responsible for the org structure within the University, and whether a full “map” of the Faculty had been done.  Was it within a tree under the Dean’s secretariat?  How many orgs were there within the Faculty of Arts?
Judy Dear also informed us of a development within Financial Services while she worked there, where access was granted according to position rather than according to individual.  If this worked then in Financial Services, why couldn’t it work now within the Faculty of Arts?  What could we learn from position-based access in Financial Services?
Discussions later moved to another theme of our group:  faculty websites.  Alex Gauthier is going to compile a list of all websites within the Faculty, to the best of his ability.  We will then have to seek out those “rogue” sites that exists outside the McGill template and domain, as well as research group sites that might be based in the domains of other universities.

April 18
This meeting of the IT Subgroup focused on Faculty websites.  Alex Gauthier prepared a list of websites of departments, institute, programs, and research centres within the Faculty of Arts.  Members felt that administrative staff energies should focus on departmental, service and program websites, while research centre/project websites were the responsibility of PIs, students, and research assistants and associates.  Admin staff could also not be expected to update those sites hosted external to McGill and built using external softwares.  (A notable exception to this rule is the French department, which has its own standard.  Further investigation of the special needs of French Language and Literature, in all IT concerns, is necessary).  Members felt some consistency in presentation was necessary, particularly in terms of contact information, “people” (Faculty and Staff), and both undergraduate and graduate program information.  A goal of our team will be to make recommendations on standardized content and presentation.  Members queried what role academics should have in updating web pages – certainly, they should responsible for updating their own pages.   Admin staff cannot be expected to update Faculty members' webpages, beyond a minimal description of and linking to each Faculty member.   We will ask the Associate Dean about how academics might be better encouraged to take training courses on the Drupal web editing program. 

May 16
The IT Subgroup met again this week after a short hiatus.  We began the discussion with a briefing of recent developments at the Process Mapping and Project Team level.  It was decided by the Project Team that, when Process Mapping of administrative services is done, the IT Subgroup would be consulted on ways in which IT processes could remove or reduce “bottlenecks”.  Obviously such solutions are dependent on financial and technical resources, but they could be as simple as webforms, online checklists, etc.  External software solutions should not be disregarded.
We also discussed Process Mapping.  The Process Mapping of “access”, which we decided as our priority, is more complicated than what the Process Mapping Team had initially envisaged.  We would like something larger, involving security designates and information security.  Hopefully a firmer timeline can be established this summer.
Iain Blair has divided up the list of Arts websites which Alex Gauthier provided, and will give each team member a number of sites to examine.  He prepared a list of questions, and after discussions with the group we added a few more points of interest.  Iain will forward the list of questions, along with a selection of websites, to each team member.  Some of the questions imply an evaluation of each website on the team member’s part in terms of quality, but other questions will require communication with the AO/Administrative staff of each unit.  It is hoped that these questions will lead to a better knowledge of strengths and weaknesses of Faculty websites, and then to suggestions on how to make Arts’s websites more effective, more coherent, and more attractive.
Connie Di Giuseppe presented the Faculty of Medicine’s Knowledge Base to the group.  It was agreed that this would be a useful administrative tool for the Faculty of Arts.  However, how would the information be populated and who would compile the documentation?  We must consider this tool more closely.

August 8
After a mid-summer hiatus, the IT Subgroup met to discuss two projects which are faculty priorities: the creation of a Faculty Knowledge Base and the investigation of paper submission softwares.    We began by discussing the basic structure of a Faculty Knowledge Base and the type of information it would contain.  Given that Knowledge Bases are generally open access, we thought it best to stick with that model for the Faculty.  (If the information is confidential, then it should not be in a Knowledge Base).  We felt that the basic structure of an Arts Knowledge Base should be the following:
-HR Admin
-HR Academic -Student Affairs (Undergraduate)
-Student Affairs (Graduate)
-Research Support
-Special Events
Discussions will be necessary with the Director of Administration and with the other project subgroups to discuss this structure before it is presented to the Project Team for discussion.
Regarding submission softwares, Iain Blair has a meeting with Nancy Czemmel (Student Affairs Office, Faculty of Law) to discuss Law’s experience with these processes.  Economics did use “Turnitin” as some point, but the experience was inconclusive.  (We have since learned that McGill has terminated its agreement with Turnitin and the service is no longer available through MyCourses ).  We will also contact Teaching and Learning Services for a presentation on what the possibilities might be for submission through MyCourses.

September 5
This meeting was centred on a presentation by Mariette Xenopoulos of Content and Collaboration Solutions on MyCourses and its assignments module.  This presentation was to inform the IT Subgroup on options for a move towards “paperless” submissions by students in Arts.The IT Subgroup was impressed with the flexibility and ease of the MyCourses assignments module.  It seems easy to use from both the instructor's and student's viewpoints, and is supported by IT services.  Several points regarding MyCourses attracted the subgroup’s attention this morning: it allows both written and audio feedback from instuctors to students; it allows group as well as individual submissions; and TAs can be added to the assignment module.  It also differentiates between “Due Date” and “End Date” for submissions.  Courses in MyCourses are automatically populated from Banner for each instructor and TAs linked to a course in Banner are similarly linked to MyCourses.  Grade Notification to a student’s mobile device is possible if the student signs up for the service. MyCourses, created by Desire2Learn of Kitchener ON, has great flexibility and seems to be growing in flexibility and applications. For example, an IPAD annotation app is available, allowing instructors to insert handwritten comments into assignments. 
One possible solution to questions arising from the Faculty’s implementation of MyCourses and a paper-free submissions policy is the creation of a “Course Coordinator” position.  Faculties such as Dentistry and Medicine has created these positions and given them responsibility for the MyCourses files.  Iain Blair will look into finding a job description for such a position to see if it would be appropriate in the reorganized Faculty.

October 17
The IT Subgroup met to discuss principally two projects: the implementation of a Faculty Knowledgebase, and the implementation of a paperless submissions policy via MyCourses for the Faculty.  Last week the IT subgroup and several other reorg project members received a presentation on the Knowledgebase and how it might be implemented.  Generally, implementation is easy, but Faculty administrative staff members will have to receive training in the Moxie editing software, and subgroup team leads would have to become responsible for their sections of the Knowledgebase.  As for MyCourses, we discussed an implementation schedule (January or September 2014?) and how to best achieve academic “buy in”.  We will approach the Executive Committee with a few ideas.  Members also discussed department/unit websites.