University of Pittsburgh

Council on Academic Computing

2001-2002 Activities Report




On October 2, 2001, Provost Maher addressed the Council on Academic Computing (CAC) and delivered the following charge:


         Examine communications with faculty regarding computing issues. Examine what other universities are doing and make recommendations about the best way(s) to communicate with faculty.

         Review the High Performance Network Applications Initiative guidelines that were developed last year. Determine how well the past year's program worked.

         Work with the Advisory Council on Instructional Excellence on faculty training in and use of information technology in the development of research strengths. See if there are any holes in the program that need to be addressed.




Four subcommittees were created in accordance with the Provostís charge.


High Performance Network Applications Initiative


The Committee sponsored the Initiative for a second year (see for additional information).The program announcement, the accompanying flyer, and the evaluation criteria were revised to reflect comments from previous participants.After the competitionís conclusion, the Subcommittee recommended that nine proposals be funded.Three investigators were funded: Dr. Wolfgang Schloer (UCIS), Drs. Louise Comfort and Hassan Karimi (SPIA and SIS respectively), and Dr. Raymond Hoare (Electrical Engineering).Other projects will be funded as finances permit.Reviewers commented that the proposals were more focused than proposals from the previous year.

The following prior awardees reported on their progress:


         Large-scale Networked Computation, Analysis and Visualization (Drs. Gunduz Caginalp and Y. B. Altundas);

         The Growing Book (Dr. Shi-Kuo Chang);

         A Distributed Teaching and Research Cooperation System in Engineering and Mathematics (Drs. Luis Chaparro, Juan Manfredi, Ching-Chung Li);

         Delivery of Digital Media in Teaching and Research (Dr. Rose Constantino);

         "Next-Door" Videoconferencing for Collaborative University Research (Drs. Jeremy Levy and John Yates).


All participants were enthusiastic about their projects and pleased with functioning of the program.




The Subcommittee explored faculty preferences on communication about academic computing events.A survey was distributed to a random sample of 510 members of the Oakland campus and 80 members of the regional campuses.The response rate was 34.2 percent.†† Eighty-eight percent and 82 percent of the faculty preferred e-mail notification on issues related to computer viruses and e-mail programs respectively.Other issues were more controversial.Approximately 55 percent of the faculty preferred electronic communication regarding general notices about technology and online training information.Roughly 46 percent of the respondents preferred e-mail notification of changes in software in student labs.Main and regional campus preferences were similar.


Faculty Training


The Subcommittee worked with the Advisory Council on Instructional Excellence.The link between technology training and the faculty was found to be wanting.The University-wide workshop pattern apparently is not working well.The Subcommittee recommended that CIDDE develop a strategy that permits customized training at the department level.




The Subcommittee met with Security subcommittee of the Senate Computer Usage Committee (SCUC) to examine the CSSD's security plan, but the work of the SCUC subcommittee was temporarily suspended.




Computing resources changed significantly.The following is a breakdown by issue-area.




          University bandwith will be expanded to one gigabit (It currently stands at 160 megabits.).

          T1 links were installed at the Bradford and Titusville campuses. All four campuses now have upgraded connections to the Pittsburgh campus.

          A new, redundant link to RIDC Park will be installed.


Computer Labs and Services


        The Posvar Hall computer lab was renovated.

        The Computing Help Desk was moved to the Masonic Temple.

        A Productivity Lab opened in the Masonic Temple. This is a special purpose lab equipped with Windows-based and Linux machines.




          CSSD is incorporating redundancy into the Pittsburgh Super Computer Internet connection.

          Security staff worked on physical security, workstation and server security guidelines, enterprise security tools, and user awareness.

          The Incident Response Team plans to become more public and proactive.




         The Faculty Computing Program, previously known as UNA, was redesigned.

         The Blackboard 5 upgrade was completed.

         Student Info was redesigned.

         A software asset management system was established to track software purchased through site licensing.




         Ninety-two e-mail kiosks were installed throughout the University.

         CSSD conducted a port inventory.

         Fifty cards were distributed for a wireless pilot project.






Dr. David Young Miller, Associate Dean of the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs (GSPIA), spoke to Council regarding use of SmartBoard technology in GSPIA.Use of SmartBoard varies.The uninitiated tend to use it as a platform to run other applications, while the more experienced find it to be a powerful tool for interactive instruction.GSPIA's seven classrooms were being renovated so that they could support technologically advanced instruction.




Mr. George Mallick, Manager of Network Engineering, spoke to Council regarding use of Point to Point Protocol over Ethernet (PPPoE).Pitt is currently using PPPoE in the residence halls.Users initially are routed to the Web server/DNS server to be authenticated.The user then receives an IP address and subsequently moves outside the network.This protocol is secure and can trace security breaches.


Blackboard 5.5


Diane Davis, Director of the Center for Instructional Development & Distance Education (CIDDE), reported that Blackboard 5.5 was running well. This version has more features and allows more instructor control.Some of the new features include: guest access, assignment weighting, some control over sequential learning, and course archiving.Various levels of training on Blackboard are available through CIDDE.


2001-2002 MEMBERSHIP


Dr. Melanie Anderson



Dr. Siddharth Chandra


Dr. Carson Chow


Dr. Ellen Cohn


Dr. Andrew Connolly

FAS/Physics & Astronomy

Dr. Gregory Dick


Dr. Peter Draus


Dr. Charles Friedman


Dr. Irene Frieze

FAS/Psychology representing SCUC

Dr. Dennis Galletta


Dr. Arthur Hellman


Dr. Ronald Hoelzeman


Dr. Hassan Karimi


Dr. Kirk Pruhs

FAS/Computer Science

Dr. Susan Sereika

Nursing representing SCUC

Dr. Clement Stone


Dr. Clara Vana


Ms. Jinx Walton

Computing Services and Systems Development

Dr. Michael Zemaitis