Jess & Mildred Fisher College of Science & Mathematics


INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY PLAN


INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY PLAN

for the

JESS and MILDRED FISHER
COLLEGE OF SCIENCE AND MATHEMATICS
TOWSON UNIVERSITY

(updated on May 17, 2013)

1. Introduction

This document is prepared to articulate the present technology needs and vision of future technology goals for the Fisher College of Science and Mathematics (FCSM).

Purpose of the Plan:

The FCSM Technology Plan serves two purposes. The first is to assist the college in setting technology priorities and objectives. The second is for use by the Division of Academic Affairs and the Office of Technology Service to assist in recommending University-wide technology priorities and unified solutions.

1.1. FCSM Technology Committee Members and Document History

This document was drafted by Sam Houston with input from the FCSM IITC Committee members:

David Hearn, Biological Sciences,
George Kram, Chemistry,
Sam Houston, Computer and Information Sciences (CIS),
Alexei Kolesnikov, Mathematics and
Phuoc Ha, Physics, Astronomy, and Geosciences (PAGS).
This plan will include some of the advancements since the last plan submitted, the FCSM Technology Plan, Fall 2007.

1.2. Distribution and Control of Technology Funds

Technology funds are provided through department operating budgets, student technology fees, research grants, and individual course fees for field trips, printer consumables, systems, and software. Each department applies these funds to meet the requirements to equip classroom, teaching and research labs in coordination with OTS best practices and policy for platform support. Additional resources are sometimes available from the Office of the Dean of the Fisher College or from grants from the Fisher Foundation.

1.3. Fisher College of Science and Mathematics Mission

Through rigorous and high quality undergraduate programs in a wide variety of scientific, computing and mathematical disciplines and graduate programs in research-based, practice-based, applied and interdisciplinary fields, it is the mission of FCSM to prepare its students to live and work productively in a scientific and technological world and to pursue learning throughout their lives. Faculty members engage both their undergraduate and graduate students through interactive teaching, advising, basic and applied research, and collaborative activities internally and externally. They form partnerships both to serve the metropolitan community as well as to meet regional, national and international needs. The result is dedicated, innovative, flexible, and highly prepared individuals who excel in graduate school, professional school, and careers in industry, government and teaching.

1.4. FCSM progress since last technology plan submitted

Several courses have been redesigned as hybrids including CS 109, CS 111, CS 321, CS 418, CIS 377, Chem 121L, developmental courses DVMT 101 and Math 102, and the service course Math 115. The Chem 121L redesign incorporates a computer lab with the traditional Chemistry lab.

The WeBWorK online homework delivery system for mathematics courses, TI Smartview calculator simulation software, and CVS software version control server have been implemented. In Biology, a linux server has been installed for Faculty to carry out bioinformatics analyses.

Wordpress sites and web services have been developed and online tools are now being used for course delivery, research, and collaboration, examples include Cisco Tele-presence, WebEx and Skype in Mathematics and CIS.

VDI and desktop-based virtualization technology is being used for CIS Security, IT courses, courses on alternative platforms, and complex development environments.

VM Servers are now installed in the Cook data center with security update support and administrative access rights for Faculty and students, DMZ experimental and lab firewall zones are now supported.

Some challenges still exist in the areas of system updates and network wiring and security needs.


2. Areas of Focus

The following areas of focus articulate a number of specific needs in FCSM departments.

2.1. Lab Software and Hardware Maintenance and Acquisition

There are now established sustained upgrade cycles for student hardware computing resources with the Student Technology fees. The current lab systems will continue to require upgrades as long as desktop systems are the predominant mode for scientific, development, and computing applications, or until alternative equivalent platforms are viable. See the new technology trends section below.

There is an increase in wireless applications and mobile devices used in courses, field work and research.

Lab software is acquired as needed for new projects or course development. In some cases there is funding needed for commercial scientific and computing applications such as LabVIEW, MatLab, SigmaPLOT, and Origin.

In Chemistry, maintenance (upgrades) are rarely done unless Operating System changes require it. Most of the specialized software packages used are in the $1-3K range. Chemistry recently spent about $40k in updates for 12 instruments from which students obtain and process data for course work and research projects.

