Office of Information Technology

Message from the CIO – March 2011

Performance Improvements for Student Use Computers:  Recent upgrades and patches to student use computers have created a slowdown to five computer labs on campus.  This impacted the library research area and overflow, the two second-floor library classroom labs, and the three group study rooms, for a total of ninety-five computers.  The Office of Information Technology tested systems in different configurations to determine the most effective strategy to improve performance in the near term.  Tests indicated that adding memory to the affected computers improved system performance, nearly halving the startup time.  Based on this data, memory upgrades were performed on the affected computers during the last week in March.  Feedback from both library staff and students has been immediate and positive. Additional efforts are taking place to improve computer performance in the longer term.  Technology Council is presently discussing what applications need to be available in the open lab.  Students who only need access to basic applications (Word, Internet, etc.) would benefit from faster login times on systems that only have basic applications installed.  Special applications would be available on specific computers, and measuring application usage would make sure students have the applications they need.  


Interactive Classroom Technology Assessments: Presently, Muskegon Community College utilizes technology known as interactive boards in six locations to supplement classroom presentation.  They allow instructors to annotate presentations, draw, and write notes directly onto a projected image.  These boards use touch sense technology send information to a connected computer.  Some drawbacks to the existing interactive boards on campus are the inability to use the surface as a traditional whiteboard, so writing space is reduced.  Another problem is a presence of a “hot spot”, or glare that appears from the projector when working up close to the board.  Touch sense interactive boards are costly when compared to other classroom technologies.  The Information Technology Council, the LIFT Institute, and the Office of Information Technology are working together to investigate technologies to improve interactive classroom environments.  Some new offerings include interactive boards that can also be written on with traditional dry erase markers, eliminating the reduction in traditional whiteboard space.  To capture drawing, these boards rely on the position of a digital pen rather than touch sense, which helps to keep costs down.  Also being reviewed are interactive projectors.  These projectors can sense the location of the pen and send the image to a computer, so an interactive board is not needed to capture and draw an image.  Standardizing on an interactive classroom presentation technology makes it easier to learn how to use it, and also lowers support overhead.


Reporting Solution Assessments: Datatel utilizes a program called Query Builder to allow users to perform ad hoc reporting.  There are some limitations to this tool.  For one, there is a learning curve to developing reports using the Query Builder tool.  Additionally, complex queries involving multiple files usually cannot be performed without assistance from OIT.  Compounding these problems is Datatel’s announcement of an upcoming End-Of-Life for Query Builder support.  In an effort to streamline and decentralize ad hoc reporting, members of the MCC Datatel Administrator’s Group and OIT have begun comparing reporting solutions.  The intended outcome is to determine a cost-effective reporting solution that will provide an easy to use interface, and a secure method for rapid report development.


Mike Alstrom

Chief Information Officer

Muskegon Community College