University of Pittsburgh

Council on Academic Computing

2002-2003 Activities Report


On October 7, 2002, Provost Maher addressed Council on Academic Computing and delivered the following charge:

·         Explore how the University can satisfy the future needs of both the academic community and the individual researcher over the next five to ten years.

·         Help develop a faculty version of the University portal, which is currently available only to students.

·         Work with the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center to develop a program that provides broader access to the center’s high-speed processors.

·         Work with the Center for Instructional Development and Distance Education (CIDDE) to determine how electronic teaching might be better facilitated among the faculty.


Four subcommittees were created to address the Provost’s charge.

Faculty Portal

Members of the subcommittee met with representatives of the Office of Computing Services and Systems Development (CSSD) to discuss the development of the faculty portal.  Most of the subcommittee’s recommendations were included or will be included in the portal.  News links, library links, and the academic calendar are already available.  Faculty should be able to check class rosters via the faculty portal in the fall.  Other features that were requested but are not ready for implementation include links to Human Resources, the IRB, and both retirement vendors.  Potential links between the Health Sciences Web Portal and the faculty portal were discussed.  CSSD has met with representatives of the Health Sciences Web Portal to examine the relationship between the two portals.

Faculty Training

Members of the subcommittee surveyed the regional campuses to determine the adequacy of their electronic teaching resources.  The regional campuses do not lack these resources, and the presidents of these campuses do not foresee a shortfall in these resources.  However, the budgets of regional campuses currently do not fund instructional technology personnel; these positions are funded through foundation grants.  The subcommittee recommends that funds be allocated to the Bradford, Greensburg, and Johnstown campuses in future budgets so that full-time instructional technologists can be hired for each campus.  The Titusville campus does not have such a position.

Future of Academic Computing

Members of the subcommittee discussed whether the University could be used as a test case for some of the applications that the computer industry is developing (e.g., self-healing computing, on-the-fly computing, grid computing, and ubiquitous computing).  They also planned a colloquium at which university faculty and officials from IBM would discuss the future of high-speed computing and the internet.  The event was postponed due to scheduling conflicts and will be rescheduled in the fall.

High Performance Computing Initiative (HPCI)

The Council worked with the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center to sponsor the High Performance Computing Initiative.  The Initiative was designed to promote the application of high-performance computing in novel areas and to increase awareness of the potential uses of high-speed computing at the University.  The Council awarded a grant to one of four applicants.  Dr. Andrew Connolly from the Department of Physics and Astronomy was awarded $35,000.


Jinx Walton, Director of CSSD, frequently reported on the activities of CSSD.  Computing milestones and achievements often were announced.  The following is a breakdown by area.


·         The gigabit ethernet upgrade to the University’s academic and administrative buildings was completed.

·         The link between the University and PSC was upgraded to a gigabit.

·         Wireless network access is available to students in the Cathedral of Learning, Hillman Library, Peterson Events Center, and Posvar Hall.

Services and Software

·       CSSD continues to work on the faculty web portal and the Student Data Warehouse.

·       Blackboard 5.51 was upgraded.


·       CSSD is working to eliminate sponsored accounts that are no longer valid.

·       CSSD is addressing the use of University computing resources to download copyrighted material.

Members of the Council also frequently discussed computing resources and issues.  The following are some of the issues that were addressed.

·       The annual upgrade of computer lab software and related software compatibility and licensing issues.

·       Security concerns associated with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (i.e., HIPAA).

·       Disparity in faculty training in the use of electronic teaching resources, primarily within the humanities departments.


The High Performance Network Applications Initiative (HPNAI) was administered by the Office of the Provost and the Council during the 2001-2002 and 2002-2003 academic years.  The purpose of HPNAI was to promote the development and use of advanced computer networks and to accelerate the development of next generation network-based applications at the University of Pittsburgh.  Several of the 2001-2002 academic year award recipients presented the results of their projects to the Council.

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

Dr. S. K. Chang presented the results of his project, “The Growing Book.”  The project is an internet-based text on data structure algorithms. It is composed of chapters written by a geographically dispersed set of authors, each of whom can edit his or her chapter independently of the other authors. Future iterations of the project will add multi-lingual capabilities, multi-media graphics, and individualized tools to the current, English-based text.

Drs. Luis F. Chaparro, Juan J. Manfredi, and Ching-Chung Li discussed their project, “A Distributed Teaching and Research Cooperation System in Engineering and Mathematics.”  Visual recordings of their classes were housed on a server that could be accessed via the internet.  They hope to parlay their success in the initial phases of this project into a system that supports virtual classrooms.

Dr. Rose Constantino discussed the results of her project, “Delivery of Digital Media in Teaching and Research.”  Dr. Constantino developed four three-credit courses, each of which used Blackboard teaching software and webcasting technology.  The courses are part of a certificate program in forensic nursing.  Another component of the project extended counseling services to abused women.  Dr. Constantino collaborated with Pittsburgh Action Against Rape to use e-mail as a form of short-term, emergency counseling.


The Student Portal

Jinx Walton from CSSD reported on the student portal (  Each student’s page is composed of four sections: my pages, communities, webmail, and student services.  The portal was designed in conjunction with a variety of student focus groups.  It offers quick access to those University services that are of greatest interest to students, e.g., information from the Registrar’s Office and the Financial Aid Office; the internet sites that students most frequently use; and a web-based e-mail system that can be accessed from anywhere in the world.

The Student Data Warehouse Project

CSSD staff presented an overview of the Student Data Warehouse Project.  Access to student data traditionally was limited because data for each unit or department resided in separate databases and access to these databases was not well coordinated.  The Data Warehouse will function as an easily accessible, secure, central repository of student information.  The Data Warehouse was developed in conjunction with the Office of the Registrar, Student Financial Services, the Office of Admissions and Aid, and the Faculty and College of Arts and Sciences.  It will supercede the current student information system, ISIS (Integrated Student Information System).

Instructional Programs

Nick Laudato from the Center for Instructional Development and Distance Education (CIDDE) described the software packages that are available to the University’s faculty.  He discussed course management software (Blackboard), testing systems for distance education (Computer Assisted Testing System), and instructional projection systems (Janus).  He also discussed the Faculty Instructional Development Lab.  The lab is built around a training room and includes a consulting area, a video editing area, an audio booth, and a technology area.

2002-2003 MEMBERSHIP

Dr. George Klinzing

Office of the Provost, Chair

Dr. Melanie Anderson

UP Titusville

Dr. Siddharth Chandra


Dr. Carson Chow


Dr. Ellen Cohn


Dr. Andrew Connolly

FAS/Physics & Astronomy

Dr. Gregory Dick

UP Johnstown

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. Daniel Mosse

FAS/Computer Science

Dr. Bambang Parmanto


Dr. Susan Sereika

Nursing representing SCUC

Dr. Clement Stone


Dr. Clara Vana

UP Greensburg

Ms. Jinx Walton

Computing Services and Systems Development

Dr. Michael Zemaitis