ITS News 2011

The Road Ahead

By: Blair Simmons

Through the years demand for technology and innovation have increased steadily in higher education as well as in healthcare industries.  As we continue to see trends of moving course delivery systems and academic information resources into cyberspace, SMU recognizes the criticality of providing reliable access to and easy use of the education tools required for students to succeed the modern global, multi-platform classroom community.  In its responsibility for developing the next generation of healthcare professionals, SMU is committed to deep impact experiential learning by bringing healthcare industry standard technology to the classroom, giving our students hands-on experience with the tools they will use every day in their careers.

In meeting these growing demands for innovation in the classroom and beyond, the University faces the challenge of embracing emerging technologies while preserving a healthy IT operational infrastructure.  The technology initiatives in the years to come will focus on:

  • technology resource availability assurance
  • efficient processes
  • security of personal, institutional, and proprietary information
  • global access to information resources
  • mobility and multi-platform compatibility
  • multimedia communication and content delivery

Through collaborative effort among the SMU community and partnership with industry leading technology solutions providers, the University has the potential to achieve great things along the road ahead.

Projects Completed

  • Wide Area Network Redesign
  • Titanium Scheduling System for Counseling Center
  • Increased Internet Bandwidth on all Campuses
  • Faculty Access to Online Grading and Attendance
  • Course and Event Scheduling System
  • Alumni Event Registration Online
  • Compliance with 2011 Direct Lending Requirements
  • Implementation of System Center Configuration Manager
  • ARES Library Course Reserve System
  • Cashless Pay-for-Print System
  • SMU Online Directory
  • Blackboard Advanced System Reporting
  • Enhancements to mySMU QuickLaunch and Announcements

 

Projects In-Progress

  • Clinical Partnership Tracking System
  • Major Enhancements to the SMU Website
  • Automating User Identity Management
  • Active Directory 2008
  • Lync Unified Communications Platform
  • Transition from XP to Windows 7
  • Development of SMU Mobile Apps
  • Enhancements to the Student Health System
  • Alumni/Student Email Solution
  • Direct Deposit for Student Refunds
  • Endowed Giving Online
  • Build-out of New Campus Facilities

 

Projects in the Queue

  • Par Score/Par Test Exam Administration Solution
  • Data Center Environmental Control
  • Document Imaging and Management Solution
  • Cloud-Based Calendar and File Sharing Solution
  • Faculty Work Requirement Tracking System
  • Electronic Health Records in Simulation

 

Projects in Discovery Phase

  • Online Admission Application for Nursing Programs
  • Video on Demand Libraries
  • Classroom Lecture Capture Solution
  • SMU's Next Learning Management Solution
  • Client Computer Disk Level Encryption
  • Financial Calculator

Summer 2010 the federal government changed the rules on Stafford and Plus loans.  Instead of subsidizing private lenders with federal funds, the government took out the middleman (private lenders) and lends the money directly to students for subsidized Stafford, unsubsidized Stafford, and Plus loans.  This change increased the workload of schools everywhere.  Under the private loans with government subsidies scenario the private lenders were responsible for reconciling the funds with the government.  Under the Direct Loan program the schools are responsible for reconciling.

Financial aid, student billing, and finance departments always needed to reconcile and ensure each department was in synch with funds prior to the change.  The difference is now the Financial Aid department has the added burden of squaring funds with the feds.  In a simplistic view, the school requests a sum of money for loans and disburses those funds to students based on need and other factors...sounds simple enough.  The Financial Aid staff request funds via the Common Origination and Disbursement (COD) website.  Once approved, a file is sent to the business office and the aid is applied to each student’s statement for each disbursement for each loan.  Once the money is disbursed, a file is created for Financial Aid documenting the amount the business office actually disbursed to each student for each loan payment.  There may be multiple disbursements for each type of loan.  The data tracked is the loan type, sequence number, student ID, disbursement date, gross amount, fee amount, rebate amount and actual net amount.  At the end of each month a School Account Statement (SAS) is downloaded with an accounting of what monies were used from our federal account and for which student and type of loan.

With the help of some programming from Information Technology Services, Financial Aid reconciles the above mentioned items to ensure all dollar amounts match and dates are within accepted limits.  So the gross, fee, rebate, and net from COD need to match what is on SAS, which needs to match the file sent "To The Business Office" (2BO), which needs to match the information in the file "From the Business Office" (FBO).  Think of this as balancing 4 different checkbooks then making sure each of the 4 different checkbooks match each other.  After the different programs finish munching the data it ends up in a spreadsheet with thousands of rows and over 50 columns.  The non-matching data is separated from the matching data and checked in each system as to why there is a discrepancy and fixed.  An intense amount of work goes into making sure all of the data is accurate in PowerCampus, PowerFaids, and COD.  In the end, this makes the final reconciliation process somewhat painless since there are very few discrepancies to research.

