Spring 2019 ICT Community Update

Our ICT Community Update is an opportunity to share the progress and outcomes of technology projects that ICT has completed or initiated over the past few months. The projects we deliver are developed with the input of our partners across the organization to ensure we are providing technology solutions that support all members of the university in their continued pursuit of excellence.

Research Computing collaborating to build new research software

Jason HladyRadium project lead

Members of Research Computing are working with researchers from USask and Simon Fraser University to develop Radiam.

USask team members led by Jason Hlady (Research Computing) and Kevin Schneider (Computer Sciences professor) were awarded a $550,000 contract by the Canadian Network for the Advancement of Research Industry and Education (CANARIE) to develop a set of research data management software tools that will improve researcher’s ability to efficiently locate and securely transfer research data.

Once completed, the software tools will be the first of its kind in Canada that will enable researchers to quickly locate research data available through Compute Canada’s national advanced computing infrastructure and utilize Canada’s National Research and Education Network (NREN) to securely transfer research data within the country.

Kevin Schneider computer science professor

Currently, massive volumes of research data are stored in locations across Canada and Radiam will provide researchers the ability to access and share high volumes of research data in a faster and more efficient way.

USask-led Global Water Futures (GWF), the $177-million Canada First Research Excellence Fund program, will be the pilot site for Radiam. GWF projects involve more than 700 researchers from 15 universities across Canada.

More information about the funding announcement is available at www.canarie.ca/rdm-funding-call-recipients/

CANARIE is a federally funded non-profit organization that is a key component of Canada’s digital infrastructure supporting research, education and innovation. CANARIE and its 12 provincial and territorial partners form NREN.

Learning Management System (LMS) Review

The university is undertaking a project to update its current learning management system (LMS). The main deliverable of the project will be a more modern solution for instructors to distribute materials, provide assessments, communicate with students and manage student progress.

The LMS is an integral part of the learning experience providing students with a centralized online location that is available anytime, from anywhere. Instructors can use the LMS to post course materials, manage assignments and communicate with students.

The university’s current learning management system, Blackboard has been in place since the early 1990s. Members of ICT and the Gwenna Moss Centre of Teaching Excellence are initiating the review to assess whether the current platform is delivering on the expectations of USask student and faculty and to get a better understanding of the future academic needs that could be supported through the LMS.

The initial phase of the project includes conducting peer research, student and faculty focus groups and a comprehensive survey to determine the requirements for an LMS. A request for proposal planned in the fall and that process will allow for more in-depth engagement with the USask community to assist in the selection of the most suitable LMS.

For more information about the Learning Management System review please contact: 

  Wendy

Wendy James, Manager
GMCTE Professional and Curriculum Development     
wendy.james@usask.ca

               

IT Security Update

Cybercrime is becoming one of the world’s biggest security threats with an ever-increasing number of reported cases wreaking havoc on organizations, governments, and individuals. Universities are not immune to cyber-attacks and have faced an increase in the volume and ferocity of online attacks in recent years. To protect the information of the university and members of our community, ICT is continually advancing its IT security measures to keep pace with criminals.

In this past year, USask introduced new end-point security standards on university desktop and laptop computers which will greatly reduce the chance of an online attack spreading from computer to computer. The project is now nearing completion with fewer than 5% of university computers remaining that have not had the advanced security settings applied. The end-point security project is anticipated to be completed in the summer of 2019.

To coincide with the completion of the end-point security project, ICT is also implementing new network security settings in June 2019. The new security settings will divide the USask network into multiple secure segments that place users into network locations. This automated step will authenticate the individual attempting to access the network and allocate them to a portion of the network where they will have access to the university systems they require. Network segments will be an additional layer of defense to prevent unauthorized access to university systems and protect university information against theft and security breaches.

In the coming months, ICT will is planning to introduce additional security programs including IT security training and development and multi-factor authentication features to access university services.  

More information about IT security at USask is available at itsecurity.usask.ca.

Office 365

Over the past several months’ the university's email and calendaring services have been successfully migrated to Office 365. The project included moving more than 90,000 email accounts belonging to USask alumni, students, faculty and staff from the Microsoft Exchange email server located on campus to the cloud-based Office 365. The move to Office 365 was completed over the span of several months to accommodate a large number of email accounts and ensure adequate support was in place to assist members of the university community throughout the account migrations.

Once migrated USask email users benefited from the improved email security settings and larger storage capacity offered by Office 365. Users connecting to Office 365 through the online web interface (owa) have an improved platform that provides an experience similar to the Outlook desktop version.

By switching to Office 365, USask joins other members of the U15 universities in offering the cloud-based solution to members of their organization. ICT is currently in the process of implementing additional collaboration services within Office 365 that includes Microsoft OneDrive and Teams. These additional productivity tools integrate with Microsoft Office to offer instant messaging, file storage and sharing along with virtual meetings spaces for members of the university community.

More information about new content and collaboration tools will be shared in the summer of 2019.

RMS Engage

University Relations is implementing new software tools to help manage relationships with alumni, donors and community partners.

Starting in 2020, USask employees will have a new and improved way of tracking interactions and communications with university constituents replacing Ufriend the current home-grown system that has been in place for decades. Through an extensive evaluation process, University Relations and ICT narrowed down the selection of the replacement solution for Ufriend to a third party solution called Blackbaud.

Blackbaud is one of the world’s leading cloud software services that is focused on serving the nonprofit, charitable giving and education communities. A Relationship Management System (RMS) provides a single location for constituent records and provides data and management software to support marketing and communications activities, event management, volunteer management, and direct communication. 

The core project team, with representation from across the university, is currently working through areas of the new system to understand the functionality while reviewed current business processes to seamlessly integrate the software. Once in place, Blackbaud will be the primary system used by members of University Relations and employees located within colleges to track interactions with constituents and develop alumni and donor relations strategies.

The Engage project is the second phase of the university’s Relationship Management System project following the implementation of Recruit, which involved sourcing and launching a CRM tool to track prospective student interactions including applications and admissions.

More information about the RMS Engage Project is available at https://wiki.usask.ca/pages/viewpage.action?spaceKey=Advancement&title=RMS+Engage+Project

PrintSmart

On annual basis members of the university community print more than 19.7 million sheets of paper. Stacked together the height of the printed paper would be 4.1 times taller than the Empire State Building!

To address the inefficient printing practices at the university, members of ICT and the Office of Sustainability have teamed up to launch a new sustainable printing program called PrintSmart. The program will focus on three key areas: reducing the volume of printing from university printers on campus, reduce the use of individual desktop printers and enhance the multi-use departmental printers located throughout university buildings.

 PrintSmart is designed to improve the options for printing on campus while doing so in a sustainable way. In addition to the public campaign to drive down unnecessary printing, the program is engaging with employees who currently have a personal desktop printer to discuss alternative printing options that do not include owning an individual printer for their office or workspace.

Many departments and colleges across campus have already converted to the multi-purpose print devices, placed in high-traffic or central locations within departments. The multi-purpose printers have better functionality to print, collate, scan and copy while providing greater security and cost-savings compared to personal desktop printers. The multi-purpose devices also offer the additional benefit of eliminating the need for individuals or departments to purchase and maintain an inventory of printer toner and paper supplies.

The expanded use of the multi-purpose printers provides the option for faculty and staff to securely print to any enabled printer on the USask network and have the print job released when the user is physically at the printer.

More information about PrintSmart is available at sustainability.usask.ca/footprint/printing.php.