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IT Blog Posts

The IT Project Center

July 28th, 2014 Cyle Gage

We’re very excited to announce a new feature of the IT Website: the Project Center. The Project Center is based on our weekly Change Management process, during which we discuss ongoing IT projects and review new project proposals. Integrated into the Project Center is our Project Request form, which allows anyone with an Emerson account to propose new IT-related projects.

Our hope is that the Project Center will help other areas of the college align their initiatives with IT projects, and generally be aware of what we’re up to. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to send us feedback.


Windows Encryption Update

July 24th, 2014 carlin_corrigan

bitlockerLast month, we were faced with a challenge when our Windows encryption solution, TrueCrypt, discontinued its development.

After further discussion and research, IT has decided to use BitLocker for all Windows disk encryption. We have updated documentation on the IT website. We will be rolling out encryption to all user-assigned Windows machines. Plans to encrypt Macs with FileVault2 have not changed.

If you have any questions or concerns, please leave a comment here or contact the IT Help Desk, 617-824-8080.


Announcing Windows 8 Installations

July 11th, 2014 michael_jessen

Beginning today, IT will be installing Windows 8.1 on new Windows-based computers instead of Windows 7. All new computers with Windows 8.1 will be distributed with a “cheat sheet,” including a link to an instructional guide on our website. You can take a look at this guide now to familiarize yourself with some of the most noticeable changes.

Many of the functions you use day-to-day remain unchanged, and some are even easier. Most importantly, we’re remaining up-to-date with security enhancements and patches, ensuring utmost reliability.

Mac-based computers will continue to have the most recent version of OS X installed on the computer when it arrives, currently Mavericks. This will transition to Yosemite in the fall.

As always, please feel free to contact the Help Desk if you have any questions, by phone at 617-824-8080, or online at it.emerson.edu/help.


New Canvas Features – June 2014

June 18th, 2014 Christopher Connors

Once again it’s time for some new feature highlights that have been added to Canvas. As usual, the complete set of changes can be found on Instructure’s website, and this feature release is found here.

Grading and Comments, Now Without SpeedGrader Required

One can now make comments and give grades directly from the Gradebook without having to enter the SpeedGrader tool. Here are some screenshots from Instructure showing this new functionality:

Screenshot of Gradebook

Screenshot of Grading Popup

Of course, you can always click on “More details in the SpeedGrader” if you’d like to annotate the submission or review the students’ work.

Total Student Activity At A Glance

Within the “People” section of your course, you’ll now be able to see the total amount of time a student, observer, or TA has spent viewing and interacting with the course.

Screenshot of Total Activity

Take That Mixed-Content!

Finally, a small but very welcome change to us administrators is the ability to have external websites open in a new window from a Module. Previously, websites would fail to load within Canvas if the site was an unsecured site. This lead to many news articles and organizational websites failing to load unless one “right-clicked” and forced them to open in a new window or tab. Now, when adding an external URL, you can force the behavior automatically!

New Window Option

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As always, please don’t hesitate to contact ITG by emailing itg@emerson.edu or by calling 617-824-8090 if you have any further questions or requests.


Summer 2014 Workshops and Survey Results

June 9th, 2014 carlin_corrigan

Every semester, Emerson IT hosts an array of computing and software workshops. During the Spring semester, we offered a wide selection ranging from our traditional Adobe CC workshops to our Microsoft Office drop-in clinics. However, our attendance numbers were less than we had hoped for.

In an effort to increase faculty and staff participation, we recently sent out a survey to gather some data regarding workshop interest and preferences.

The data revealed a few things:

  • Over 95% of the survey takers preferred email as their method of learning about workshop opportunities.
  • More than half of the survey takers did not have time to attend workshops.
  • Less than 35% of the survey takers utilize Lynda.com for free video tutorials.

Many workshop topics were suggested but the most frequently mentioned was Excel, followed closely by Adobe Creative Cloud. The other suggestions were spread out pretty evenly over a variety of subjects – some new and others we currently offer:

SummerWorkshopSuggestions2014

After reflecting on the data and discussing with our IT Staff, we are excited to announce our newest Summer 2014 Workshop Offerings designed specifically for Faculty and Staff, here: it.emerson.edu/workshops

We have included two Excel sessions, Adobe Photoshop and InDesign, a new curated Lynda.com course, and brand new offerings including Google Drive, SQL and Cognos Reports! You can click the link under each listing to RSVP, but we also welcome drop-ins. Don’t forget to add the event to your calendar!

For Canvas questions, the Instructional Technology Group (ITG) offers one-to-one and group-based training. Contact ITG with your availability at itg@emerson.edu or 617-824-8090.

For Skype questions, the Media Services team offers one-to-one training. Contact MSC for more information at media_services@emerson.edu or 617-824-8676.

We hope to see you this Summer!


What’s Up With TrueCrypt Encryption?