GoPrint Webclient

By: Tal Schrey

SMU is proud to offer an upgraded printing solution.   GoPrint web client will enable you to print to any campus library or public area directly from your student account.   Students will have an initial credit of $3.00.   Your balance for printing is maintained through your student account.   No more worrying about having cash on hand or a print card.

GoPrint is also available for you to configure for your laptop (compatible with Mac and Windows).

Read our GoPrint student guide for more information.  See your librarian for detailed instructions on using GoPrint for printing.

Coming soon, students will have the option to sign up for direct deposit of their student refunds.  Refunds are generated and disbursed to students when financial aid is awarded, and costs for attending SMU are deducted.  Students currently receive refunds in the form of paper checks, which must be mailed or picked up and then hand carried to their respective banking institutions.

Via a secure connection from SMURF to SMU's PCI compliant Internet payment partner Higher One Payments Inc., students will be able to sign up for direct deposit.  To enroll, students will supply details on the checking or savings account to which funds will be deposited.  Working on Higher One Payments ensures that bank account data is stored and transmitted securely, pursuant to federal privacy regulations.

Once final testing is completed and formal procedures are in place, a pilot group of students will be selected to ensure that the direct deposit program functions to expectation prior to full release to the SMU student population.  We expect a pilot group to be selected later this year.  Pilot testing is expected to occur during spring of 2012 with service for all students available by fall of 2012.

The Student Health Information System records and tracks student immunization history and requirements for clinical education placement.  The system was developed 4 years ago through a collaborative effort by members of the Student Health Services and Information Technology Services Departments.  In the past two years the functional requirements for system have evolved. 

During 2011, the SMU Web Development Team has worked on re-engineering the user interface and database using ASP and Enterprise SQL server technologies.  The user interface (UI), will be changed for better usability.  Sensitive student data will be encrypted and protected at the database level.  New functions, such as notifying students of expiring immunizations will be done, automatically and periodically.  Administrative users will have better flexibility for matching students to their clinical site requirements – vastly improving the communication between the clinical coordinators and the Student Health Office.

Stay tuned for the new student health system coming soon!

New Website TeaserThe website is one of the most visible entities of Samuel Merritt University. As part of our new SMU marketing and branding process, the website will be redesigned and improved. Working in collaboration with the Office of the President and their design partners, the homepage will feature styling and aesthetic improvements consistent with our new look. We will also enhance the website's general look and feel, otherwise known as the website's theme.

The new homepage will emphasize the most popular and frequently visited links, making it easier for visitors as well as faculty, staff, and students to get to where they want to go. There will be a new section on the homepage where the latest news and events will be available at a glance without the need to visit another page. Along with the homepage, the theme of the website will be updated to incorporate our new look, so the rest of the site will also feel different.

The redesigned homepage and theme of the website will launch later this year.

Network Security

By: Marcus Walton

Overview

IT's Network Services Team (NST) oversees the SMU community's efforts to protect its computing and information assets and to comply with information-related laws, regulations, and policies.

Priorities

The NST's approach to security is more proactive than reactive, although we naturally give priority response to incidents that have institution-level impact or that require university-wide coordination.

Our current focus is securing systems that affect a majority of the university, including central administrative systems and the campus data network.  The NST gives special priority to systems containing data classified as Prohibited or Restricted.

IT security is up to all of us.  By learning and following good security practices, each individual helps protect the entire university community. By working together, we ensure the security of our personal information, accounts, and computers, as well as campus systems and resources.

Computer Security Risk and Mitigation

Hackers scan computers that are internet accessible one million times/day in an effort to decrypt weak passwords so they can get in. As a higher education institution, Samuel Merritt University's network is accessible to almost anyone, including hackers. If your computer is not properly secured or has weak passwords, hackers can:

Delete, change, and/or steal your data.

Install spyware to monitor your key presses, emails, instant messaging (IM), or anything else (sometimes even your microphone and camera).

Use your computer as part of a 'botnet' to recruit other hacked computers and perform mischief like sending spam or attacking other computers (making you look like the attacker).  Steal enough information to impersonate you for fun or profit (i.e. identity theft).

3 Front Line Defenses include:

  • Strong passwords
  • Proper security configuration(s) on your computer
  • All Security updates for your computer (patches)

5 Keys to Protecting your Information:

  • Take stock.  Know what personal information you have in your files and on your computers.
  • Scale down.  Keep only what you need.
  • Lock it.  Protect the information in your care.
  • Pitch it.  Properly dispose of what you no longer need.
  • Plan ahead.  Create a plan to respond to security incidents.

