Council on Academic Computing

March 17, 2003

Meeting Summary


Nick Laudato from the Center for Instructional Development and Distance Education (CIDDE) discussed the use of technology in the classroom.  Slides from his presentation can be found at:

Instructional Programs

Blackboard is course management software that permits instructors to administer, grade, and record quizzes; to conduct chat sessions; and to hold threaded discussion groups. It also provides user-friendly software to facilitate the instructor’s efforts to create Web pages, send e-mail, transfer files to and from students, and manage an online grade book. Approximately one-third of faculty members have been trained to use the Blackboard system.  Blackboard use increased from 21 sections per semester four years ago to 1039 sections per semester this year.

Computer Assisted Testing System (CATS) is a secure, supervised testing system.  In 1995, CIDDE introduced CATS as an option for distance education courses offered through the University External Studies Program. The system possesses the advanced security capabilities that are necessary for academic exam administration and rapid data transmission to and from eleven, off-campus testing sites throughout Western Pennsylvania.

Janus is software that projects images and writing from a panel at the instructor’s podium to a screen in the classroom.  The system is built around an electrostatically sensitive panel (a 15-inch, touch-sensitive LCD panel) that instructors use like a chalkboard.

Anti-plagiarism software that checks the written content of papers against content in an online database and software that records audio, video and annotations of PowerPoint presentations were also discussed.

Faculty Instructional Development Lab

The Faculty Instructional Development Lab (FIDL) offers faculty an opportunity to investigate and apply instructional theory, learning theory, information technology, and multi-media technologies to instructional development projects.  It is built around a training room and includes a consulting area, a video editing area, an audio booth, and a technology area.  The FIDL was built to fulfill the following goals:

  • Create a centralized multimedia lab facility to provide faculty with training and assistance in using specialized instructional technologies.
  • Develop active learning courseware in collaborative teams involving faculty, instructional designers, instructional technologists, graphic artists, photographers, and video producers.


Other issues were also addressed:

  • Classroom upgrades
  • Interactive television
  • Instructional Media Services


Drs. Luis F. Chaparro, Juan J. Manfredi, and Ching-Chung Li discussed their HPNAI project entitled “A Distributed Teaching and Research Cooperation System in Engineering and Mathematics.”  They hope to parlay their success in the initial phases of this project into a system that supports virtual classrooms.

Dr. Gunduz Caginalp discussed his HPNAI project, which was called “Large-Scale Networked Computation, Analysis, and Visualization.”  This project used visualization technology to display solutions to moving boundary problems.


Computing Services and Systems Development (CSSD) continues to develop the Student Data Warehouse.  The office’s staff is working with the business office to implement the financial data portion of the Warehouse.

CSSD continues to expand wireless network capabilities at the University.  Hillman Library, the Cathedral Commons Room, the Peterson Activities Center food court and study area, and the second floor of Posvar Hall possess this capability.  CSSD plans to wire William Pitt Union and the Cathedral lawn in the future.

Other issues were also discussed:

  • The redundant link to RDC Park
  • The faculty portal project


Faculty Portal

The subcommittee has met with CSSD representatives.

Faculty Training

Members of the subcommittee invited Nick Laudato to address the Committee.

Future of Academic Computing

The upcoming visit by IBM officials was temporarily postponed.

High Performance Computing Initiative (HPCI)

The Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center demonstrated the capabilities of its computers to those individuals interested in applying for an HPCI grant.  The subcommittee will review proposals after the April 1 deadline.