June 5th, 2014 Francis Frain

What's Up With TrueCrypt?Several weeks ago, we announced our plan to encrypt all college-owned laptops and desktops. For Windows, we planned to use the open source software TrueCrypt, but last week, the tech world was surprised to see a dramatic change to the TrueCrypt website. Suddenly, the widely-used software was said to be insecure. The nameless developers released a new version, only for decryption purposes, and announced the old software should no longer be used.

Obviously, this gives us pause. On the one hand, TrueCrypt version 7.1a, which we were deploying, has successfully undergone the first half of an independent security audit. No backdoor exploits or major vulnerabilities were found. The second half of the audit is ongoing for v7.1a.

As is common with any open source software created by anonymous developers, communication can be sporadic and disparate, and it’s just as likely that a new team of developers could resume TrueCrypt’s life. Additionally, the second half of the audit could return with entirely positive results, and many companies/institutions will opt to continue using the software. However, the situation is uncertain.

For this reason, we have decided to take a breath, not react impulsively, and wait for more information. In the interim, the only change we intend to make is to not encrypt new Windows computers. This does not impact our continued encryption of Macs with FileVault2.

Please contact us with questions, and please continue to use this blog as your resource for all security and general IT updates.


Emerson IT 2.0, Part 4: New Teams and Emergency Procedures

June 3rd, 2014 Cyle Gage

Emerson IT has grown a lot over the last year or so. We’re asked fairly often about new happenings within IT, and we’ve written about our new initiatives, our mission and vision, our policies, and much more.

But that’s not enough. It’s never enough. There are still questions, and we love being transparent about them. It’s been a challenge to get organized, but we feel really good about how IT is working right now. Here are some examples of ways we have become more efficient:

The Communications and Policy Management Teams

Two teams have assembled over the last year and have made strides towards reshaping how we work in IT. One is the Communications Team, a group of people from across the department who meet weekly to discuss anything communications-related. This includes drafting emails to the community, writing documentation and blog posts, and generally discussing how to improve communications within IT and with the Emerson community. We also consult with other departments to help draft any communication that involves our technology. Every email blast from IT, new blog post, and update to our website and our email template over the last year has gone through the Communications Team. Having one group to manage and discuss communication has been a giant leap forward.

The Policy Management Team was assembled for a very clear purpose: draft and publish the many policies that have never been publicly available. Like the Comm Team, the PMT is made up of representatives across IT, and has had the ongoing help of Emerson’s Legal team. After a lot of hard work, we successfully published 15 new policies, and are continuing to work on more. We are also partnering with Dennis Levine, our new Security Administrator, to work on future security policy changes. We feel that the best policies are those drafted and discussed as a group, instead of a top-down monolithic decision-making process.

Our Emergency Procedures

One of the biggest and scariest issues affecting all businesses these days is disaster recovery. It’s particularly relevant for Emerson, since we’re downtown in a major city. What happens if the Emerson campus loses power? What happens if the EVVYs has a massive technological failure and needs IT’s help? What happens if the trustees or a classroom needs technical support? We’ve come up with emergency procedures for all of these issues.

One of the first things we did was to move offsite a few critical systems that would aid in any attempt at recovering from a disaster on-campus. These include our main internal documentation wiki, our password safe, our internal chat service, and an external monitoring service. In the event of a catastrophe that brought down our on-site datacenter, we would still have the ability to access our own documentation on how to fix everything. (It’s surprising how many businesses don’t have that ability during a disaster.) All of our internal instant messaging and chatrooms are now fully offsite using Slack, which has been amazing at increasing the efficiency of our group problem-solving and would be integral to keeping our team in touch no matter where we were all located.

Furthermore, we drafted and adopted an elaborate IT Emergency Flowchart. It’s complicated and a bit overwhelming, but it’s worked very well when we’ve had the unfortunate opportunity to put it to the test. One of the critical parts of the flowchart is the separation of responsibility during a true crisis: there should be people fixing the problem, and other people communicating about it. Trying to do both jobs always makes the problem worse. A critical issue can very often be fixed within literally 15 minutes, so we try to allow for that small grace period before raising serious alarms.

Being Fun and Transparent

IT Poster

Beyond these measures, we’ve made an effort to be more accessible and transparent. We love feedback! One way we try to reach out is by putting out surveys, and we love posting the resulting charts and graphs and metrics for everyone to see. Likewise, we’ve tried to inject a little humor into our blog posts and our on-campus posters.

All of these efforts together have made big changes within IT and how we work every day. It’s for the ongoing support of the Emerson Community that we continue to try to improve ourselves, and we can only measure that by how well we’re doing every day to service all of you. The more we know how you feel, and how we can make you feel even better, the more we can do to make Emerson a great place to learn and work!


Read more on the IT Blog, the ITG Blog, and the IT Bits and Bytes Blog »

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