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Information Technology Services

GeorgiaVIEW: Enterprise Model

Print friendly Modified January 31, 2012

The environment in which Higher Education acts has and will continue to change-quickly and dramatically. Expectations increase while budgets decrease and competition flourishes. Changes in technology have created an expectation of seamlessness. If a student can buy plane tickets, reserve a hotel room, rent a car, and buy theater tickets from Expedia.com, from a single website with a single consistent user interface, why, they wonder, do they have to deal with multiple offices and systems to find and register for courses, or to view lecture notes and reserve materials in the library? If Home Depot can tell them which stores in their area (or around the country) have that last role of wallpaper in the pattern and lot number that they need - and even have it delivered - why is it so difficult for them to find courses available at a sister institution in the state and even harder to register for the course they find? If Amazon.com can remember every book a student has purchased and even make intelligent recommendations of books they might like, why is it so difficult to take courses at multiple institutions and have information and credit travel with them?

These changes will (or should) drive even the largest institutions and systems into becoming tightly integrated, student-focused operations, where barriers created in the past by policy or technology are removed. Residential colleges will not close their doors; faculty will not be ‘downsized’ as fewer and fewer ‘Master Teachers’ (or ‘Smart’ systems) teach hundreds, then thousands, then millions of students. More of the university community will be involved in the students’ educational experiences, not less. The integrated learning environment will bring together the entire campus community and focus their activities on the core mission of the institution - creating more educated students.

Transforming The Enterprise

In 1999 the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia, published Educational Technology and the Age of Learning: Transforming The Enterprise, which set the direction for the future development of academic technologies.

The University System of Georgia & Educational Technology - The Board’s Vision

In recent years, Georgia has invested much toward establishing the basic infrastructure required to usher in the Age of Learning. Now is the time for the University System to organize its constituent and collective resources, capitalize on the existing and emerging technological infrastructure, focus and coordinate its efforts and those of institutions, identify the necessary leadership, and move aggressively to effect the changes that will enable more Georgians to participate in the Age of Learning.

The University System of Georgia must respond to and anticipate the emergence of a new world of ‘anytime/anywhere’ learning with strategies and actions that apply technology effectively, promote collaboration, foster innovation but, most importantly, provide leadership in developing the infrastructure for an age of learning in Georgia.

In early 2000, the University System of Georgia coined the phrase Academic Enterprise System, to describe its goal for how academic computing needed to evolve to meet the Board’s vision. This goal was adopted by the industry, leading to the development of a new class of product, called, appropriately, the Academic Enterprise System or AES.

The University System of Georgia’s long history of innovation and leadership in technology uniquely positioned it to participate in the development of and utilization of Academic Enterprise Systems.

Vista in the USG

(previously WebCT Vista now Blackboard Learning System – Vista Enterprise License, references to WebCT are listed for historical purposes where appropriate.)

The University System of Georgia entered into a statewide license for WebCT Vista in April 2002. Vista 1.0 was installed in August 2002 and administrator and designer training sessions were initiated. The Vista installation was hosted at the site of the existing WebCT System Server for Campus Edition. Test areas were created in Vista for all institutions.

In late October 2002, East Georgia College was chosen to be the first institution to migrate to Vista. A senior-level committee was created on campus with representation from administration and faculty. A common ‘look and feel’ and a set of materials which would be included in a institutional template were identified. East Georgia College went into production with Vista 1.2 on January 6th, 2003 for all Fall course sections. Vista was initially set up at East Georgia as a tool to enhance communications between faculty, staff, and students as a supplement to face-to-face classes. Vista 2.0 was installed in August 2003. The eCore® program (a statewide program offering the first two year of a college degree (the core curriculum) in high quality, instructor lead, fully online courses) was converted to Vista at this point, with the first eCore® offerings in Vista for Fall Semester 2003.