The range and support requirements for scientific, IDE, application, and server software is increasing for course instruction and Research labs.

2.2. Classroom Technology

Classroom digital presentation systems with Crestron control panels have been installed in Smith, Linthicum, and the York Road locations. Mathematics has purchased SmartBoards and interactive displays. There will be an ongoing requirement for maintenance and refresh cycles for this equipment. Stable operation of current classroom technology is currently required.

SmartBoards installed in Chemistry have received positive reviews by Faculty. Biology and Chemistry have introduced "Clickers" and there is interest for them in other departments.

2.3. Faculty and Staff Computer Systems

Faculty and staff computer systems are upgraded via the OTS "trade-up" program. Many Faculty require a shorter cycle for computer upgrades for overall performance, hardware resources, or interfaces such as USB3 or multi-monitor support. There is an increased need for software, systems, and technical assistance.

There is an increased need for MACs and Linux-based systems and accompanying technical support.

There is an increased need for specialized open-source and commercially available software such as Matlab (a computer algebra system that is more suitable for numeric calculations). Mathematica (a computer algebra system used in Calculus courses), SPSS, and Minitab statistical software are currently used.

2.4. Student Access to Specialized Software and Hardware

Students and Faculty require increased levels and modes of remote access, especially student VPN access.

In PAGS, specialized software is not affordable under the current budgeting structure. Course fees would be insufficient, student technology fees are restricted, and department budget only covers basic expenses.

Chemistry has specialized course specific software available for the students to use on dedicated computers in several dispersed areas in the department. There is no dedicated computer lab for this purpose.

Biology specialized software needs include Sequencher (http://genecodes.com/), CLCbio (http://www.clcbio.com/), Geneious (http://www.geneious.com/), and various open-source packages.

The list of open-source and commercial software required is long for all departments within FCSM. Required applications for Mathematics include Matlab, Adobe CS6 Suite, and EndNote.

2.5. Unique or Specific Support Needs of the College/Division

Linux and open-source software installation, application, and troubleshooting support is needed similar to services provided for PCs and MACs. In CIS local support is provided.

Clearer policies are required for storage needs and more flexibility to apply specific permissions.

Chemistry supports a Linux-based HPC server and Biology has expressed interest in a College-wide grid server.

Storage areas remotely accessible are required with greater flexibility to modify permissions, to provide access to local external agencies, and to establish a more permanent presence. An example need is the Science Education equipment lending library database for local teachers. A similar service is the anonymous FTP server supported by the Space Telescope Institute.

CS/IS/IT program requirements include technical support for an increasing range of IDEs, applications, platforms, mobile devices, Cloud services, IT program labs, capstone projects, MACs, and graduate thesis and research projects. Course and lab projects have greater complexity with network (VPN, proxy, and firewall), server, and security components. This support requires proactive planning and flexibility in computing policies.

2.6. College/Division and department interest in specific new technology trends

Science Education will require tablets and smart phones, Promethean Boards, and collaborative systems to work with local teachers.

There will be growth in the need for online collaborative and lecture capture systems: video conferencing, shared storage, and access to local Web 2.0 technologies for external agencies.

Physics has a need for new and updated software, course homework programs (WebAssign, WebWork, Lon-capa), computer interfacing and remote control for scientific applications, and mobile laptops and tablets.

Desktop and server virtualization is used extensively in CIS courses and programs. This need will grow to include specific CS/IS/IT program requirements, instruction in the technology itself, contracted Cloud services, local infrastructure requirements, student access components, and persistent system instances with associated network and storage requirements. The next step would be to pilot an on-premise solution.

There are requirements in all areas of FCSM identified in the CTC IT Needs assessment survey. Specifically the interests in trends for software packaging and distribution, discipline specific technology support, application hosting, course redesign, mobile technologies, cloud services, varied instructional models and learning spaces, open educational resources, and the migration of skill sets required for technology support staff.


The Jess and Mildred Fisher
College of Science and Mathematics
Smith Hall, Room 312 (campus map)
Phone: 410-704-2121
Fax: 410-704-2604
E-mail: fcsm@towson.edu

 
 

 

 
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