Computer Maintenance

By: Paul Monegas

Throughout time, computers can start to run slow and not perform the way they used to. And from the constant use of them, their functionality becomes less optimal. They're similar to our vehicles we drive where we take it for oil changes, brake service, tire rotations, tune ups, etc. in order to keep them running stable.

Obviously, our computers don't come with a dip stick or don't require tires to run.  But there are steps we can take as a user to help keep our computers at their optimum.  Below are listed areas of computer maintenance that should be addressed on a regular basis.

Defragmentation

The storage space (hard drive) on our computer is like a filing cabinet.  A filing cabinet has folders and sections labeled and organized in alphabetical order.  That makes it a more efficient way to retrieve and store different files.  Similarly, when you open a program or file your instructing your computer to retrieve specific data to fulfill your request.  Upon exiting your program or saving your edited file; your computer stores the data back.  Over time, some of the files aren't placed back in its same location and data is fragmented. 

Defragmentation organizes your files and data.  It relocates them to the proper areas and ensures they are in contiguous areas of your hard drive. 

Internet Browser Cleanup

The use of the Internet is one of the main functions we use our computers for.  Data is retrieved and stored on our system to improve the speed at which we interact with websites.  These are referred to as Cookies, Internet Temporary Files (Cache) and Browsing History.  These can build up in size and reach a point to where they can cause conflicts with Internet browsing and render it unstable.

Files on the Desktop

The Desktop refers to the space that displays on your monitor when you first turn on your computer.  It's the area where your wallpaper is portrayed - a picture of your family, pet, artwork, etc.  You may create shortcuts to commonly used applications or store a handful of files that you're working on.  But it can significantly decrease your system's performance when you start to store large amounts of data such as vacation photos or all your documents created from last month on your desktop.  The purpose of the Desktop area is for minimal storage, and the more files stored on there, the more of the system resources that are used.  The best solution is to store your documents under My Documents (X drive) or your photos on your personal hard drive.

Antivirus Software

Viruses can corrupt system files and delete data.  This can cause your system to run unstable and slow.  It's important to ensure your antivirus software is up-to-date and scanning for viruses.  Some examples of these antivirus applications are Norton, McAfee and Trend Micro.  You can open your specific software and check when the last update was installed.  Some versions allow you to configure automatic updates and schedule automatic virus scans, or you can manually run updates and virus scans.

All SMU computers have Trend Micro Antivirus software configured for automatic updates and scheduled virus scans.  To check the last update with Trend Micro, right click on the icon on the taskbar and select 'component versions'.  If you haven't logged into the SMU network in over a week, we suggest running a manual update and virus scan.  This can be done by right clicking the Trend Micro icon on the taskbar. 

For more details, please visit the Helpdesk webpage: http://www.samuelmerritt.edu/helpdesk

Using offline files, employees can access files stored in your home directory (X drive) when you are working from home or away from the office.  This is done by setting up your My Documents folder to be available offline, which automatically creates a copy of the network files on your computer.  When you disconnect from the network, you normally lose the ability to access any files stored on the network.  But with offline files, you can disconnect from the network and still have copies of all the network files you have made available offline.

If you are working offline and make changes to offline files from a network folder, Windows will automatically sync any changes you made to the files the next time you connect to that network folder.  Anytime you re-connect to that network folder, Windows will sync the files between your computer and the network folder.  You can also sync them manually at any time.

You can access offline files if your network goes down or the network folder you are accessing becomes unavailable.  Windows will automatically access the offline copies of files stored on your My Documents instead of the files on the network folder, and you can continue working without interruption.

Using ITS Resources

By: Mary Grefal

The ITS Helpdesk is your one-stop-shop for technical support at Samuel Merritt University.  Contact the Helpdesk for assistance through any of these convenient methods:

Acquiring IT resource access for new SMU employees has never been faster or easier.  The revised "New Employee Service Request Form" is simple to follow and is designed to ensure accuracy of data entry.  All the information provided in this form will integrate directly with SMU's directory and education management systems such as PowerCampus and Blackboard.  Department heads are required to approve new account request prior to fulfillment, and will be able to view and make corrections to the submitted data if necessary.  Typically, requests for access are processed in less than one business day.

To request access for a new employee, go to: https://www.samuelmerritt.edu/information_technology/new_hire

We are looking for innovative ideas in pursuit of the University's vision to be nationally recognized as a premier health sciences institution. Help shape the future of technology at SMU by submitting a request for new technology.

For more information visit the Information Technology Services web page.