Train-the-trainer sessions were conducted throughout 2003, along a variety of support materials. By January 2004, 17 institutions had at least a single course available in Vista. In Spring Semester 2005, more than 2,000 sections were active in Vista - a 20 fold increase over Fall 2003. Through 2005 and 2006, all institutions will be migrated to Vista. The GeorgiaVIEW program is will be the culmination of many years’ efforts in adopting and supporting best of breed enterprise solutions in the USG and will form the core of the Integrated Learning Environment of the future. Economics of Consolidation

One of the goals of the University System is to provide for the same baseline level of access to technology. Consolidation of services has, for many applications, proven to be the most effective means of providing this baseline of service. Peachnet, Galileo/GIL, PeopleSoft, and the Blackboard Learning System – Vista centralized server are examples of regionalized or centralized application. In 2004 the Board of Regents approved the Student System Consolidation project which will pilot centralization of Banner services for USG institutions. The USG also provides a number of centralized data collection and reporting services, including USG by the Numbers, a System-wide data warehouse.

Consolidation of Services provides a number of benefits.

Reduced staffing: A centralized or regionalized service provides for more efficient staffing through the reduction of needless duplication. For example a small database administrator (DBA) pool can provide support for a centralized or regionalized application where a fully decentralized application would require DBA services at each institution. The DBA cost alone in the current regionalized model is less the 1/10th the total cost if each institution were to provide even minimal DBA services locally in support of the Blackboard Learning System - Vista. Smaller or more rural institutions may also have difficulty attracting and retaining qualified staff.

Reduced hardware costs: While a centralized or regionalized service requires more hardware than any single site in a decentralized model, the economies of scale mean that the cost for a centralized or regionalized service is significantly less than the total cost for all institutions to provide their own local hardware.

Improved data collection: Decentralized models increase the likelihood of divergent standards and practices. With Banner, which is currently fully decentralized, significant effort is expended each year to facilitate coordinated data collection and consolidation The current regionalized model will allow for institutional customization (either through product options or through SDK development) while maintaining standard underlying data structures and minimizing the efforts of data extraction.

Increased ease of integration: The divergent standards and practices of decentralized models also increase the effort required to build integration. Integration to standard University System applications such as Banner, PeopleSoft, and GALILEO can be developed and maintained once and shared by all institutions, greatly reducing the development and maintenance costs for each institution.

Improved services: The cost of maintaining systems and the increased efforts and costs of functions such as data collection and integration, particularly in times of budget pressure, mean that many institutions would not be able to provide services if not for a centralized or regionalized approaches.

Improved technical infrastructure: The potential savings through consolidation of services allows for the delivery of a more robust technical infrastructure that could be accommodated by many institutions. The current centralized (multiple sites) model for Blackboard Learning System - Vista provides for more security and redundancy that many institutions provide for local learning management system instances in a decentralized model.

Professional Services provides as part of GeorgiaVIEW include:

  1. Blackboard Learning System - Vista Hosting on a System server
  2. 24x7 Support, Disaster Recovery
  3. Access to Blackboard Learning System - Vista Test Environments
  4. Faculty, Staff, Student Helpdesk
  5. 24x7 Helpdesk for all Blackboard Learning System Vista - related issues
  6. Blackboard Campus Edition licenses for archival purposes for any historically significant courses
  7. Research and Development of Custom Tools and Functionalities to better meet the needs of the system

System Produced Blackboard Learning System – Vista Resources such as:

  1. Student Guide
  2. Faculty Training Materials
  3. Sample Templates
  4. Administrator Certification
  5. Migration Project Management, Consultation, and Support System Vista Training Events
  6. Blackboard Learning System - Vista Integration Research, Development, and Support including Campus Pipeline, Banner, GALILEO, and GIL integration
  7. Unrestricted use of Blackboard Learning System - Vista for any credit courses, continuing education courses, campus outreach programs, faculty or staff development activities, student activities, etc.

The GeorgiaVIEW Environments

The USG directly supports 4 production instances of Blackboard Learning System - Vista and multiple testing and training environments.

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