Updated computer systems at U

Jessica Albro

Even though University offices like human resources and admissions use electronic databases to store information, they’re never been able to share computerized data.
But thanks to new tools being developed by the Office of Information Technology, these offices and many others around the University will be on the same computer system.
For more than three years, the Office of Information Technology’s Planning, Architecture and Communications group has been bringing new technological opportunities to University students, as well as advising individual departments and colleges around the University.
“The key to (Planning, Architecture and Communication’s) role is finding opportunities for groups to collaborate, cooperate, partner and do more with what we have,” said Steve Cawley, associate vice president and interim chief information officer for the technology office.
Most technological decisions at the University are made by individual departments and colleges. The planning group held technology information sessions during the summer with associate deans from various colleges within the University system to share information about their current technology systems and identify future goals.
The summer sessions allowed participants to separate into smaller groups to identify issues and make recommendations regarding different areas of information technology. Some of the areas include faculty development, electronic classrooms and computer labs and support.
The planning group and Academic and Distributed Computer Services are also teaming up with IBM to help develop advances with student services. Most student services and human resources departments at the University have their own information systems.
Generally these systems — such as the admissions and student academic record — are not able to share information with each other.
The technology office is helping to develop a program, using PeopleSoft software, in which all the information at the University can be integrated into one system.
This will allow students, staff and faculty members to go to one site and get all the information they need. One part of this program is a new World Wide Web registration system that will replace the current system this spring.
Another project that will come out of the IBM partnership is the development of virtual Web sites where students will be able to use technology to enhance their academic as well as their non-academic life.
The virtual Web sites will allow students to do things such as buying computers online without the middleman markup. Officials are also planning to have various businesses around campus set up cameras that will allow students to see the businesses through the Web site.
“We want to use technology to change our students lives, to make their lives easier,”said Shih-Pau Yen, director of computing services.
The technology office and computing services have helped develop the Internet Welcome Kit, which was distributed to 6,000 freshmen this summer. The two CD-ROMs in the kit allow students to take a virtual look at the University, get to know the campus and set up their e-mail accounts before they come to school.
Many new technology-based courses have also been developed with the help of the information technology office and the computing service. Some courses were designed to help staff and faculty become more adept at delivering their courses over the Internet.
Yen is in charge of identifying student support needs and supplying information about computer labs to the planning group. One critical concern for students is computer and Internet help.
Yen said the HelpLine — a hotline for student’s Internet and computer needs — is open from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m., Monday through Thursday. The hotline is also open on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Although the HelpLine hours were extended, the demand for more support continues. To meet the swelling demands, the technology office and computing services staff members are trying to build up assistance during peak times students need it most, such as when they are doing their homework, Yen said.